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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bagel Recipe, SUCCESS!

So I attempted this recipe from yesterday and it turned out fantastic. It made 12, and only one was left by 5:00 PM! I made 2 plain, 2 salt, 4 with sesame seeds, and 4 cinnamon and sugar. I do not have a countertop mixer, so I did it all with the hand mixer and hand kneading, which wasn't as bad as it sounds. Just make sure you let it rise for a full 45 minutes at least the first time.
So easy and so good! Yum!
Bagels I

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1.Mix together the unsifted flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, yeast, water, and butter in the bread machine on the manual setting.
2.OR, mix 1-1/2 cup flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and yeast. Heat water and butter to 120-130 degrees F. Add water to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed on mixer. Add 1/2 cup flour, beat at high speed 2 minutes. Stir in more flour to make a stiff dough. Knead 8-10 minutes. Cover and let rise. Punch down. Cover; let rest 15 minutes.
3.Remove from bread machine.
4.Divide dough into 12 pieces; shape 3 pieces into smooth balls. Poke a 1 inch hole in each. Drop bagels into a large skillet with 1 inch water (simmering) with 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons salt in the water. Cook on medium low heat for 3 minutes, turn and cook 2 minutes; turn again, cook 1 minute more. Drain on towels. Repeat for rest of dough. Place on greased cookie sheet.
5.Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20-25 minutes. Remove from sheets and cool. If desired, before baking, mix 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water, brush on bagels, and sprinkle with sesame, poppy, or caraway seeds.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What's up now!?

So my reviews are starting to slow down, if you haven't noticed, but don't worry! I will have at least 1-2 new reviews a week. I promise. I have a large cash of books I've already read and am currently reading Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling (so far its pretty good.) In the cue for future reviews (of books I haven't read yet): Graceling, Incarceron, Ender's Game, and Unwind, along with many others!
Also, I going to attempt making homemade bagels today! This of course will only happen if my daughter will allow me to work in the kitchen for more than 3 minutes. So please keep checking in, or better yet, subscribe to my blog with emails (in the right column) whenever I post. I promise you won't be barraged with anything I don't write.
Thanks again for sticking with me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Scarlett and Rosie March are werewolf, or rather Fenris, hunters. As young children, their grandmother was killed by a Fenris and the teenage girls have since trained and become fearsome hunters, vowing to save as many lives as possible. Things get tricky when the new moon phase brings about a huge wave of murders and the girls take on their largest challenge yet.
Review: I just picked this book off the library shelf because I loved the cover and I'm so glad I did. I love that this is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood, but so completely different you can't compare the two stories. The characters are uniquely wonderful and captivating and the plot was very well paced and dotted with a satisfying amount if drama, plenty of action, and the perfect dose of romance. The only thing that would have made this book a full 5/5 for me was a little more sexual tension a la Twilight. Other than that, this was a great read for YA fans and heroine enthusiasts.

Buy It Here:  Sisters Red

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: The Magicians - Lev Grossman

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Quentin is admitted to the school magic, Brakebills Academy, making friends as he learns about something he never knew existed. When his friends and he discover that the magical world they read about as children, Fillory (think Narnia,) is real they head into a complete whirlwind of trouble, adventure and love.
Review: This is sort of a mature Harry Potter story. The characters are teenagers that get into trouble, fall in love, do bad things, and get mean. I like that the characters have realistic flaws and believable personalities, but for some reason this book just didn't do much for me. The story has such great potential and reading the reviews and summary made me get excited to open it, but it just didn't live up to the hype. Maybe I'm spoiled from the Harry Potter series and the new world of magic it created, but this book's style of mixing reality with magic was just disappointing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Peter and the Starcatchers (series) - Barry and Pearson

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Peter (as in Peter Pan) meets young Molly in his adventures. Molly's family has long been protecting "star stuff," the magical substance that allows all sorts of unimaginable things to happen, including flight (think "happy thoughts.") When others find out the power of "star stuff," Molly's family risks letting it fall into the wrong hands and must use Peter's help to save the world. The series of books chronicles Peter's other adventures and the trouble he gets in and out of.
Review: While definitely a fun little read, this book is certainly intended for a very young audience. Filled with lots of action and adventure, the plot is a backstory for Peter Pan and explains details of the popular story like Tinkerbell's magic, the lost boys history and much more. The characters and adventures are fun, but again this is meant for a young group of readers so it would be a nice series to share with your children.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordan

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Carter and Sadie are siblings who have grown up separately due to the passing of their mother and the work of their father, Dr. Kane, as a traveling Egyptologist. When Dr. Kane goes missing, Carter and Sadie join together to find out the mysteries of their past and to help save their father.
Review: I initially read this book because my grandmother is part Egyptian and I have a secret obsession (I guess not so secret) with my heritage. I enjoyed this story as a fun adventure full of history, mythology and a lot of fantasy. The characters were well developed and believable and the plot was quick and always kept me on my toes. I listened to the audiobook which was a great experience since its read by both a male and female narrator in the voices of the children. This is definitely intended for a younger audience though, as the main characters are 12 and 14. While this book is part of a series, The Kane Chronicles, I don't think I will be reading any further simply because it did feel a bit young and I personally like a little more PG-13 action.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Wings - Aprilynne Pike

Rating: 2/5
Summary: At 15, Laurel gets sent to public school after being home-schooled all her life. She quickly finds out, as a wing-like blossom appears on her back, that she's not like other teenage girls. With the help of her scientific friend and a mysterious person she meets in the woods, she soon finds out she is a faerie and then proceeds to discover more secrets about her history and future.
Review: While definitely a new creative idea, this book fell a little flat for me as a mid-twenties mom. I would say this a great book for a preteen or young teenager, but for an older reader the story is very tame and slow. I also found it really hard to imagine this growth that shows up on Laurel's back. I felt the book lacked depth and believable interactions between the characters and in general would be a waste of a read for an older adult.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Poor Little Bitch Girl - Jackie Collins

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Basically, this book follows the drama of a few young women including pregnancy, murder, prostitution, friendship, kidnapping and sex. Obviously NOT a YA book, its sort of like a soap opera on paper.
Review: Eh, not really what I expected. I enjoyed how all the stories intertwined and the girls knew each other from one story to another but each had their own drama and plot to follow. The characters were well developed and it was easy to associate with them since they were all around my age, but the variation in lifestyles certainly made it interesting to read. However, I like books with a big climax and with more peaks of interest, and I felt like this was almost a bit monotone throughout. There was nothing that made me stay up late wanting to read it. I think if you are the type of person that reads romance novels, you might appreciate this book a little more than I did.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Tristran Thorne promises his love a fallen star and must leave his rural English home to get it. On his trip through the magical world outside his safe town he meets witches, goblins and other magical creatures including a girl that turns out to to flip his life completely upside down.
Review: This is definitely a fun book. A perfect example of a modern fairy tale in which true love leads the hero to learn more about himself than he ever expected. Like all of Gaiman's stories, the character development is excellent and deep and you absolutely feel absorbed in to the mind of the main character. The plot is well paced and packed full of interesting events and action. I warn you though, this book has many differences from the movie if you've already watched it. If you haven't, don't yet! The book is much more mature and detailed while the movie feels like it was made for a much younger audience. Maybe buy the movie for your little sister and read the book yourself, because there are definitely some explicit scenes in the book you don't want your little sister reading....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Going Bovine - Libba Bray

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Cameron is a teenage boy who gets diagnosed with "Mad Cow Disease" and ends up on the adventure of a lifetime (quite literally) trying to chase down the one man that can cure him. Along the way he makes friends with an angel, a dwarf and a yard gnome who aid him on his quest.
Review: I really enjoyed this one by Libba Bray. She constantly amazes me with her variation in characters and plots and this one is no different. So completely unlike her others, this book takes place in the present with a male narrator and is 100% believable. The book has several great climax points with a storyline that moves quickly without flitting over details. The ending is surprising and expected at the same time, and leaves you satisfied. I loved this book but in a much more mature fashion than the ways I loved Twilight. Definitely a good read for adults more so than teenagers.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Shipbreaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

Rating: 3/5
Summary: In this futuristic novel Nailer is a ship breaker (aka a scavenger that strips old tankers and ships of copper and other usable resources) that stumbles across a yacht with a dying girl. She claims to be the rich daughter of an important leader in society and is being hunted by her uncle. Nailer takes it upon himself to help her in an effort to make a better life for himself.
Review: This was definitely an interesting book and new imagery for the trend of futuristic novels that we've been seeing a lot lately. I enjoyed the story but the plot was very slow and the climaxes weren't as intense as I would have liked. The characters, good and bad, were unique and very fun to follow. I was a little disappointed with the ending though, as it felt rushed and incomplete.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Jacob drops out of college just before graduating and joins the circus when tragedy disrupts his planned future. This book follows him as he learns the ropes of working in a circus, makes some interesting friends, and falls in love.
Review: You've probably already heard, but this is a "must read." Told from the interesting perspective of Jacob as an elderly man in a nursing home reminiscing on his youth, this story captivates your imagination immediately. Gruen seems to give her characters real life and feelings that you can feel in their dialogue and thoughts. The story is threaded with love, action and thrills all at the right time and amount. While definitely not a YA book, this is still a wonderful read, especially because you can imagine Robert Pattinson as Jacob thanks to the movie (if thats your thing.)

Review: Beastly - Alex Flinn

Rating: 2/5
Summary: The book is a modernized version of the old Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. A popular, good-looking teenager, Kyle is rude to a witch and gets turned in to a beast. He then has a short period of time to make someone love him or he's stuck as a beast forever.
Review: Honestly, I watched the movie first and was utterly disappointed in the book. At least the movie gave it a slightly more realistic and believable (however believable this can be) set of details. The book is too close to the Disney film to appeal to me, but the teenagers of today didn't really grow up with the Disney film like my generation did so it may be more intriguing to that audience. A lot of dialogue isn't really believable and the climaxes fell a little flat. This is one case where I would suggest watching the movie and passing up the book.

Braided Egg Bread... win!

So I've been wanting to make bread, don't know why, for awhile now and never purchased yeast so it wasn't really an option (except for banana bread.) Yesterday I stopped and FINALLY picked up some yeast and decided to try the following recipe. It ended up being delicious and beautiful!!! (Stolen from and halved because the original recipe was for 60 servings!)

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2-1/2 eggs
  • 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 egg
  • sesame seeds
    1. Proof yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Combine hot milk, sugar, butter, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Cool to 110 degrees.
    3. In small bowl, slightly beat 5 eggs, then add to cooled milk mixture. Add milk mixture to yeast mixture. Add 2 cups flour and beat until smooth. Slowly add remaining flour until it forms a stiff dough. Knead on a floured board for 10 minutes (5 minutes with a bread hook). Place in a large glass or plastic bowl lightly greased. Turn dough over to grease both sides. Cover and let rise in a warm, dark place until doubled in volume, approximately 60 minutes.
    4. Punch down, cover, and let rise again until double, approximately 30 minutes.
    5. Punch again, and form into three parts. Form each part into a 20-inch roll. Braid rolls on a large, greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled.
    6. Lightly beat remaining egg and brush loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven for about 55 minutes until nicely browned. May be made into two regular sized loaves. Reduce baking time slightly.

    It was pretty easy, and I didn't knead it as long as required since I don't have a stand mixer and my baby girl screamed every time I turned on the hand mixer. I will probably add just a little more sugar next time. Here's a photo of how it turned out, after we tried the end of course:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: The Body Finder - Kimberly Derting

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Violet can sense dead bodies, whether they be animal or human. When a serial killer is offing teenage girls in her town she becomes determined to help her father, a member of the local police station, to find and capture the killer. In the midst of all this, she falls in love with her best friend Jay, who is the only of her friends that knows her secret.
Review: While the characters seemed a little underdeveloped, the story was unique and created great imagery. I enjoyed reading this book and quickly got through the pages because I wanted to see what happened next. I didn't relate to any of the personalities, which kept me a little removed from the story, but the twists in the plot carried me through to the end. Overall, an interesting read but nothing to scramble to the library for either.

Review: Girl, 15, Charming but Insane - Sue Limb

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Jess is a typical girl in high school with an eccentric imagination and an interesting family dynamic. She goes through the typical high school dramas of parties, romance and humiliating moments and handles the situations with her own personal flair.
Review: The plot was well paced and this was a funny little book to read. I don't think it was intended for adults, but I found it silly and enjoyable anyway. Jess reminds me of myself in some ways but of my high school friends in others. I praise the author for her incredibly accurate portrayal of a teenager and all her glorious immaturity. There wasn't a huge climax and the ending was written to make you want to read the sequels, but I don't think I will. Not that this was a bad book, it just wasn't great enough for me to be hooked. I would highly recommend this to a 15 or 16-year-old girl though, so if you've got one of those in your life, it would make a great gift!

Meatloaf attempt... fail.

So as a pregnant woman (or a woman in general,) I want what I want when I want it. I've been craving meatloaf, which is not something I eat ever, and I decided to attempt making it last night. I did what I usually do and read a few recipes, then winged it, and it didn't turn out great. I want you to learn from my mistakes PLEASE! This is what I did:

Combined these in a bowl:
1 egg (used egg-beaters substitute)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup panko crumbs (I didn't have breadcrumbs)

Added to the bowl:
1/4 cup of sauteed chopped apples
1/2 cup of sauteed chopped onions
3/4 cup of crushed drained tomatoes
2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 lb. of ground beef

Then I mixed everything together well and stuck it in a greased bread loaf pan.
I mixed 1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes (I had reserved earlier) with 1 tablespoon of sun dried tomato paste and spread that on top.

I then cooked the loaf in a preheated oven at 350 for about an hour (until the inside temp of the loaf was 160) and occasionally drained the liquid from the load with a turkey baster.

To be honest, it kind of fell apart and didn't have enough flavor for my taste. I think I did too many panko crumbs, and I should have used italian breadcrumbs anyway for the texture and flavor. Also, I would have added a little more seasoning by way of basil and garlic (my favorites) and salt. Maybe a little more egg would have held it together better and a little more meat (1/4-1/2 cup) would have given it a better texture. Other than all that I think it probably would have turned out okay. Anyway, don't make the mistakes I did and compensate panko/breadcrumbs for a lack of meat. Its not really meatloaf then... its mushy breadmeat crumble. Good luck in your endeavors, and if you have a great fail-proof meatloaf recipe you'd like to share please post below in the comments!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Wake - Lisa McMann

Rating: 2/5
Summary: Janie can see peoples dreams, from the sexy to the funny to the disturbing. She begins dating a classmate, who also happens to be the only person she tells about her secret power, she sees that his dreams are frightening and reveal more than she wants to know about him. Her dream-watching ability eventually leads her to aid the police and save her friends.
Review: I only read this a few months ago and I barely remember it. Thats how "blah" this book is in my opinion. The plot was relatively uneventful, the characters rather flat, and the conflict was insubstantial. Definitely for a young audience. I was unimpressed with this book and I won't be reading the sequels, even if there is a rumor that there will be movies. Maybe they'll be better than the books....

Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

Rating: 5/5
Summary: This book is actually a memoir by Bill Bryson, another of my favorite authors. He grew up in America, moved to England and lived there for awhile, then moved back home. This book is the recounting of his life in both countries and family adventures.
Review: I love Bill's British humor and wit in this book. Reading this made me love America and want to visit England all at the same time. He's got a great talent of leading the reader through what would normally be mundane details (A Short History of Nearly Everything is a perfect example of this) and rocking your socks off. He somehow makes everything easy to read and hysterical at the same time. This is one of those books you laugh out loud to and purchase for your parents/siblings/best friends as a gift. You really can't go wrong reading any of Bryson's books, but this one is definitely my favorite.

Buy It Here: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4/5
Summary: A family is murdered but the toddler somehow escapes by crawling into a graveyard. There he finds that he is protected and raised by the ghosts that only he can see. The story follows Nobody Owens, the toddler, who grows up in the Graveyard meeting all sorts of magical creatures including a live girl who makes him branch out of the Graveyard for a whole new adventure.
Review: I know it sounds like a crazy plot, but its really a fantastic book. I would say the intended audience is younger than others' of Gaiman's, but this was still a very enjoyable read. The character depth is fantastic, the conflict and action peaks several times throughout the story, and the hero of the story must battle his inner demons as he fights the magical ones making this an overall very quick and fun read. I'd definitely recommend reading this and you don't even have to feel guilty about it taking much time because you'll fly right through the pages.

Review: Beautiful Creatures - Garcia and Stohl

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Guy meets girl. Girl turns out to be from a magical family and has all sorts of secrets. They fall in love and are told it won't work but stick together anyway.
Review: A decent book, but not as great as I would have liked. The intended audience felt very young, as in preteens. The concept was great and the characters were interesting but not very developed. I was disappointed by the flow of the plot also. The story felt slow and without an impacting climax. I give the authors credit in that if they were aiming for a young audience alone, I'm sure the middle-schoolers will love it. Unlike most YA books I've read however, this one did not appeal to a mid-twenties mom who likes to read about magic and fantasy. Maybe hand this one over to your little sister....

Review: The Shack - William P. Young

Rating: 2/5
Summary: Mack's daughter is abducted and thought to be brutally murdered in a cabin in the Oregon forests. When he receives a letter from God he heads out to the cabin to meet him and get answers and a resolution.
Review: Yuck. I didn't like this at all. I read this book because so many people recommended it and said how fantastic it was. I found the plot slow, the writing amateur and the characters sort of one-dimensional. I also felt like there wasn't much of a climax and Mack's interaction with "God" was not really taken to the depth it could have been. The ending was also disappointing and I just felt that the overall book a bit of a waste of time.

More advice for new moms

My daughter is now 8 months old and is still not an easy baby. She fought bottles up until about a month ago, wakes up 4+ times a night, and can't play with her toys alone for more than 5 minutes, no joke. Despite all this, I still think she is the absolute best little girl on the planet. She's so smart (probably too smart for her own good,) incredibly funny (she always makes me laugh when I'm crying,) and has such attitude for a baby you'd think there was a 4-year-old trapped in her head. Anyway, through the past 8 months, I have picked up a few things on taking care of a tricky baby.
Here they are:

1. Amazon Moms is your best friend. My husband and I have price compared and if you sign up with you not only get free 2 day shipping on almost everything, but you get the absolute lowest diaper prices if you sign up for "Subscribe and Save." I can't tell you how many times that 2 day shipping saved my life when I was in the first few months with a new infant and needed bottles, accessories for my pump, or a toy I heard would help her sleep and couldn't leave the house. Seriously, it costs nothing to sign up, so do it now. (By the way, that 2 day shipping applies to everything on Amazon thats eligible for "Prime Shipping" so its great for last minute birthday/shower/wedding gifts!)

2. Of all the dozens of sleep techniques we've tried the Fisher Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse is the only thing that has worked consistently from when she was an infant to now. Its just the right volume and sounds and the glow is just bright enough to distract the baby without waking them up.

3. Get a bouncy seat. Up until about 2 weeks ago I could stick her in it, place her in front of the shower curtain and usually get about a 5-10 minute shower without her freaking out (my daughter is very clingy.) And I used it for when I needed to do basically anything that I had to put her down for but couldn't trust her not to roll off the bed (makeup, getting dressed, wrapping presents, etc.) Just make sure you strap your baby in!

4. Invest in insulated, light-blocking curtains for your baby's room. If you already have curtains, like I did, buy liners and attach them to the backs. Blocking the light helped my little girl sleep much better at nap time and kept some of the cold out during the winter.

5. Mylicon helped with her gas pains for the first few months. But don't waste your money on the name brand. The generic that you can buy at your grocery store is the same product and typically half (if not less) the price.

Hope those few tips help a little! If you have questions, feel free to comment below and I will answer asap.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: The Host - Stephanie Meyer

Rating: 5/5
Summary: The world has been invaded by parasite-like aliens but they aren't here to kill us, they use our bodies and simply live as us. Most humans simply lose consciousness when the alien takes over, but not Melanie. She sticks around to bother the alien that has inhabited her body and refuses to give up.
Review: Yes, this is by the same girl who wrote Twilight. And yes, the male lead and romance seems very, very similar to Edward (slightly unrealistic but oh-so-dreamy.) And this is a book about aliens which made me hesitate to read it initally... But, this turned out to be a great book. The story is easy to follow, the action and drama are well balanced, and the characters are fun. There's something utterly cool about these aliens and the idea that humans may not be swept under the rug completely in an invasion. Its not your typical shoot 'em up war in space book either. You get to read about both the human and the alien perspective, since they both happen to be in Melanie's head. I'd classify this as a "must read," especially since the movie comes out next year!

Review: Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Richard Mayhew is an average everyday guy who (after helping an injured girl) just happens to get thrown into the world of "London Below," a world hidden from normal humans and society. He discovers the magic and danger of this secret world as he travels through this adventure with some rather interesting characters.
Review: Love love love Neil Gaiman, and this is my favorite of all his books. I guess its classified as YA, but very much straddles the line of being too mature for teenagers. This books has fantastic characters that you can see and hear in your head as if they really existed (or do they!?) The plot and conflict is in perfect proportion to length of the book which makes it one of those books you end up staying up late to finish. A little bit of love, a lot of action, some great witty humor, and just enough drama to suck you in. If you like fantastical fiction, there's no way you can pass this book up.

My advice for new moms

I had a baby back in February and found that those first few weeks were the most difficult I've ever been through. Once I survived that time period and came out on the other side, I wanted to share what I had learned with some of my friends that were pregnant and about to go through the same thing. Please keep in mind this is just what worked for me, not a list of rules or doctors orders!

From One New Mom to Another:
My Tips and Tricks to Surviving the First Few Months

1.    In the delivery room, be open to all options. Whatever you go in expecting will be the opposite of what actually happens. While its okay to have plans and goals, don’t be upset when those fall through. You’ll save yourself a lot of regret and disappointment by staying flexible.

2.    After the baby is born, everyone will tell you how things should be done best. Doctors, nurses, friends and family will all be informing you of the right way to do things and what you should never do. In the end, however, your instincts will take over and you’ll know what’s right for you and your baby. Not doing everything by the book is not only inevitable but is necessary to be a mother. Remember, he’s your baby and you have the right to raise him any way that feels right. Trust your intuition.

3.    If you’re breastfeeding and don’t have a good pump, get one.  You’ll need it when you get engorged, for relief between feedings and for pumping to store. Also, if you have difficulty breastfeeding, whether it be latching problems or low milk supply, you’ll want the pump so you can still give your baby your milk as long as possible. Pump and freeze what extra you have while your supply is up. Get a hands-free pumping bra that fits up with your bottles and pump. If you’re pumping as often as your baby is feeding, prop him up in the boppy, feed him with one hand while you keep your other free for control. You should be pumping as long as your baby is feeding so when he finished, you’re finished.

4.    For nipple lubrication when pumping or otherwise, use olive oil instead of lanolin. In addition to being cheaper, olive oil is more slippery so it causes less friction and less chance of blisters. Some women are actually allergic to lanolin, so you avoid that being an issue. Also, olive oil is easier to wipe off, allowing the nipple to dry and heal quicker while still moisturizing enough to avoid cracking and bleeding.

5.    Drink lots and lots of water. It will help with milk production, start regulating your urinary tract (which by the way will be out of wack for a few months post partum,) and make you feel less drained and yucky.

6.    While ponytails, headbands and hair clips will be your best friends, shower when you can. When a visitor comes, hand the baby over and hop in the shower. You probably won’t get more than one every other day if you’re lucky, but they work wonders to make you feel better instantly.

7.    The first 6-8 weeks will be a blur. You’ll feel like crying from exhaustion and screaming from frustration but be overjoyed all at the same time. Just try to be patient. Every day gets easier as you learn what works for you and your baby and he adjusts to the new world. As soon as you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, the baby will change just a little, and you’ll have to start over. There will be no pattern or schedule for a very long time, so just try to stay calm and enjoy this time learning your new family member.

8.    Possibly the most important advice I ever got was “sleep when the baby sleeps.” This is no joke. You’ll learn to fall asleep at the drop of a hat, and it will save your sanity. You may want to clean, cook, or get work done, but don’t. No one will fault you or think you’re neglecting your responsibilities if you try to catch up on rest. Seriously. If you are too tired, you’ll be cranky, causing your husband to stress out, causing fights and avoidable bitterness between you two. Also, the baby will pick up on that tension and cry more. In general, if you stay calm, everyone else will too.

9.    There will be days your baby eats or sleeps less or more than usual. Don’t freak out unless it lasts more than a few days or if you think it is affecting his health. There are a million and one reasons your baby acts the way he does and half the time you can’t figure it out.

10. There is sense behind the advice that holding your baby all the time will make them dependent on being held and not put down, but not in the first few weeks. Almost all rules like that go out the window for at least the first month. If holding your baby is the only thing that will calm him down, for sanity’s sake, do it. You’ll find that most advice is “forgotten” when it comes to stopping your baby’s tears or getting him to sleep or eat. It’s okay. You won’t permanently damage your baby by loving him too much. Most habits aren’t formed until he’s 4-6 months old anyway.

11. As soon as you feel comfortable, put him in his crib to sleep. Having the baby in your room will detract from your sleep, and therefore your health, because you will wake up at every movement and breath your baby makes. It doesn’t matter how heavy of a sleeper you used to be, once you become a mom you’ll wake up at a pin-drop. An Angelcare Monitor works wonders to relieve the fear of SIDS if that’s what keeps you up at night.

12. It may be the hardest thing in the world to listen to your baby cry and while everyone will tell you that its okay to let him, it will still break your heart every time. Your baby will survive through tears and tantrums, so try to be okay with a little crying. However, what people don’t tell you is that letting your baby work himself up makes it harder to calm him down, so sometimes stopping the fit before it gets out of control is an excellent way to avoid some unnecessary stress. (By the way, babies can’t “cry it out” until they are closer to 3-4 months old because they aren’t capable of calming themselves down, so that advice is a no-go for awhile if you have the heart to try it.)

13. When in doubt, call the pediatrician. Google will only scare you in to thinking something is seriously wrong with your baby. Yes, you’ll check the internet first, but then call the doctor. They have a nurse on staff meant specifically for your “silly” questions, and the have a doctor on call 24 hours a day if you’re really worried. Seven calls a week resulting in nothing is better than not calling only to find its something serious.

14.  And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help from anyone and everyone!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (series) - Stieg Larson

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Where do I begin? Well, a young girl gone missing some 40 years ago is still sending gifts to her grandfather, so he hires the journalist Mikael Blomkvist to dig into the mystery and find out what really happened. Basically, lots and lots of drama, action and mystery. The other books follow Blomkvist on a continuation of the story, a bit of romance, and more scandal.
Review: While I'm not crazy about mystery/crime books, I have to admit this is a good series. I listened to it on audio and I think if I had read the actual book it would have taken me forever because I'd have to reread paragraphs a million times (not to mention all the foreign names are quite difficult to remember and pronounce.) The plot mystery is great, the sex and scandal is a little (a lot) intense at times,  and characters are well developed and unique. Overall, a good read if you don't mind some morbid imagery and adult situations.

Review: Beauty Queens - Libba Bray

Rating: 3/5
Summary: Basically, Lord of the Flies meets Miss Congeniality. A plane full of beauty queens crashes on an island and all the adults die. The prim and proper girls must figure out how to survive while maintaining their pageant skills and tans.
Review: Again, I love Libba Bray and this is such a dramatic change from A Great and Terrible Beauty that I couldn't help but enjoy it. Its very sarcastic and a little cheesy with "The Corporation" commercials between chapters and other unrealistic happenings, but I liked the wit and governmental digs. Don't read this if you can't get past the "suspension of disbelief" issue because there are some seriously and irrationally dumb girls in this book. I got a few out loud chuckles from it though, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun book that borders the YA-Adult Fiction line.

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty (series) - Libba Bray

Rating: 4/5
Summary: Gemma is a teenage girl that is shipped off to a boarding school in England after her mother's death. She delves into the histrionics of teenage girls while uncovering magical secrets that her mother kept from her and mysteries that the school itself contains.
Review: There's something I just love about a great historical fiction that takes place in England. Libba Bray is an incredibly talented writer that really authenticates the wonderful fantasy that is old England and its boarding schools. You almost get the Little Princesses imagery in the book's beginning and its plot line somehow got sucked out of my childhood "pretend play" memories. The content may be a little slow, with not so much action as some of my other favorites, but this feels like it should be a classic for all young girls to read. What little girl didn't wish she secretly possessed magic that her parents just hadn't told her of yet?

Review: Bloody Jack (series) - L.A. Meyer

Rating: 5/5
Summary: The first book of this series starts off in the early 19th century with a young girl, Mary "Jacky" Faber, who ends up aboard a British Naval ship dressed as a boy and begins her life of trouble and adventure. The other books in the series are each about a different predicament she gets in to and how she gets out of it.
Review: This is one of my favorite series of books ever. I've read the whole sequence (I believe there are 9 now) several times. They are a bit fantastical, and you find yourself saying "Not again Jacky!" over and over, but I love the adventure and friskiness she embodies. I fell in love with the characters and even named my daughter after one! The series sort of follows the "conflict and resolve" pattern that the Harry Potter's do, and you root for the main characters even though they have many flaws of their own. If you read this book and don't fall in love with Jacky, I think there may be something wrong with you!
SPECIAL NOTE: You MUST listen to this on audio if possible. Katherine Kellgren is by far the best narrator I have ever heard in my entire life. She executes all the accents and songs perfectly. I don't know about you, but I just don't have the capability to develop a good French, English, English Cockney, Spanish, Jamaican, American English accent and more in my brain (and I certainly don't have the ability to do those in song.)

Review: Across the Universe - Beth Revis

Rating: 5/5
Summary: Amy leaves Earth on a ship bound for a new planet frozen until their expected arrival in a few hundred years. She's accidentally unfrozen not upon reaching the new planet, but years before, and must cope with fitting in to this new and strange society thats so very different than Earth life as she was used to.
Review: Oh, I can't say enough about this book. I love the plot, the characters, the imagery, the romance (and of course there is!) The characters are absolutely believable and I completely connected with Amy's rebellious attitude. (I've secretly always wanted red hair anyway.) I am depressed that I have to wait until next year to read the sequel and then even longer to read the third book, but you better bet I'm first in line on the waiting list at my library. This is a definite must read, especially if you like the classic YA books!

Buy it here: Across the Universe

Review: Matched - Ally Condie

Rating: 2/5
Summary: Cassia is a teenage girl who lives in the future where America has been broken and made in to the "Society" that controls basically everything you do (eat, sleep, work.) The "Matching" system pairs teenagers with a life partner to date for a few years, then marry and have children, all within an expected time frame. Her world is turned upside down when she's accidentally matched two boys, one that's not within accepted "Society" citizens for pairing due to a sketchy past.
Review: Eh, I expected more out of this book. It doesn't compare to Hunger Games, even though its similar in context. The plot was slow, there was very little drama or suspense, and the romance was unbelievable. I was a teenager once, and boys just aren't that nice or romantic. I won't be reading the sequel, I'm simply not interested in finding out what happens next. My opinion? Don't waste your time. Sorry Ms. Condie....

Review: Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier

Rating: 4/5
Summary: The story follows a teenage girl, Gwen, as she discovers that she's surprisingly inherited the gene for time travel instead of her cousin (who has been trained for her expected inheritance of this gene all her life.) She's quickly thrown into this world of secrets and mysteries completely unequipped and unprepared, except for the help of her best friend Leslie.
Review: I enjoyed Gier's perspective and thought she did justice for a teenager's viewpoint. The variance of believable characters from this and other time periods also made for a quick read. There's a bit of teenage love, but not obnoxiously overdone, and the other emotions that ruled the book including jealousy and good ol' female cattiness made it fun to get through. I will be reading the sequel (which won't be out until next spring) but its not worth fighting a library patron for either. I wish more of the secrets were revealed and that the plot had just a little more drama.

Popular books you already know you should read

A list of books you've probably already heard of and need to read if you haven't yet. I'm not going to waste your time telling you how great they are. Add these to your reading list, now:

1. Hunger Games (trilogy) - Suzanne Collins (includes Catching Fire and Mockingjay)
2. Harry Potter (series) - J.K. Rowling
3. Twilight (series) - Stephanie Meyer
4. The Help - Kathryn Stockett (see, there's one of those adult books!)

Also, don't judge a book by the movie!


Hello there!
I decided to start this blog because I read WAY too much not to share my recommendations and opinions. I'll be honest, my favorite genre is Young Adult, particularly if its fantasy. However, from time to time I will read the occasional adult book so please don't fear this is a blog only about vampires and teen love. Another confession? I more often than not listen to audiobooks. Having a baby makes reading time sparse, so I listen to them before bed and while cleaning or working on my computer. There are actually some books that are much better when listened too, and I'll clue you in on those too. I also thought I might share my adventures in cooking. I usually start with a recipe and about 3 lines in give up and wing it. I figured that might be encouraging for all those out there that have zero attention span but a love for good food. If you hear of a book or recipe you'd like me to try first, shoot me an email! Thanks for reading!