Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Book Review: "Angels at the Table"

"Angels at the Table" by Debbie Macomber
First published in 2012
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

"Angels at the Table" is a cute little Christmas tale featuring Debbie Macomber's signature holiday characters Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, prayer ambassadors from heaven who help answer humans' prayers -- with a little mischief and mayhem mixed in.

Lucie, our main character, is working her rear end off and saving up to open her own Brooklyn restaurant with her mother, and Aren is a newspaper food critic who's just moved to New York. It's New Year's Eve in Times Square and Lucie and Aren both end up alone and miserable, unknowingly standing next to each other at midnight.

Meanwhile, the angels have brought their prayer ambassador apprentice, Will, on a short sojourn to Earth, and he just can't resist sneaking away and working a little magic to bring the two lonely humans together. It's instant attraction and the Lucie and Aren spend most of the early hours talking at a diner, then make plans to meet at the top of the Empire State Building at a certain date and time if they wish to pursue the relationship after having some time to process the whirlwind romance.

Unfortunately, though Lucie and Aren were actually fated to meet eventually, the timing that January is all wrong and the relationship doesn't go anywhere. The angels have bungled things up rather badly through their interference and are tasked with bringing the Lucie and Aren back together at the time they were originally supposed to meet. Of course they can't help but get into some well-intentioned but disastrous mischief along the way and bungle things up all over again.

"Angels at the Table" was a fun, light holiday read that will imbibe you with Christmas spirit and, like most holiday novels, it has a happy ending that will leave you smiling.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Week in Pictures

11-26-12 Thanksgiving, Sea Life Park

1. I ordered these adorable Christmas ornaments as baby gifts from LittleWeeShop on Etsy.

2. Jarrod and I both got off work early on Wednesday so we went down to Waikiki for surfing (him)/lounging on the beach with a book (me).

3. Thanksgiving turkey! I was so proud of myself for FINALLY making perfect gravy!

4. We went to Sea Life Park yesterday and I couldn't resist taking some sea lion pictures. They always remind us of Conan.

5. We did the Dolphin Adventure at Sea Life Park, so we each got a dolphin kiss and a belly ride. It was amazing! I was fascinated by how strong and smart the dolphins were. And they didn't feel anything liked I'd imagined -- they weren't slick like a fish at all but almost rubbery-feeling.

6. We saw "Breaking Dawn Part 2" last night and I LOVED it! I thought the big twist was a great idea.

Aloha and have a great week!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha! At this time last year, I was super jealous of all the awesome wintry looks I saw on WIWW -- knee-high leather boots and cozy sweaters and knitted cowls -- while I was wearing summery outfits in Hawaii's perpetual 80-degree weather. But this November I'm appreciating every single day I have in flip-flops and short sleeves, because before long I'll be bundled up in five layers of clothing scraping ice off my windshield in Ohio!

As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to share my outfits and get fashion inspiration from all the other WIWWers. Happy Wednesday!
 
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Thursday
Top: Target
Jeans: American Eagle
Belt: Forever 21
Lapis lazuli necklace: deployment gift from husband
Earrings: Kohl's
Flip-flops and purse: Target

WIWW2
Tuesday
Top: thrifted
Jeans: 7 For All Mankind
Necklace: Waikiki International Marketplace
Earrings: gift
Flip-flops and purse: Target
 
pleated poppy

Close Encounters of the Shark Kind

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We crossed a major to-do off our Hawaii list on Sunday when we took a shark cage tour with North Shore Shark Adventures.
 
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We got to see dozens of Galapagos sharks. I was crossing my fingers that we'd hit the jackpot and see a really cool shark like a hammerhead or a really dangerous one like a blacktip but I wasn't even disappointed that we didn't, because being surrounded by a multitude of any kind of shark is pretty darn awesome!
 
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I thought for sure they'd put chum in the water to lure the sharks over to the cage, but I was pleasantly surprised that wasn't the case at all. Apparently crab fishing began booming off the North Shore in the '70s and the sharks quickly learned they could score tasty treats, like old bait, if they hung around the boats. The shark tour boat uses a diesel motor exactly like the crab fishing boats have, and the sharks swarm around in hopes of getting a snack.
 
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Here's a look at the floating cage we were in. It was such an amazing experience to see an 8-foot shark swim just a few inches away from my face. Sure they weren't great whites, but I certainly wouldn't want to fall in the water with these guys nearby!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: "The Christmas Wedding"

"The Christmas Wedding" by James Patterson
First published in 2011
266 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
(image source)

"The Christmas Wedding" looks and sounds like a Christmas book, but it's really only holiday-related in that it's about a wedding set to take place on Christmas. Stockings are hung and a reindeer suit makes an appearance, but the novel is mostly about 54-year-old widow Gaby Summerhill, her four children and the mystery man Gaby is about to wed.

Three men have proposed to Gaby -- her late husband's brother, a Jewish rabbi and a former NHL hockey player. Along with Gaby's oldest pal Stacey Lee, the five are the best of friends. Gaby's children are scattered along the east coast and she decides to lure them all to her Stockbridge, Massachusetts, home for Christmas by setting her wedding date for December 25 -- and she refuses to tell anyone, including her three suitors, which man she'll be marrying.

That all sounds like the makings for a cheerful holiday romance novel, but there's really quite a lot of heavy stuff involved. Each of Gaby's four children is dealing with major life issues, and though the book has a happy ending I felt there was too much drama to wade through, especially for a Christmas novel. We briefly shadow each of the Summerhill kids -- three women and a man -- in the days leading up to the wedding, but it seemed like not enough time was spent on any one person for me to really empathize with any of the characters. And I also had a hard time identifying with Gaby; though the premise of the mystery-man marriage was cute, it was just so unrealistic. What about the other two poor men -- suppposed best friends of Gaby's -- who were strung along, only to find out their proposals weren't the one accepted? And the exact reasoning for Gaby's mystery marriage game is never really revealed. Perhaps in a comic romance I could've accepted it, but "The Christmas Wedding" is more of a serious, true-to-life book.

I can't say that I didn't like the novel -- it was an quick, easy and not unenjoyable read, though I suspect the main thing that kept me turning pages was my desire to learn which of the three candidates Gaby decided to marry. And I was disappointed that a novel with "Christmas" in the title did nothing to fuel my holiday spirit.

So now I'm off to find a true Christmas novel! Happy reading!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Week in Pictures

my week

1. Both Jarrod and I had Veterans Day off work so we went down to Waikiki. He surfed while I read and we stuck around for the sunset. Though Waikiki is the most famous beach here, it's my least favorite. It's always so crowded and when Jarrod's surfing I don't feel safe leaving my stuff and walking down to the water (and it's near impossible to find a spot to put my beach chair near the water!). Still, I can't complain about the lovely sunsets!

2. Our Air Force base commissary now stocks Lindsay brand olives! This is special because olives are my favorite food. This can (with adorable ducks on it!) will become a pencil holder or something else fun.

3. This is my latest knitting project, a mystery hat knit-along. I really enjoyed participating in my second KAL but I'm not sure I like the finished hat. I may attempt to block it to give it more slouch.

4. My grandma sent us this lovely Thanksgiving centerpiece. It's so pretty and festive!

5. One of the things on my before-we-leave-Hawaii list was to buy some Locals brand flip-flops. They're cheap things made in Vietnam, but they're really popular here and they'll remind me of Hawaii.

6. Another thing on our last-two-months to-do list was a North Shore shark cage tour, which we did today. It was so amazing -- more pictures to come tomorrow!

7. No picture, but we saw "Skyfall" this week and I loved it. I think it's my favorite of all the James Bonds, though it wouldn't hold the same weight without the other two action-filled Daniel-Craig-as-Bond movies to precede it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Knitted Pumpkin Patch

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I've been meaning to post about my adorable little knitted pumpkins for ages. They've been gracing my table since the beginning of October! I used this pattern on Ravelry and knit them as written, with the exception of turning the white ones inside-out. These mini pumpkins were a super easy and fun knit and they'll be part of my harvest decorations for years to come!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: "Thunder Dog"

"Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog & The Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero" by Michael Hingson
First published in 2011
My rating 3 out of 5
(image source)

Michael Hingson was on the 78th floor of World Trade Center Tower 1 when the first plane struck on 9/11. He had no idea what had happened -- that a plane had crashed into his building, that it was a terrorist attack -- only that there had been some sort of explosion. With a close colleague and many strangers, he began the long descent down 78 flights of stairs. But there was something that set Michael apart. He's blind, and he and his guide dog, Roselle, were making their way together down the endless stairway, and later through the dust- and debris-filled streets around the World Trade Center after the collapse of Tower 2.

But Michael wouldn't want anyone to say he was "set apart." On one hand the book is a first-hand account of being inside the World Trade Center on 9/11, but on the other hand it's a memoir of growing up blind, of navigating the world -- biking around the neighborhood, going to college, starting a career, getting married -- all without sight. As is evidenced by his multiple refusals of extra help during his escape from Tower 1, Michael wants the world to know that blind people are just as capable as everyone else.

While my attention was hooked by both amazing first-hand accounts -- life through a blind man's eyes and surviving the 9/11 terrorist attack -- I wasn't altogether thrilled with the writing. The book was rather repetitive and certain parts seemed to lack depth. Still, I found the story interesting and the dog-lover in me couldn't put it down.

The bond between Michael and his guide dog, Roselle, is quite touching. And her intelligence, courage, selflessness and perseverance in a terrible, stressful, life-threatening situation is a testament to the amazing abilities dogs possess. "Thunder Dog" reminded me a lot of a book a read earlier this year: "Until Tuesday," a memoir written by an Iraq war veteran suffering from both physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder whose guide dog saved his life. Both tales give readers a glimpse into the very special union that is a guide dog-human relationship.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musings



If you haven't yet heard "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore, you should give it a quick listen. Not only is it an entire -- explicit! -- song about going to the thrift shop, it has a fun beat and it's hilarious!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Week in Pictures

11-11-12 Blog

1. Jarrod had to work all weekend, so on Thursday we went over to White Plains Beach on the west side of the island. Jarrod surfed while I lounged and read. (That's Honolulu and Diamond Head in the distance.)

2. Right now I'm reading "Thunder Dog," a book about a blind man and his guide dog in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

3. The annual base fall craft fair was yesterday and I spent a good hour browsing around. Among my purchases: two new pairs of earrings.

4. Double rainbow -- the view from my backyard. Darn tree!

5. I made an acorn squash for the first time this week. I topped it with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and honey, and man was it delicious. Acorn squash seems to be a great change-up from sweet potatoes. Plus, getting it ready to cook was like "carving" a miniature pumpkin -- stringy goop, seeds and all. Fun!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha and happy Wednesday! I'm happy that the election season is finally over -- I came, I saw, I voted, and now I'm ready for holiday commercials to replace political attack ads on TV! I watched election results in gym shorts and a t-shirt, but I actually did have a decent week fashion-wise. I bought some new jewelry recently and I wore both of my new necklaces this week. I popped into work on Friday and a co-worker complimented my "bold" necklace -- and I realized that I've come a loooong way jewelry-wise. A couple years ago, the only jewelry I ever wore consisted of my wedding and engagement rings, my watch and some diamond stud earrings. Look at me now!

As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to share my outfits. Sidenote -- I am in LOVE with her first outfit this week!
 
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Look -- I do own shoes! These cute flats are new and I figure I better start breaking them in before our move to Ohio! Ah, flip-flops, how I'll miss you!
 
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pleated poppy

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Week in Pictures

10-31-12 Halloween 2012
 
1. We had some huge pumpkins to carve this year and they yielded a ridiculous amount of pumpkin seeds! I roasted four different batches with various seasonings: cinnamon and sugar; just salt; salt and curry powder; and salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and paprika. The last recipe -- which was very tasty -- was suggested to us by the lady who rang up our purchases at the pumpkin patch.

2. Happy Halloween! I love our pumpkins this year. I posted more pictures here.

3. Poor Conan got forced into his Super Dog costume again this year. I felt a bit bad for him, but the little trick-or-treaters love it.

4. I mailed in my absentee ballot this week. Honestly, I don't like either presidential candidate and really didn't want to vote, but it's one of my goals to say I've voted in every presidential election for which I was eligible.

5. We had a delicious dinner tonight at one of my favorite restaurants on Oahu, La Tour Cafe. I got an Italian sandwich, salad and French onion soup, and we split a basket of fries. Yummm.

6. After dinner, we went shopping at the Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange and I went a bit crazy -- I now have three new winter coats! The one in the picture is my favorite -- it has an adorable ruffle that you can't really see in the tiny photo. It's Guess brand and I got it for just $70! Maybe knowing that I have an awesome new coat (or three) to bundle up in will make our move to Ohio this winter a bit easier.

7. This didn't make the photo collage, but we went to see "Argo" last night and it was great! I love Ben Affleck, and I really enjoyed how, as director, he managed to create tension and edge-of-your-seat moments even though we already knew how the based-on-a-true-story movie was going to end.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: "Unbroken"

"Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
First published in 2012
398 pages (not counting index, etc.)
My rating: 5 out of 5

(image source)

"Unbroken" is the masterfully told, captivating life story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner turned bombardier who survived World War II against impossible odds.

After Pearl Harbor, Louie joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned a position as a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator, a notoriously quirky and unsafe bomber aircraft. Stationed in Hawaii, Louie was a part of several successful missions including the 1942 Christmas air raid on Wake Island. But one May day in 1943, Louie was ordered aboard a B-24 for a routine search and rescue mission that would end in disaster -- the plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from land.

Louie and a few others survived the crash and managed to wrangle themselves into two woefully ill-equipped life rafts. With no food or fresh water readily available, the men drifted through shark-infested waters for over a month and a half before finally hitting land -- Japanese-held land. Louie was whisked off to a prisoner-of-war camp and would spend the next two and a half years being transferred to different prisons, each worse than the last. Louie and his fellow POWs endured unspeakable cruelty, abuse and malnutrition, but somehow Louie found the will to fight on.

"Unbroken" is a World War II story, but it's also so much more -- a tale of courage, bravery and heart in the midst of unimaginable horrors. While the book is a biography of Louie, it reads more like a page-turning novel. Hillenbrand tells us of Louie's childhood exploits -- ranging from mischievous to downright criminal -- and the outlet he finally found in running, his trip to the 1936 Olympics and chance meeting with Hitler, Louie's time as a rowdy military officer in Honolulu and his horrific suffering as a Japanese-held POW. And through it all, she perfectly conveys the humor, joy, love, sorrow, anger, passion and so much more that make up Louie's life. I especially enjoyed the pictures placed strategically throughout the book; actually seeing Louie, along with other characters and places, lent authenticity to the work and really brought the story home for me.

This book is not a dry, long-winded World War II tome that will appeal only to history buffs. Louie's tale -- told with Hillenbrand's deft hand -- is a unforgettable look at war, at humanity and at life that I know will stay with me for a very long time.

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