Tuesday, November 19, 2013

O' Christmas Tree.... 2013!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Or winter, at the very least. While the weather still has that Oklahoman unpredictability- it was nearly 80 degrees on Sunday- it's taken a decidedly cold turn over the last few weeks. We had a spat of low forties and high thirties, and a whole slew of 50's! Taco has been sleeping snuggled up against my side every night for the last few weeks. Poor thing, I think she gets chilly at night!

Though she's not amiss to snuggling in the blankets during the day either!

I decided over the weekend to tidy up our poor living room... I'd never really cleaned it before, not any type of hard core dusting and whatnot, and since we got our new gianormous HD TV in the bedroom... Well, the living room hasn't seen a lot of use recently. But the fun of spending hours in bed watching TV had finally worn off, and I began to long for sitting on couches again! I attacked the living room's grim with a vengeance, wiping down every blind, vacuuming ALL the things, even the couches, wiping down the fireplace mantle where the cats food goes, washed all the blankets and pillows I could, febreze'd everything... There was only one thing I couldn't clean...

Our incredibly grimy loveseat. We've had it for years, and I believe it was years old when we got it. I think it was a hand me down from Matt's parents, but I'm not positive. Years ago, when we lived in the tiny apartment in Stillwater, we didn't have a full bed we could both sleep on. We put the loveseat in the bedroom and pulled a twin mattress up next to it on the floor. Matt slept on the loveseat for a year or two, before we inherited the mattress from my parents... and it's at least 14 years old, can't wait to get a new one with springy springs in it, and neither can my back!

Anyway, there just isn't any way to really clean it, and reupholstering is one job I don't know if I'm comfortable tackling, especially since there's a broken cross beam in the bottom. Why bother reupholstering something I want to replace at the earliest convenience? That's where my lovely new brown slipcover comes in!


They never seem to fit like they show in the picture... I safety pinned the separate cushions to the loveseat itself, and slipped the cover right over the top of everything. I was thinking about maybe getting new foam to stuff everything with, but it's a lot more cost and effort for something I really just want rid of at this point. In any case, it makes it look much, much nicer, and I'll be able to take the slipcover off and toss it in the wash whenever I feel like it's getting dingy! And while I was busy cleaning up, I went ahead and set up the Christmas Tree!


I know, I know, it's way early for a tree. I usually wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put it up, but I was in the mood to just get it done. I love Christmas trees with a passion and it's a tradition I refuse to give up. But I'm the first one to admit that they're kind of a P.I.T.A to put up, you know? Branches poking you in the face, having to run the lights around it, individually put all the ornaments on, crawling around on the ground to get the skirt over it.... Not a lot of fun. Also, are they not the most unphotogenic things in existence? I never end up with a good picture to post.

My two new ornaments for this year:



After the hassle of cleaning, vaccuming, putting up the tree, then vacuuming again to get all the plastic pine needles off the floor... I needed some lunch! Matt and I decided to run to Burger King as I'd been wanting to try their new 'Big King', a clone of McDonald's Big Mac. We got our food and set down to eat, and I couldn't help but notice the big wall art they had up behind us...


Is that not the most bizarre picture?? I mean, really look at it. They've got like 6 chicken wraps. Everything is laid out on fancy plates, huge platters of fries, their drinks are in fancy glasses, they've got fancy dishes full of ketchup and dipping sauces for the chicken... It's a nice idea, but seriously. It's Burger King food. No one does this! That's not even mentioning that the group of people is just dripping political correctness. Oh, Burger King... LOL!

And the Big King sucked. It was tiny, and lackluster. I'd much rather get a tasty Whopper when I go to Burger King, and if I'm craving a Big Mac, I'll fetch one of those McDonald's instead!

Last but not least, I figured I'd finish up this blog post with a little doodle I did a while back, whilst filling in empty spaces in my sketchbook. It came out rather well in my opinion, especially when I was using a tiny photo reference on my phone!


~~Brunn~~

Monday, November 11, 2013

Reading Once, Reading Twice, Reading with Chicken Soup and Wild Rice!

Hello all! It's been a lazy week since my last post, without much going on at all. I finished up a few books, did a lot of chores, cooked some dinners... Just life in general, I suppose! Of the two books I finished, one was very good, and the other very bad.... 


Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Star Rating: ****-
 I picked up Dragon Keeper through Amazon's monthly Kindle deals right after I got my Paperwhite. Robin Hobb wasn't an author I'd yet read, but I'd heard of her and the synopsis of the book sounded intriguing. A world of dragons, but not the sort one usually expects. It sounded like something I hadn't read before, and I eagerly snapped it up for the sale price.
While the book had me enthralled, I have to admit, not a whole lot happens. This is very clearly a 'set up' book, one that's main purpose is to introduce you to the cast of characters you'll be following, get you attached, and ready to follow their adventures. That's certainly not to say the book was boring, there's just not any epic quests or major continent-crossing traveling going on. The action picks up at the end, and leaves you excited for the next book, ready to continue on with the travels of the characters you now care about.
The characters themselves were well fleshed out to me, and the world is interesting and wonderfully described. I found that Hobb has a good balance in her descriptive writing, and I never felt the need to skim through any long winded but ultimately boring explanations of the world. A large cast will keep you occupied as the story switches between their perspectives, and the interesting relationships between the humans of the world, Elderlings, Dragons, Sea Serpents, and Liveships left me intrigued and wanting to learn more. 
Perhaps the only part of the book I did not like, or rather, did not bother to read, were the small bits between the chapters about the bird keepers and their letters sent back and forth. Hobb uses these to break up the action, and apparently give little insights into the communications between the various towns and cities. However, the information they contained was rarely, if ever important, and I found myself either skimming or outright skipping them. A neat idea, but ultimately it didn't add anything to the story and was a minor distraction.
I discovered that this Rain Wild's series takes place in the same world as several of Hobb's other series, which is something I definitely appreciate. While Dragon keeper is apparently not the book that's first up to be read if you are reading chronologically, I was never at a loss of what was going on, or felt at a disadvantage for not having read the other books. Each of the series supposedly stands alone and is readable to someone knew to the particular world within the books.
Overall, I really did enjoy Dragon Keeper despite it being more character than action driven. With the pace having picked up towards the end of the book, and adventures starting to be had, I've already purchased the second book to start very soon. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy or dragons, and look forward to sampling more of Hobb's work in the future!
I gotta say, I really enjoyed this book. The ending was SUPER ABRUPT, which would have been really annoying had I had to wait any length of time before starting the next book, but thankfully I was able to buy Dragon Haven literally right after finishing Dragon Keeper straight from my Kindle! I didn't even need to get off the bed!


Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Star Rating: *- - - -
I purchased this book on it's release day mostly out of love for the author's previous work, The Thirteenth Tale. I'd read the reviews of it before I clicked buy (I nabbed the kindle edition), and I'd seen that the reviews were wishy washy at best and all of the negative reviews had the same complaints, but I had loved the Thirteenth Tale so much and waited so long for another book from the author that I went against my better judgement and purchased it.
I only made it to page 85 before I gave up on it. Honestly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the writing. It's just as it was in Thirteenth Tale, beautifully written and a dream to read. It's just that nothing was happening. People were dying left and right, but the author hadn't made you care about any of them. I was reading it when my husband came home from work yesterday, and in the time it took him to get out of his work clothes, grab a snack, and get comfy at his computer, two characters had bit the dust. Really?
It's very weird, because the beautiful writing keeps you reading and makes it almost a pleasure to be reading... well, nothing. Besides reading about the main character, William Bellman, work in a textiles mill, and people dropping like flies left and right, the plot didn't seem to be going anywhere at all. There were hints of some mysterious character starting to emerge when I quit, but after 85 pages of hardly any plot that was meandering nowhere, I'd had enough and couldn't bring myself to keep bothering. It wasn't spooky, there was no hauntingly written mystery as in Setterfield's last book, and there were no characters I particularly liked.
I returned the Kindle book to Amazon for a refund- I could buy at least two other books for the amount I spent on the brand new release of Bellman and Black. If you're buying Bellman and Black because you loved Thirteenth Tale, you're making a mistake. The pacing is completely different, there's little plot in evidence, and it lacks all the spooky wonder of Setterfield's previous work. Do yourself a favor, and check this out at the library before you buy it, just to make sure you actually want to spend your money. Some people have loved Bellman and Black, but for me the beautiful writing simply isn't enough to redeem it.
Bellman and Black is definitely the biggest book disappointment I've had in a long while. I loved The Thirteenth Tale. It was definitely one of my all time favorite books, and I've been desperately hoping she'd write another book at some point. I was beyond excited when I heard this was coming out a few months back. It's such a shame to me that while Bellman has the same brilliantly gorgeous writing, the story itself is nonexistent. I wanted to love this book so much, but it didn't pan out. I do hope she'll write another, and maybe it'll be a book that I'll enjoy as much as Thirteenth Tale...

Now then, on to more other things!


Chicken Soup with Rice was one of my favorite books as a little girl; I have fond memories of my mom reading it to me. I dunno if it contributed to my rampant love of soup, but I'm sure it didn't help prevent it!

The weather is due to take a shocking turn for the chilly tonight, so in preparation I decided it would be best to make some soup! As if I need an excuse! I selected a lovely recipe from Allrecipes.com yesterday, and just finished whipping it up a little while ago!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup 1

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
 1 finely chopped onion
 1/2 cup chopped celery
 1/2 cup sliced carrots
 1/2 pound fresh sliced mushrooms
 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
 6 cups chicken broth
 2 cups cooked wild rice
 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
 1 cup slivered almonds
 3 tablespoons dry sherry
 2 cups half-and-half

Directions
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, celery and carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for 2 more minutes. Then add the flour and stir well. Gradually pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly, until all has been added. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer.
  2. Next, add the rice, chicken, salt, curry powder, mustard powder, parsley, ground black pepper, almonds and sherry. Allow to heat through, then pour in the half-and-half. Let simmer for 1 to 2 hours. (Note: Do not boil or your roux will break.)
Have I mentioned the lighting in my kitchen is horrible for taking photos?

The soup turned out quite tasty, though it's a little too rich for my tastes. I did make a few alterations to the recipe. I didn't add the almonds, as I don't like nuts. Next time I may boil them in the soup in cheesecloth to get the flavor, and discard the nuts themselves... I also added a halved and sliced leek in with the veggies, since I love leeks!

Rather then use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I boiled a one pound Cornish Game Hen in water with the veggie trimmings instead. This gave me the perfect amount of meat and a way to use the veggies trimmings I'd normally discard. I used some of the larger leek leaves, filled them with dried parsley, thyme, bay leaves and sage, and tied them up into a packet with twine. That let me season the broth from the game hen, without ending up with a bunch of unappetizing re-hydrated herb bits floating about in it. Then I used some of the broth to cook the wild rice with, and saved the rest in a bowl to freeze and use later.

And as every comment on the original recipe suggested, I doubled the curry powder. It really makes it very, very chickeny. I don't know why, but I guess it's just a curry powder kind of thing!

This recipe made an absolute ton of soup though! Thankfully our friend Lance is going to come by tomorrow and take some home with him to try!

Anyway, last but not least, this came in the mail for me over the weekend!


My super cool Charizard wallet! We saw it in a shop in the mall, but their online store had it $5 cheaper. I protested it would not be cheaper after the cost of shipping, but Matt worked his internet magic and found a coupon for the website. It was only a few dollars off when all was said and done, but a few dollars is still pretty good! Love it!

~~Brunn~~

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kindle Book Reviews!

It's been a long time since I've posted any book reviews on here. I used to do it all the time for every book I read, but I fell out of the habit during my "I can't be bothered to write a blog post" days. In case anyone reading this is wondering, I have a Goodreads account HERE and a Shelfari account HERE. Feel free to friend me! Both accounts are just clones of each other, but I browse the discussions on both, and I love new friends!

Anyway, since I got my Kindle Paperwhite I've been a reading machine, even more so than usual. I generally read a lot, but it's spread out, only bits and pieces a day of late. Now I've been reading hours on end nearly every day! It's been nice to get back into my reading groove.

First up is the new book I actually went out and bought a physical copy of Hyperbole and a Half:  Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. 



Before I post my review, if you haven't read Allie Brosh's blog, Hyperbole and a Half, you NEED TO. You just do. I can't recommend it enough! Here's a link for you: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/ Stop reading this, and go read that, it's worth it.

Star Rating: ****- 
 Hyperbole and a Half has been one of my favorite blogs for a few years now, and when I heard there was a book coming out, I was unbelievably excited! Allie Brosh's work is simply amazing- Her stories are charming and hilarious, and coupled with the deceptively simple MS Paint drawings, she rarely fails to reduce me to fits of laughter.
So why only four stars instead of five? Frankly, I was disappointed in some of the story choices that made it into the book. Don't get me wrong, the stories in it are hilarious, especially some of my older favorites from her blog that made it into the book, such as "Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving" and "Dinosaur (The Goose Story)". Her newer stories detailing her struggles with depression and the emotional ups and downs behind that are heartening, and even amusing in their own way- a wonderful way to express concepts and feelings that are very hard to discuss.
Unfortunately, the newer stories I read in this compilation didn't seem to hold up to those I've read on the website. There were a lot of stories that I was really looking forward to having in a print collection that didn't make it into the book, and I personally believe are a much better representation of true Hyperbole and a Half. I understand the publishers couldn't make a massive, ridiculously huge tome of a book, it would be too costly. I'm sure it was also very, very important to the author to have some of her newer and even more personal stories put into the book as well. There were just so, so very many hilarious tales that I'd wanted so badly to have in the book.
Don't get me wrong, the book is fantastic. It's a must buy, especially if you are a fan of the blog already, and all the tales I wanted to be in the book are accessible for free on her blog, whenever I'm in the mood to read them. I'm very, very glad I purchased the book, as it's a wonderful printing on all glossy paper, crisp and clear. The new stories are great, even if I wish there had been a few more older tales mixed in. With luck, she'll produce even more books, and eventually release all her stories in print form!
So yes, I'd definitely recommend this book, if you like a fun and funny tale, coupled with bright, amusing illustrations. Be sure to check out her blog as well, it's totally worth it! Hyperbole and a Half never fails to put a smile on my face, and I'm sure it won't fail to put one on yours.
 After waiting so long for this one, it definitely didn't disappoint. I found out later that there was a hardcover edition, and that would have been nice to have, especially since the books so darn thick... But the binding on the paperback is great so I shouldn't have to worry about it falling all to pieces on me! But seriously, go check her blog out, it's amazing!

Anyway, on to the Kindle Books I've torn up since I got my Paperwhite!


Die for Me by Amy Plum
Star Rating: *****
I really enjoyed this book, despite it being a tad predictable. The characters are all interesting and engaging to read about, the dialogue is snappy and reads well, and the story really moves along at a swift clip. I wasn't ever bored, and overall the book is a quick read. Looking forward to picking up the next in the series at some point, and would definitely recommend.
 I picked this up through the monthly real that was going on when I bought my Kindle. It's not the usual type of YA fantasy I read. Sure, I read the entire Twilight series, but that was mostly so I could feel justified in my opinion that the series was generally rubbish. I don't read a lot of romance or paranormal romance- especially not YA. Why read a romance if there's never any hope of getting to the good stuff?

That being said, I really did enjoy this book. It was fun, far better then Twilight ever was in my opinion, and worth the read. Definitely not ground breaking, and a bit predictable as most YA/romance tends to be, but I'll get the next in the series at some point!


The Long Earth by Terry Pratchet and Stephen Baxter

This one was interesting, especially since I rarely ever partake of science fiction- I'm mostly a fantasy girl! Here's the blurb on the back cover:
The possibilities are endless. (Just be careful what you wish for. . . .) 
1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves. Where have the mud, blood, and blasted landscape of no-man's-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone? 
2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive—some say mad, others allege dangerous—scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson finds a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and . . . a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever. 
The first novel in an exciting new collaboration between Discworld® creator Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth transports readers to an infinity of new worlds. All it takes is a single step. . . .
This was another book I got from the Kindle book monthly sale, after sending myself and reading the sample. I bought it as soon as the sample ended... My review from Goodreads:

Star Rating: ***** 
I really, really enjoyed this book. It's not something I would typically pick up, but I had just gotten my Kindle Paperwhite and it's one of the books on sale in their monthly deals, so I decided to try the sample. Needless to say, I quickly bought the full book, and it's sequel as well, which I'll be starting shortly.
This is the first Terry Pratchet book I've had the pleasure of reading, and the first time I've even heard of Stephen Baxter honestly. The story is well written and moves swiftly along, and the characters are all interesting and engaging. I'm not one for Sci-fi, so I can't say how this really compares with other Sci-fi novels- I did enjoy the lack of extreme and somewhat pointless technical jargon I've encountered in other sci-fi novels. Every question the book caused me to think up was duly answered, but that's not to say the book was predictable. It was more that it was thoughtful and well researched with plausible occurrences. Around the time it occurred to me to wonder what would happen to the economy of an earth that's quickly emptying of people, it was answered.
I've seen people complain about the ending, but I didn't find anything wrong with it personally. It's clearly intended to lead into the second book. It's a little disappointing that there isn't a clear end, but it's a fairly common issue with stories that run across multiple books. Not really something to complain about.
All in all I found this to be an enjoyable. Nothing ground breaking, nothing jaw dropping. Just good old fashioned fun and interesting story! Would recommend!
We did buy the sequel as well, lucky for me it was also on the monthly sale! Score!


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Billed as an 'adult fairy tale', style I typically enjoy, I was less then impressed by this book. My review:
Star Rating: ***-- 
This book for me is hard to quantify. Overall, I did enjoy it. The characters are interesting, the story is hauntingly intriguing, and the writing is lyrically wonderful. But the book itself feels like it's trapped in a sort of limbo between being too long and detailed to be a short story, but with too little depth to be considered a proper novel. To me, it felt like it was short story that was expanded into being not quite a novel, and left with too little 'umph' to carry it along. I enjoyed the read, but the lack of explanation and overall depth left me feeling somewhat disappointed.
Would I recommend this book? Perhaps, but only if it were checked out from a library for free, or gotten used. It's a very, very quick read, and not worth the cost of the trade paperback in my opinion. I'm glad I put off buying "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" long enough that I ended up getting it as the cheaper Kindle version after I got my Paperwhite. This being the only book by Neil Gaiman I've read, I'm not quite sure what to think overall, and can't properly compare it to his other books. I imagine it will be a fair amount of time before I pick up any of the rest of his works based off of this one. I'm glad I've heard this story, but it's not one I'll ever come back too.
I enjoyed it, but I didn't. It was weird, and interesting, but overall lack luster. Glad I read it, not worthe the price I paid. Ah well! Not every book can be Amazing!


The Great Hunt: Book Two of the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Star Rating: *****

I've had an annoying relationship with Wheel of Time honestly. I'd considered reading it years ago since it's epic fantasy, but heard a lot of bad things about some of the books in the middle of the series. I knew the author had died partway through finishing the series and that another author was finishing it. Besides those tidbits, I'd never paid it much mind. 

Skip ahead to a couple years ago, and I had just discovered the book wonder that is Brandon Sanderson, my absolute favorite author. I'd read several of his books and had been somewhat patiently awaiting the sequel to The Way of Kings, Mr. Sanderson's first novel of his own epic fantasy series. "What's taking him so darn long?" I wondered. Well, it turned out, that he was the author chosen to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series! I've been a bit resentful of WoT since then, because it's delayed the release of Sanderson's own books for quite a while.

Well, the recommendation of WoT from a few friends, on top of the knowledge that if I read them I'd eventually get to the books written by Sanderson, convinced me to pick them up despite my misgivings on the series. Glad I did honestly! So far as I know, the first 5 or 6 books are well worth the investment, and the middle ones bearable for the awesomeness towards the end! I loved the first, and dove right into the second.

I don't usually write in depth comments/reviews for sequels and mid series books, as they're frankly hard to review. Mostly a quick blurb on whether I enjoyed it (I very much did!), and whether I'll be reading the next (it's already loaded on my Kindle to start soon!). So there it is.

**********************

Right now I'm in the midst of Robin Hobb's Dragon Keeper. I snagged it from last month's book sale as well. I've got a few more books lined up ready to read after that, so perhaps I'll have another book blurb post soon!

~~Brunn~~

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Kindled Love...

I'm sure most of you know I'm a fairly serious reader. I always have been, I just. I love the feel, the smell, turning the pages, leafing through, libraries, new and used book stores... Pretty much EVERYTHING about them really. And a few years back, when ebook readers became the latest greatest thing, I took the plunge and picked up a first generation Nook.

And hated it.

One of these things is DEFINITELY not like the others...

Okay, so hated it is probably too strong a word. I used it regularly during college. It was handy that I could cram it full of more books then I could ever possibly read, and have it weigh less a paperback and add hardly any depth to my bag. 

But there was no backlight to it, and it was hard to read if it was even the slightest bit dim in the room. Reading outside looked shabby too, as most screens on electronic devices do. The small touch screen at the bottom was bizarre and distracting, and the buttons on the sides to turn the pages really took away any shred of 'book feel' the thing had left. It just wasn't a good experience, and once I finished college and had no real need of a 'convenient book', it's sat in the closet, alone and unsused since.

I decided I much, much preferred real books to this digital format. Nothing beats the feels of holding a good, solid book in your hands, I thought. Oh, I still read ebooks. When Matt and I worked at Walmart in Stillwater, we both used to read them on our phones on our super short breaks. 


Our little Evo Shifts were small, and always with us, so we didn't have to waste valuable break time getting into our lockers or whatnot to fetch them. Plus, it was convenient for catching a few free moments in the restroom too! Yes, I admit, I'm a notorious bathroom reader and puzzler. There's always either a book, or a word search in there with me.

I even read half of the Ender's Game series on my phone, some of it during the time that Matt got his new job and went to stay in OKC, and I was left alone in our old apartment to pack things up. I discovered I pretty much can't sleep alone in the dark, so after getting all bundled into the bed, with the bathroom light on around the corner, I'd read well into the night on my phone till I was exhausted enough to sleep. The phone had the benefit of being lit, so I could read in the dark. But as all phone and tablet screens do, it starts to strain the eyes after a while, and it was pretty darn small to be reading novels on!

The last few years, I've not touched an ebook.

But that's when I started seeing the commercials...



Now that we can get broadcast television, I've had the pleasure of commercials again (Hey, it's actually pretty neat to see commercials for things when you've been stuck with mostly Netflix for several years!) and this is the one that kept playing. It peaked my interest, honestly. I've been getting frustrated with books recently. Trying to read on our broken down mattress, unable to find a comfy spot for long periods of time... I'd try to balance a 800 page paperback in one hand, or on a pillow, and end up dropping it and losing my spot! Not to mention figuring out where to put them all when my shelves are completely full! When I happened to see the display of them at Best Buy, I decided to go and have a look- and promptly fell in love!


I thought about it for the span of a day before I went back and got myself one. $120 less in my wallet, but happiness abounds!

I swear, I'm really not reading a cheesy romance novel! 

I LOVE reading on this thing even more then I thought I would. The display is crisp with a light you can adjust from sheer, brilliant white, to a dimmer light more suitable for reading in the dark. Yes, in the dark. Now, when I can't sleep at night, I can just read in bed while Matt snoozes away beside me! It doesn't matter what light level the Paperwhite is on, it's always evenly lit. And the best part is, the screen isn't back lit like a tablet. The light's not flying out and accosting your eyes, leading to strain and headaches.  It's a very, very book-like display, and completely comfortable, even when reading for hours upon hours.

The case I picked up for it on clearance at Target- not designed for it, but it fits perfectly. My mum would love it being purple too, even if it's not my favorite color...

Even better are the sales that Amazon has. The first night I got it, after connecting it to our Amazon account, I started to peruse their Kindle book selection, which has pretty much anything you can imagine. There's daily deals, monthly deals and various other sales, and if you see a book you're interested in, you jsut click the 'send a sample' button, and it pretty much instantly appears on your Kindle! I picked up Die for Me by Amy Plum, The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb, The Long Earth by Terry Pratchet, and Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone that first night, all for $1.99 a piece. These aren't no name authors either- these are main streamer, best sellers! I later went on and got Long Earth's sequel The Long War as well, on sale.

Even when not on sale, Kindle books are usually way, way cheaper then even the paperback versions, especially if they've been out a few months at least. I picked up the second Wheel of Time book "The Great Hunt" by Robert Jordan for five dollars, and Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" for eight dollars, two and some change less then the paperback, and that's not including tax.

It does have ads that display when you sleep it, but they're always book related, and usually books that are on sale! You can pay a little extra to get rid of the ads, but why bother when it might be something you're interested in?

And I've pretty much never been more comfortable while reading. The Paperwhite is so light weight it's super easy to hold in one hand, in pretty much any position imaginable. You can 'turn the pages' by either swiping the screen, or tapping at one edge or the other- I prefer to swipe, more like the real thing! The next page loads super, duper quick and doesn't disturb your reading progress at all. So far I've read all of Die for MeThe Long Earth, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, finished The Great Hunt as I was already partway through it, and read a fair amount into both The Dragon Keeper and Three Parts Dead. I LOVE my Kindle.

It even has all sorts of neat features from being able to change the font and font size, highlighting passages you like, and even a built in dictionary- a feature I never thought I'd actually use. I generally don't have to look up words I come across that I haven't encountered before, as I can infer the meaning from context. Yet, with a dictionary right at my fingertips, all I have to do is tap the word in question and there's the definition! It will even link you to the Wikipedia page! And it's not just unusual words either; I came across two french words in a description of a tray of food. With the tap of a finger, I discovered the items were a plate of various cold cuts for eating with bread, and a type of french sausage. I didn't need to know this to understand the passage, but it painted a far richer picture with the knowing.


I'll still be collecting real, physical books of course. But the Kindle lets me get those that I'm not interested in collecting in a format that won't take up anymore room. Plus, Amazon just released their new MatchBook feature, one of the reasons why I decided to buy a kindle. Most any physical book you buy from Amazon (So long as it's enabled, and it likely is), going back years and years even, will get you the Kindle version of the book for $3.00 or less even going down to being free of charge! A ploy for Amazon to sell even more books and make more money? Of course. Still a fantastic deal for the rest of us, and a great encourager of people try e-readers? Most definitely! I'll be able to get all the books I want to own in hardcover by my most favorite authors, and get the Kindle version to read on the go and always have with me, even if it's in the Cloud Storage.

It's pretty much the greatest thing ever. The perfect ebook storm to sweep me up! It's so book-like that the book nerd in me doesn't completely cut loose screaming "Traiter!!" about my buying and reading non print. It's just so comfortable and convenient (Not to mention great battery life!) that I can't help but be compltely enamored with it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have books to be reading!

~~Brunn~~

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sauerkraut!

Dearest Matt brought a friendly cold home with him a few days ago, and it decided to get buddy buddy with the entire family! Yes, even the cat. Poor Taco's had a serious case of the sneezles along with a runny nose and eyes, which has thankfully mostly cleared up today. Matt's been insisting he is not sick, despite having an endlessly running nose, sore throat, sleeping all the time, and generally looking like he was run over by an ox cart! For my own part at least, so far it's been only some coughing, a stopped up nose, and feeling pretty tuckered all the time. I hope it stays that way!

I got in trouble with my last post- my husband finished reading it, turned to me and said indignantly "You're not going to post about the sauerkraut??" I promised that I was saving that for next time, and here we are! But I'll start at the beginning.



The last few months I've had a rash of requests for Sausage and Sauerkraut for dinner. I definitely didn't mind- usually I get asked for Chicken Rice, Matt's favorite, and compared with cooking that, Sausage and Sauerkraut is a breeze to get ready. Dice up a few peeled potatoes, roast those bad boys up, dump a can of sauerkraut into a pot, cut up some sausage to throw in, heat for a while, and eat. Besides the slicing, dicing, and turning the taters once or twice, it mostly cooks itself, which is always a pleasure! Why yes, I'd love to go sit and read while dinner takes care of itself for a while!

I'd packaged up the leftovers, and was busy cleaning the kitchen and doing dishes, when Matt comes in, looks into the still unwashed dinner pot and exclaims in horror "There's still sauerkraut in here!" When I serve everything up, I always give us fairly even portions of sausage and sauerkraut, so you get a little on each bite. There's usually a bit more sauerkraut left then sausage when I put the leftover up, and  it's a bit of a pain to fish the last bits out of the juice, so I usually end up tossing a few bites. Who wants to eat more sauerkraut then sausage anyway?

Well, apparently my husband- he went and got a fork and started fishing sauerkraut out of the pot while I explained the uneveness of the ratio and I didn't want there to be extra sauerkraut in the container and such. "But... the sauerkraut is my favorite part!" He exclaims. 0.0; I'd always thought he liked the sausage and the sauerkraut was the somewhat icky vegetable he'd gotten used to eating alongside it as I always paired the two together. I mean, the dude doesn't like corn at all, and refuses to eat plain cooked carrots because they're 'too sweet'- he likes fermented cabbage??

It turns out he likes is a LOT, because the next day we went out to buy the things to make our own sauerkraut!


It turns out sauerkraut is surprisingly easy to make actually. It's the recommended startign project for getting into fermentation, although besides beer, I'm not exactly sure what else there is to ferment... You pretty much just take cabbage, shred it up, crush it by hand with a few tablespoons of salt until it starts to get juicy, add whatever seasonings you want, and put it in some sort of semi-covered container and weight it down. The cabbage makes it own brine as the salt draws out the juices and you just sort of... leave it there. Unrefrigerated.

The Sauerkraut after a week- we changed the weight to a bag of water to keep the cabbage down in the brine, and placed the container over the top of a mixing bowl lid as some of the brine escaped...

It's kind of gross actually. I mean, I like sauerkraut, I know that the stuff I've bought at the store is made the exact same way, but leaving things out on the counter just flies against all the kitchen safety procedures I've been taught over the years. Perhaps that's why these traditional kitchen practices are so less common nowadays. Matt tried a bit last Saturday, but I couldn't make myself eat any yet- in any case, it wasn't fermented enough yet and was still rather cabbagey apparently. Maybe when it smells more like sauerkraut and less like wet cabbage I'll be able to try some!

Two more batches- the one with the orangey color has carrot in it as well for sweetness. The other is just cabbage and salt, with no seasonings, more like what you get from a can.

I'm still pretty excited for it though. I think it'll be good, at least eventually! Matt was excited when I pulled out a package of sausage to thaw from the freezer last night. "Oooh! Can we use the new sauerkraut with it?"

Of course, dear. :)

~~Brunn~~

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lousy September, but Other Awesomeness!

Hello all! Update time! 

So this last month has been a bit lousy, to say the least! I spent the entire month sick and on two full rounds of antibiotics! Not fun at all! Being sick for an entire month leaves you feeling quite wiped out, so I've mostly spent the last month laying around with a serious case of the cruds, not getting anything done. 

I also spent nearly two weeks in Stillwater as well, dog sitting little Molly Monster for my parents while they've been away. She's a sweetheart, but a handful to say the least, even on normal days. When you're tired and sick... To illustrate, the first week I came down, this is what my Mum and I walked in too...

Oh, Molly.....

That poor stuffed soccer ball never even stood a chance! She's a sweet dog though, if a bit spastic! She's not even a year old yet, so once she gets a little older I'm sure she'll calm down a bit! Hopefully... If you'd like to see a picture of little Mollywog, you should check out my Mum's blog, It's Daffycat! she's usually got one up and a cute little story to go along with it! 

In the happy news category, Matt and I have upgraded our bedroom quite a bit. Since we've determined we're going to be here for quite some time, we figured it'd be nice to actually feather our nest a tiny bit- it's frustrating to exist in a home that feels a bit dreary all the time, isn't it?



First up is some lovely, and wonderfully inexpensive, new bedding! No more mismatched colors, and mismatched sizes of blankets! We've both got king sized comforters to burrito up in at night, so when I make the bed (Yes, I make the bed now! It's GLORIOUS!) I fold both comforters in half and have them meet in the middle. A little awkward, but it works, and the room looks fantastic with a neatly made bed, complete with arranged pillows and a bed skirt!


I crisply ironed, or as crisply as I could get it with no starch, this piece of fabric I've had sitting around for years and hung it up as well. It's a little catterwonky on the wall, but it adds some nice visual intrigue to break up the solid white wall behind the bed.


We ended up replacing the shower curtain that Lance got us as part of a house warming gift when we first moved in. It's a simple clear plastic liner with a fabric curtain to go in front. The new color really brightens up the room, and compliments our green rugs nicely. Plus, it's part of a set too- there's matching bits that go along with it! We've already gotten the toothbrush holder, I hope to get the trashcan soon and maybe some day replace all of our mismatched towels with six or eight of the ones from this set... Or maybe just some blue, green and white towels, I haven't decided yet!


We picked up this lovely, sturdy dresser from Goodwill as well. Kudos to Matt's brother Nathan for helping us fetch it back and get it moved in! It's just the perfect size for us and gives me lost more storage room for clothes that I'm keeping for when we drop a few pounds.... Of course, we didn't buy this dresser (For $20 too, a fantastic deal!) just for extra storage.


We really bought it for the new 55" HD TV we got for the bedroom. See, we've been carrying the little 24 incher from the computer room in and out of the bedroom when we wanted to watch it, but it was super awkward, and really too small for me to see from across the room with any sort of comfort. They had this bad boy on sale at Best Buy a while back, and it was totally worth the investment!

It's really improved our quality of life. See the little cord coming off the back and meandering up the wall? That leads to an antenna box that lets us pick up the broadcast stations! We've had it a while, but the other rooms we've had TV's in don't get clear enough reception from where it had to be placed. Now I can watch the news in the mornings and evenings, plus all the other broadcast stations like PBS. It's been really nice having access to news channels and being able to keep up with current events a little easier!


Taco's just been chilling out. She's really enjoyed the bedroom being made up almost every day, and she spends a lot of time lying on the various blankets and stuff I put on it for her, and looking out of the bedroom window.



I did have to give her a bear of her own to mash on though... It's the only way she'll leave my Eeyore alone! Well, mostly alone. I still find her mashing on him when she thinks I'm not looking. Darn cat!

Whelp, that's about all there is to say for my own recent happenings! Well, I may have another few little stories to tell and some fancy food updates here in about a week... But we'll just have to see!

Thanks for visiting!

~~Brunn~~



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Coffee Catastrophes, Catnip Bananas, Curtains, and an Axe Murderer at the Window...

Good lord! Has it really been over a month since I last posted to my blog? Time really does fly, doesn't it? Very little has been going on around here recently. Time passes, days toddle by, and life goes on I suppose!

Lets see, in recent news, about a month ago, Matt came in to wake me up for the morning. He's almost always up earlier then I am, and generally makes a glorious and much needed pot of coffee then comes to fetch me. That morning however, I was greeted with the worst words in the world to a grumpy bear who's just awoken...

"No coffee today... The coffee pot is broken..."



In all honesty, our little Mr. Coffee was around 4-5 years old by now, a Christmas gift from my parents when Matt and I moved into our first apartment years ago. My family at least has always had horrible luck with coffee pots, and even though others have told me theirs have worked for years and years with no issue, I'm surprised our little coffee pot lived as long as it did.

So the next morning (Cause I need to be prepared to do stuff in the morning when there's no coffee!) off we went to fetch us a coffee pot from Walmart! We hurried straight back to the kitchen aisles and were met with great disappointment at the serious lack of selection they had. Sure there were at least twenty different varieties, but most of them were sold out, and at least half the ones left were just color variations of the same pots! What's worse is that we had a little 5 cup pot, and wanted to get another of the same size since I'd already stocked up on filters for it!

We debated our options, and settled on another 20 dollar Mr. Coffee, a 12 cupper. Went home, made coffee, problem solved!

Until two mornings later.


The water pump in the new coffee maker went out, less then a week after we bought it. Seriously? TWO coffee pots die on us in a weeks time? How does that even happen?

Fuming, I immediately went to the internet and googled the pot, only to discover that the thing had horrible reviews! Anything from the water pump breaking, to the heater sporadically coming on and shattering the pot, to the water line breaking and flinging boiling water all over the kitchen! In fact, pretty much all of the fairly inexpensive coffee makers have terrible reviews and are prone to breaking. A lot.

So we bought a Keurig.

DRINK ME.

We'd debated getting one of these before, when they were being hyped all to bits, but seeing as we already had a coffee pot, and these are rather expensive, we never did. I gotta say though, I LOVE the thing. The coffee is delicious, the packs of fancy coffee aren't all that expensive after all, we bought a little reusable cup for is so we can continue to have lame ol' Folgers in it too... And being a one cup brewing system is really, really nice for us! Matt often wants coffee before I'm, but I want fresh coffee once I've gotten up too; it's awkward to brew partial pots in a Mr. Coffee as you have to put in slightly more water then you need so it doesn't steam out and leave you with less coffee then you wanted. Now we can just go in, pop in a packet of coffee, stick the cup under it and in a few seconds have a steaming, fresh cup of coffee! Yum!

Matt even looked up how to make things like caramel macchiatos with it. For the cost of one of those from Starbucks, I can make dozens of them at home! Woo! Here's hoping for Pumpkin Spice coffee's in the fall- I'll be enjoying so much deliciousness I won't be able to sleep!

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A few months back, I finally invested in a weather radio. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a little radio device that monitors for weather alerts, like Severe Thunderstorm Watches, or Tornado Warnings, and sounds an alarm when it receives one in your area. Since Matt and I sleep with fan, and me with earplugs on top of that, we're definitely not going to hear a Tornado warning at night, and without TV we're not necessarily aware of storm watches either.


Every year, I never remember to buy one until the first big tornado outbreak, and then it's too late and everyone in the whole state is sold out! Kind of like trying to buy a jug of milk the day before a snow storm- it ain't gonna happen.

Well, not too long ago, Matt and I were enjoying a Saturday night playing games online with our friends. The weather alert had gone off a few times over the evening, warning of thunderstorm watches and then thunderstorm warnings. Neither of us thought anything of it; it wasn't thundering, no lightening that I could see out the window, nothing. 

Nothing that is until WHAM!...Something slammed into the window from outside.

Matt and I jerked around in our computer chairs, throwing off headsets and standing up in a rush. "What the hell was that?" Matt demanded. I moved towards the window wondering aloud "Did someone throw something at our window?" just when two more loud and violent somethings crashed into the window, and my brain jumped to the only conclusion it could come up with in a split second: Someone or something was trying to break through the window!

Surprise!!

"Someone's trying to break in!" I yelped, backing away from the window, just when- All. Hell. Broke. Loose. Hail, like I'd never experienced before (At least not in our apartment in the city) began PELTING the complex. I nearly tripped over Taco, who is normally calm during storms, as she vaulted out of her cat bed, dashed around the corner and shot under the bed to hide. I could hardly blame her as Matt and I both skittered out of the room and away from the windows as well.

I was terrified the hail was going to break our windows in, and it was hailing so loudly I didn't know if we'd even hear the glass break if it did! After two or three minutes, the hail calmed down, and then a few minutes later the rain stopped completely. As soon as the rain stopped, I grabbed a flashlight and my hoodie and ventured outside to check to see that the windows were intact on my car, which thankfully they were.

I hope that sudden and startling storm is not telling for how the rest of the tornado season is going to be!

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Beyond those two little stories, nothing much else has happened. I've been trying to see if there's some way at all to put up curtains on our other windows. The bedroom has a place for a tension rod and it worked out wonderfully!


See a few years back, we really went to a store in Stillwater that was going out of business called Linens and Things. We bought two packages of really nice, and super discounted curtains. Neither of them matched, one of the sets was longer then the other, and I have no idea why we bought them anyway. I'm sure I insisted, but it was stupid to buy them! The long, brown curtains look lovely in the bedroom. The short, grey ones sat in a drawer in the dresser until today.

See, our apartment is painted with this ghastly glossy white paint. I despise white walls anyway, but the paint is designed to resist scuffs hence the gloss. The glossiness unfortunately, makes it nearly impossible to stick anything to the walls with tape or glue. Matt and I lack the tools to hang up proper hardware to install curtain rods, nor are we keen to be putting any major hardware up on the walls!

So what to do? Nails and string of course!


It's not fantastic, but it works in a pinch! Hopefully this will keep the heat down in the computer room during the summer, as the curtains are quite thick. Plus, the cat won't be letting God and country look right into the room when she decides she must look out through the blinds at night. Speaking of the cat...


She loves the curtains.


She's spent all her time since I hung the curtains up in her new 'cat-tent-sauna' lounging in the sun. I think she really likes being able to 'hide' in the curtains and lay across the table while she looks out. The curtains are a win on all accounts!

And that's just about everything of interest here. We're fairly boring people!

~~Brunn~~