Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: "How to Be an American Housewife"

"How to Be an American Housewife" by Margaret Dilloway
First published in 2010
My rating: 3 out of 5
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"How to Be an American Housewife" is a mother-daughter tale of sacrifice, hope and what it means to be a Japanese-American.

Shoko grew up in Japan and married an American sailor stationed there after World War II. They had two children and, after Charlie retired from the Navy, eventually settled down in San Diego. Now Shoko's elderly and suffering from an enlarged heart, possibly caused by radiation from the bombing of Nagasaki when she was a girl. Her one wish, to go back to Japan and mend her relationship with her long-estranged brother, is impossible due to her rapidly declining health.

Sue -- or Suiko -- is Shoko's daughter. She's a single mother who slaves away at her paper-pushing office job to make ends meet, never giving thought to pursuing the dreams she used to have before her unexpected pregnancy and subsequent divorce. But when she gives in to her mother's pleas to go to Japan in her place, her life changes dramatically.

The women's stories are entwined throughout the novel, which explores the intricacies of family -- particularly the mother-daughter relationship -- and compares how Shoko and Sue see the roles of mother and daughter in their different circumstances and generations.

The cultural references in the book were interesting -- especially Shoko's flashbacks to her childhood and teen years in Japan -- but the rest of the novel was a bit of a downer. The plot didn't really grab me and I had trouble connecting with the characters. Books with a similar flavor that I'd recommend over this one include "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford and "The Joy Luck Club" by Amy Tan.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: "Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him"

"Until Tuesday" by Luis Carlos Montalvan
First published in 2011
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
(image source)

"Until Tuesday" is a tale both heartbreaking and heartwarming, told by former Army Capt. Luis Montalvan with the help of his service dog, a gorgeous and charismatic golden retriever named Tuesday.

Montalvan served two deployments during the brutal and horrific first years of the Iraq war and suffered not only physical injuries but -- perhaps worse -- crippling post-traumatic stress disorder resulting in extreme anxiety, agoraphobia and hypervigilance. His knee and back issues forced him to walk with a cane, and his traumatic brain injury caused balance issues and falls. Luis descended into depression, rarely leaving his Brooklyn apartment and drinking constantly to calm his nerves. Eventually, he hit rock bottom.

Meanwhile, Tuesday struggled in Puppies Behind Bars, a program through which inmates train service dogs. Back at ECAD, the service dog training facility where Tuesday was born, steps were taken to keep the dogs from bonding with one particular person so they'd create a firm, life-long bond with the disabled client they'd eventually be paired with. At the prison things were different, and Tuesday couldn't help but bond with his inmate trainer. And when the man was transferred to another prison a few months later, Tuesday, too, became depressed. He lost his enthusiasm and spunk, and refused to make an emotional connection with his next trainer.

But Tuesday survived, and when he was paired with Luis in 2008 Luis finally got the hope and help he needed to survive -- and eventually to thrive. Tuesday and Luis formed an amazing bond that supersedes even the most loving relationship between man and pet dog. This inspiring story educates readers on the harsh reality of war and its aftermath, and the tremendous impact a service dog can have in the life of a wounded warrior or any disabled person. And it shows that even when things look impossibly bleak, something -- a very special golden retriever, for instance -- can come along and change everything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha and happy Wednesday! It's been a crazy week for me personally, but I think I did a decent job fashion-wise. I'm proud of myself for keeping up with my goal of wearing my teal crops each week this summer -- and trying to style them differently each time.

As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to share my outfits and get fashion inspiration from the other WIWWers. Participating in WIWW has really been a motivator to experiment more and try new things with my clothes and accessories. It's amazing to look back at my WIWW posts from a year ago and see how much my style was evolved!

The outfit I put together with my teal crops last week wasn't all that different from this, but I felt so much happier and more confident in this outfit! The scarf really pulls everything together.


I love this outfit -- it was so comfortable and easy. I bought that (super-soft) coral tank top earlier in the week on clearance at American Eagle for $7!

pleated poppy

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Musings: Fun Mystery Novels

It's time for Monday Musings again!

1. Tomorrow is the release of a new book by one of my favorite authors, Donna Andrews. She writes an amateur sleuth series with a lovable, kooky cast of characters that takes place in rural Virgina, and these chuckle-inducing books always involve birds in some way, small or large. I love the anticipation of diving into the next book in a beloved series!

 2. I'm also looking forward to the release of the next novel in another of my favorite series, Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily historical mysteries. This time the mystery, due out October 16, takes Lady Emily and her husband to Venice.

3. I've been looking for another good period mystery series to delve into, and a patron at the library where I work recommended Laurie King's Mary Russell series, in which the protagonist meets Sherlock Holmes in 1915 and becomes his apprentice. (Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, I'm intrigued by the previews for the fall CBS show "Elementary, which will chronicle the detecting activities of a modern-day Sherlock and a female Watson.)

The Jane Austen mystery series by Stephanie Barron also caught my eye. In these books, Jane herself is the amateur sleuth and the mysteries include actual events in the real Jane's life. Sounds like my cup of tea!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Buddha: "Be Where You Are"

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"Be where you are. Otherwise you'll miss your life."

I saw this abbreviated version of a Buddha quote the other day and it's stuck with me all week.

This is such good advice for a person like me. I'm a planner, so I'm often thinking toward the future. And I can be a bit of a fretter and worrier and occasionally find myself ruminating over past negative events. Sometimes I struggle to be in the present, to enjoy each and every moment for the precious bit of life that it is.

Buddha's wise words remind me to appreciate the happy little aspects of my day -- the warmth and softness of Conan and Lily snuggled up with me in bed when I wake up each morning, my favorite song coming on the radio on my way home from work, the technological miracle of talking to my husband via Skype while he's thousands of miles, the feel of yarn and knitting needles under my fingers, the simple joy of laughing with a friend over lunch...

I especially need to remember to be where I am during these last two months of Jarrod's deployment. I've done a pretty good job thus far of remembering to live, of not putting my life on hold just because my better half and best friend is gone. But now that the end is in sight, I find myself thinking about Jarrod's return and pining for my husband so much more. I hope Buddha's advice will help me remember to live in the present -- to be where I am -- despite the fact that I'm desperately looking forward to mid-September!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Furry Friday

Last Thursday poor Lily-cat got declawed and was sentence to two weeks in The Cone. I know everyone has their own opinions on declawing, and we went back and forth and forth and back for the entire two years we've had Lily. But we finally decided to do it. And, controversy aside, I can now tell you that declawing is not small potatoes. I'm sure in the end I'll be glad (as will our future new furniture) that we did it, but I'm honestly not sure I'd put another cat through that. It was definitely not "no big deal" like many people told me it was.

Anyway, the upside is that The Cone made for some cute pictures. Conan has worn a cone more than his fair share and he felt very sorry for his little sister.

This is why Lily has to wear a cone -- she reeeeally wants to lick her paws. And who can blame her? But she's started grooming "through" the cone, which is pretty pitiful but pretty funny too. She only has one week left with her cone and her yucky newspaper litter and being force-fed syringes full of chalky white antibiotics. Next Friday will be a very good day for her!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha and happy Wednesday! I had lots of days off work this past week and caught up on some "What Not To Wear" episodes on my DVR. Here are two points of wisdom that I liked so much I scribbled them down on the back of a knitting pattern:

*There are a lot of wonderful things about putting on an outfit that makes you happy.

*Matchy-matchy is a very antiquated way to look at accessories...it's such an old idea of the way that you style. --Stacey

I'm definitely a very matchy-matchy person and I'm trying to be more daring with accessories like jewelry. But I'm not sure I'll ever get over the idea that my purse and shoes have to match!


So. Honesty time. This outfit is sooo comfortable and moderately fashionable and it's what I wear when I can't find anything else. I spent at least 20 minutes trying on various other outfits and I just didn't feel right in anything, so I ended up with my go-to. That smile in the picture above? Totally fake. By that time I was rather grumpy and cursing WIWW!

This is what my bed looked like after I tried on half my closet:

(Alright, more honesty time. That is not anywhere near half my closet. I have tons of clothes, which makes it all the more frustrating when I can't find anything to wear!)

On Thursday I got a much-needed haircut! Ahhh, so much better now!

This is my favorite outfit from the week. AND it was totally comfortable!

Oh my, I still can't believe I left the house in this. Pairing two bold colors is soooo far out of my comfort zone that I felt awkward and self-conscious the whole time I was on my weekly Target shopping trip. I want to get more adventurous with my teal crops (you may have noticed that I've only paired them with grays and whites so far) and was inspired by the colors of the dress I wore on Friday, but I'm not sure it worked. What do you think?

pleated poppy

Book Review: "Wicked Business"

"Wicked Business" by Janet Evanovich
First published in 2012
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

The second installment of Janet Evanovich's Lizzy and Diesel series was a quick, fun read, but it didn't quite have me busting up with giggles like "Wicked Appetite" did. Instead, "Wicked Business" is more of a race to uncover and follow historical clues scattered across Boston and the Northeast, kind of like a lite, more cheerful, less pressure-filled version of "National Treasure" or "The DaVinci Code" with some potty humor thrown in.

In the first book of the series, "Wicked Appetite," readers are introduced to the story of the SALIGA stones -- ancient stones representing each of the seven deadly sins that, if united in the wrong hands, can spell disaster for mankind. Diesel, whom readers may know from Evanovich's between-the-numbers Stephanie Plum books, has been tasked by the supernatural powers-that-be to find the stones and to protect Lizzy, a cupcake baker from Salem who happens to be one of a very small number of people who can sense magical or "empowered" objects. But Lizzy and Diesel aren't the only people after the stones and, as usual, mayhem ensues as they hunt for the lust stone.

And speaking of lust? Lizzy and Diesel are totally hot for each other, but it's been said that if two people with "enhanced abilities" sleep together one of them will lose all their power, and there's no telling which partner that would be. So there's plenty of sexual tension mixed in with the race for clues and the fart jokes.

Fans of Janet Evanovich's bestselling Stephanie Plum series will love the "Wicked" novels, which are fresh and original with a quirky supernatural theme but still carry Evanovich's signature witty, funny, light-hearted writing.

Happy reading! (Oh, and a small disclaimer: You WILL be craving cupcakes after you read this novel!)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Musings: J.K. Rowling & "Magic Mike"

Today is the start of something new on my blog! I have a lot of thoughts about lot of little things -- some book-related, some not -- that don't exactly fit elsewhere on the blog and don't necessarily warrant entire posts of their own. So I decided to start a new blog segment called Monday Musings, in which I will rant or rave about various topics. So here's what's on my mind today:

1. Last week J.K. Rowling's publisher, Little, Brown and Company, released the cover art for the Harry Potter author's first adult novel, due out September 27.

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What do you think of the cover? I'm definitely a judge-a-book-by-its-cover person and I'm not too taken with this. But I'm even more of a judge-a-book-by-the-summary-on-the-inside-flap person. Here's the synopsis Little, Brown has released for "The Casual Vacancy":

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town,
The Casual Vacancy is J. K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

Of course I wasn't expecting witches and wizards and flying cars and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, but where's the literary magic here? This sounds like something I'd doze off reading if the room were a little too dim. Still, I think J. K. Rowling is a fantastic writer and I have no doubt that her literary style can carry over into the adult fiction world. I'll most certainly read "The Casual Vacancy" when it comes out this September, and I can only hope that it exceeds my somewhat lowered expectations. And doesn't put me to sleep. Yawn...

2. A wailing toddler and an elementary-school-age kid in the theater really ruin the mood of "Magic Mike." Talk about birth control! And honestly, I cannot fathom what would possess someone to bring a child of any age to a movie about male strippers.

3. Astonishingly, I didn't like "Magic Mike" very much. This is why I went to see it:

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The hot, hot, hot, hot men. But I found that it wasn't as raunchy as I expected. On the other end of the spectrum, the plot was contrived and obvious, and Channing Tatum (who I actually think is a pretty good actor) seemed inarticulate (though, let's face it, still sexy as hell). For me, "Magic Mike" failed majorly in the storyline department and -- shockingly -- somewhat in the sex department. And come on, this is a movie clearly meant for women (and possibly gay men?) and we see multiple sets of breasts but no male hardware other than padded stripper pouches? Honestly! If I wanted to see boobs, I'd just look down my own shirt...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Knitting: Little Snowy Owl & Wee Baby Hats


This is Mr. Owl. I agree, he needs a better name, but Mr. Owl he is for now. I'm in between big projects at the moment (finally done with months of baby knitting and awaiting the start of my first-ever mystery knit-along) and I wanted a fun little project to use up some of my acrylic yarn stash. In the past few months, I've moved completely to the dark side; I am now a "yarn snob," favoring soft, luxurious, natural (pricey) yarns like merino wool or alpaca or wool-cashmere blend over man-made acrylic. But I spent over two years being a not-yarn-snob and accumulated quite a bit of acrylic yarn that's now taking up a lot of closet space.

I used the Big Snowy Owl pattern from The Purl Bee, but I knitted my owl with thinner yarn and smaller needles so he's about half the size of the original. This is the first stuffed animal I've knitted and I'm absolutely in love with him!

2012-07-01 13.56.36
Last weekend I visited my friends Priscilla and Steve, who recently welcomed their first baby. I knitted this dinosaur hat for Priscilla's baby shower and was excited to actually see it baby Noah! How cute is he?! (Sorry for the blurry cell phone picture.)

These are the two baby hats I finished last week for another pregnant friend who's due any day. And now... I'm baby-knitted out! I can't wait to start the mystery KAL -- it's a shawl pattern called Rockefeller by famous knit designer Stephen West. It'll be so fun to watch my shawl -- and the thousands of other participants' -- unfold without having a clue what the end result will be!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review: "Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)"

"Let's Pretend This Never Happened" by Jenny Lawson
First published in 2012
My rating 4.5 out of 5
(image source)

I laughed out loud so many times while reading "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" that the dog and cat stopped bothering to look concernedly at me to assess whether or not I was dying or going crazy.

This memoir, which chronicles the bizarre and hilarious life of Jenny Lawson, "The Bloggess," is full of outlandish, often self-deprecating, usually mostly true anecdotes.

The book begins with Jenny's traumatizing/amazing childhood in the tiny, rural town of Wall, Texas, where her father's hobby of taxidermy eventually turned into a bustling business. Her childhood was filled with all the horrors and wonders one would expect of growing up in rural West Texas with a taxidermist father -- magic talking (dead) squirrels, a bathtub full of (live) baby raccoons, a henhouse made out of filing cabinets, artificially inseminating a cow... Then Jenny meets her future husband, they fight over zombies and towels, they move to Houston, they have a baby, Jenny begins her blogging career, they move back to the country and their home becomes infested with scorpions and "foxen," she obtains a 5-foot-tall metal chicken -- and all of these milestones and more are accompanied by seemingly endless funny stories, often at the author's expense.

But the book also has some poignant, heartfelt, honest moments and a very positive message overall. In one of the last paragraphs of the book, Jenny writes: "...you are defined not by life's imperfect moments but by your reaction to them. Because there is joy in embracing -- rather than running screaming from -- the utter absurdity of life." This memoir is bursting with imperfect, absurd (mostly hilarious) moments, but they made Jenny the person she is and shaped the great life she has, and she's grateful for that.

To be honest, I'd never heard of The Bloggess before, and I really only picked the book up because I was intrigued by the artwork and the fact that one of the reviews on the back cover contained the f-word. But I got lucky, as the book proved to be a joy to read. I checked out Jenny's blog and, not surprisingly, it seems to be filled with the same witty, funny and insightful writing as her mostly true memoir.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

I've always loved the Fourth of July -- fireworks, potlucks, parades. When I became an Air Force wife, the patriotism of the holiday took on more meaning for me, and now that my husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan it really hits home today how proud I am to be an American. America isn't perfect, but I feel so lucky to live here and have people like my husband who are willing to fight for our freedom. Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What I Wore For My Best Friend's Visit

Aloha and happy Wednesday! I have an extra-long post for you today; I didn't have time to put together a WIWW post last week because my best friend Katie was visting! We had such a great time hanging out and crossing off a few of my Hawaii bucket list items. And it's just so nice and easy and refreshing to be with somebody who knows me so well and around whom I can be my complete self. Katie and I met 13 years ago in our freshman band class where we both played the clarinet. It's crazy to think we've been friends for over a decade now!

As always, I'm sharing my outfits on The Pleated Poppy, which reminds me to put real clothes on and not wear athletic shorts and t-shirts to the grocery store -- or anywhere! Happy Wednesday!

06-26-12 Katie's Visit #3
This was taken when Katie and I went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation to gorge ourselves on delicious Dole Whip pineapple ice cream. Before we moved to Hawaii (2 1/2 years ago now!) I thought pineapples grew on trees... or something. Not so!

Tank top: Old Navy
Teal crops: Calvin Klein
Necklace: Seek First on Etsy
Starfish earrings: Boutiki gift shop

I wore this to afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider, one of the historic hotels in Waikiki. And guess what -- I finally found the perfect (reasonably priced) brown purse! I'm in love with it, and it was on sale for only $30!
Lace dress: Kohls
Belt: Target
Necklace: J. Crew via eBay
Earrings: Target
Sandals: Kohls
Purse: Bueno via the NEX

Katie and I also did a mai tai sunset cruise. The mai tais were decent, the sunset was decent, the catamaran was blah (I'm apparently not a catamran person) but the super-hot shirtless Hawaiian bartender was oh so worth it! ;) I bought this new necklace while Katie and I were in Waikiki the previous day for our afternoon tea.


Kaite and I toured gorgeous Iolani Palace where Hawaiian royalty used to reside.

07-03-12 WIWW
I am soooo in love with my new scarf! It's so colorful it'll match anything.
Top: JC Penney
Jeans: 7 For All Mankind
Scarf: Cinnamon Girl
Purse: Bueno via the NEX
Sandals: Kohls
Earrings: Bealls Florida

07-03-12 WIWW1_2
It's funny that eight or nine months ago, I was still declaring that I would never wear skinny jeans. And here I am now, wearing them nearly every day! I actually have to force myself to select my trusty old bootcuts (like these) from my closet!

pleated poppy

"Fifty Shades of Grey" According to Pinterest

I recently finished reading "Fifty Shades of Grey" (see my review here). Now that I know what all the fuss is about, I found myself cracking up at the gazillion "Fifty Shades"-related pins while I was browsing Pinterest last night. These are my favorites:

I work at a library, and I can tell you that this is accurate!
This is a vast improvement on "Call Me Maybe," which has got to be one of the worst songs ever recorded. (And now, as apparent punishment for that comment, it's stuck in my head!)

Monday, July 2, 2012

'Hoo' Had a Birthday?

When I realized that my best friend Katie would be visiting me in Hawaii over her birthday, I decided that I wanted to do something special for her even though it would just be the two of us.

Katie is currently all about owls, so I figured I'd try my hand at an owl cake. I perused Pinterest for a little inspiration, then crafted this guy from a mixture of ideas from other people's owl cakes and my own imagination  lack of the right bowls to make a cool 3-D cake semi-laziness.

*I made a half-batch of cake batter and baked a single round cake, then cut off a small crescent to form the ear shape. (Which I then smothered in frosting and ate... And this epitomizes the reason I haven't gotten any skinnier while Jarrod's been on his deployment!)

*Normally I'm all about homemade, but I used store-bought vanilla frosting for this cake. I tinted some of it with red food coloring to make a bubblegum pink shade and frosted the body of the owl, using the back of a spoon to make the "feathers." Then I frosted his chest in white (for some reason, even though he's pink, I think of Mr. Owl Cake as a boy) and used a knife to press some lines on it.

*The eyes are Oreo halves and brown M&Ms, and the beak and feet are orange M&Ms.

I'm an extremely novice cake decorator -- my cakes always taste good but usually look like crap -- so I was quite proud of myself when I realized that I had actually managed to create a passable owl!


I also surprised Katie with a banner and some tissue paper pom-poms. For the banner, I simply printed out the letters on pink scrapbook paper and cut them out in circles, glued them to larger circles of white cardstock, then punched two holes in each and strung ribbon through. And I used this very helpful tutorial to craft the pom-poms. (I made half-size ones because it turns out that tissue paper is extremely overpriced!).
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