Thursday, February 27, 2014

Her - What I Read in February

I am an avid reader. I love to read! I challenged myself last year (in 2013) to read 75 books and came up one short. This year I decided to challenge myself to read 65 (more manageable, more likely to achieve this one).

So far, I have read 7 books and GoodReads says I am two books behind schedule. I am going to have to work on this next month. The fact that the Olympics are over will help. I was staying up late watching the events and not reading as much as normal.

This is what I read this month. I included the descriptions from GoodReads and my thoughts.

For Better, for Worse by Carole Matthews

For Better, for Worse

GoodReads says:
When it comes to love and marriage, Josie Flynn knows what’s right…

For everyone but herself…

After her marriage to Damien ended in disaster, Londoner Josie Flynn – thirtysomething and single again – is flying across the ocean to her American cousin’s ‘big mistake’ wedding. In her present ‘love stinks’ frame of mind, the last person she expects to be seated next to on the flight is someone like Matt Jarvis. A recently divorced rock journalist, Matt is sensitive, good-looking and remarkably attentive – and before their plane touches down, Josie’s smitten. So how can she hope to convince her cousin to cut and run when Josie is all ready to leap into love again – with a stranger, no less, who might be just another Mr Totally Wrong in Mr Seductively Right’s clothing?

The point is rendered moot, of course, once they land in New York and she and Matt go their separate ways. After all Josie’s got prenuptial confabs to worry about and that dreaded lilac chiffon bridesmaid’s dress to wear. But Dante himself couldn’t have dreamed up the hell this wedding is proving to be – and when her dream hunk reappears and throws himself into the mix, Josie finds herself wondering how she – or any unattached modern woman – can hope to survive the new romantic rules of the twenty-first century.

I say:
I found this book to be very irritating. I found most of the characters annoying, including the main male character and all the supporting characters. I didn't mind Josie's character much, but I didn't find myself rooting for her either. The plot twists I thought were very far-fetched and, at times, I thought that the author had included events for shock value only. They added nothing to the plot and seemed pointless. I found myself wishing the book would end and when it did, I no longer cared about the characters and whether they found "true love". I was happy it was over.

GoodReads' Rating (with 1,838 ratings): 3.35 stars
My Rating: 1 star

With or Without You

GoodReads says:
After her boyfriend, Jake, dumps her for an Angelina Jolie look-alike who climbs Mt. Everest, Lyssa Allen decides maybe a little adventure of her own can win him back. Leaving hair dryer, lattes and dreams of babies behind, this tougher-than-she-thought London editor sets off for Nepal. Her month-long sojourn teaches Lyssa that her horizons are bigger than she knew -- and the man of her dreams far different than she thought. She even gains a new perspective on her former baby obsession. As her eyes are opened by her handsome American tour guide, Lyssa wonders if she can ever return to her old life. And when it's time to go home, she faces the hardest decision of her life.

I say:
From the beginning, I found a lot of connections between this book and Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat, Love, Pray is much better. I found myself rooting for Lyssa from the beginning. I really liked her and most of the supporting characters. I found the descriptions of the treks she took in Nepal to be lacking, though I know it wasn't a guide book. Some more descriptions would have been nice. I did not like the side plot line with the sister, Edie, and Pip. I thought that was unnecessary. Neve's character was the villian, as expected, but the event with Jake (if you read the book, you will know what I mean) struck a horrible chord with me and I was done at that moment. 
My biggest issue with the book is the soul searching inner dialogues and monologues. I know that the main conflict in the novel was internal so that means soul searching passages are necessary. But I found that what the author should have conveyed in one paragraph would stretch for pages and pages. I found myself skipping ahead just so I could stop having to listen to Jake talk about what a mistake he made or Lyssa try to decide what her life is going to be now. I was more annoyed and frustrated with the characters, instead of invested in them.

GoodReads' Rating (with 2,372 ratings): 3.69 stars
My Rating: 1 star

I love reading books by British authors, but I think what this month has taught me is that I need to skip over the Carole Matthews shelf at the library. She and I just don't click as author and reader. 

What books do you recommend I read in March? I would love some suggestions!

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

His Living in America - Brekkie time

There is nothing like a great breakfast, especially if you didn't eat a big meal the previous evening. The aromas of breakfast food cooking and coffee brewing helps just about everyone wake up and look forward to the day ahead. One would think that breakfast would be similar around the world but this is not the case. Even seeing what is served on the breakfast table in America compared to Australia is pretty different. Just how different you ask? Well stick around and find out!

Americans know how to do breakfast and do it well! Just about every breakfast menu in American restaurants will have dozens of items on the menu to choose from. The portions are normally huge and a good breakfast can easily keep you going until its time for the evening meal. Because the portion sizes are so big you often have to decide whether to go to a breakfast place or a buffet so you can have a little bit of several different items. Some of the more popular items on breakfast menus include:

A Sausage Egg & Egg Biscuit - Source
Breakfast SausageBreakfast sausage is a highly seasoned type of sausage that has a much different taste to regular sausage. There are different varieties but many include a good dose of pepper and pepper flakes. It is one of the most popular meats offered and is often served either as sausage links, patties or ground. It is usually served as part of a breakfast platter or as part of a breakfast sandwich. If served as a breakfast sandwich (as a biscuit, muffin or croissant) it also has egg and cheese as well. 

Biscuits: Biscuits are a breakfast staple and on just about every table. They are similar to scones in Australia but are not as sweet as they often do not have eggs or sugar in the recipe. One of the most popular way to serve biscuits is with some type of protein (usually a chicken filet, sausage patty, bacon or ham) and a lot of time egg and cheese is added as well. Biscuits can also be served as a plain biscuit with plenty of butter and your choice of jams/jellies. Biscuits are a big deal in America and there are some restaurants that serve them for lunch and dinner as a side dish for fried chicken and there is even a baseball team called the biscuits (You can read about my trip to see the Biscuits in action here).

Grits - Source
Grits: Grits are very popular in the certain parts of the U.S but is one breakfast food that I simply can not stand. Grits can be found throughout most of the United States but is most commonly found in the southern part of the country between Texas and Virginia. It is a porridge type food that is made from ground corn and is known as hominy. By itself it has no taste so it needs some type of flavouring needs to be added. Prepared grits can either be sweet or savoury. Sweet grits are normally flavoured with sugar, cinnamon or honey. Savoury flavours can include butter, shredded cheese, bacon, red eye gravy, sausage or even fish. 



Bacon: Bacon is enjoyed across the United States and is my favourite of the breakfast meats. Bacon is normally served either as a rasher or on a biscuit, croissant or bagel. American bacon is also known as side bacon (which comes from the belly of the pig) and normally cooked until it is quite crispy. It has a lot of fat surrounding the meat which is much different to the bacon served in Australia. The type of bacon served in Australia has a much lower fat content is available in American but is known as Canadian bacon.

Other Breakfast Dishes: The list of other breakfast dishes that are popular in America could go on for ever but here are just a few:
  • Chicken and Waffles: A combination of fried chicken and waffles served with syrup. Its not available everywhere but is worth a try.
  • Omelets: Most menus have at least a handful of different omelets on the menu. Scrambled eggs are mixed with a variety of ingredients that can include sausage, ham, bacon, crab, lobster and just about anything else you can imagine.
  • French Toast: French toast is bread that has been dipped in beaten eggs then pan fried. It is often served with powdered sugar and maple syrup. It is almost as popular as pancakes at most breakfast joints.
  • Monte Cristo: A Monte Cristo sandwich is not the easiest item to find on a menu but is a real treat. It is basically sliced ham and cheese sandwiched between two pieces of french toast. It is often served with maple syrup and preserves. How could you go wrong with a meal like this?

As you can see there is a lot of options on the breakfast menu. Often the hardest part is deciding just one of the delicious options you want that day. What is your favourite breakfast food?

Monday, February 24, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua

Welcome to the Masaya Volcano.
We were sitting in church one Sunday morning, back in 2003, when they announced that there was an informational meeting for anyone interested in going on a mission trip to Nicaragua after the service. I paid it no attention, but I was taken to the meeting as Amanda had a big interest in going. After listening to the information that was given to us, we talked about it and we decided to go. I had no clue where Nicaragua was and originally thought it was in Africa but then found out it was in central America between Costa Rica and Honduras.

Old lava rock on the outside of the volcano cone.  
We had a great time at the camp where we helped with painting, construction, a basic medical clinic and bible school for the local children. One of the highlights of the trip happened the day before we flew back to the United States; we toured the capital city, Managua, and visited an active volcano. Neither of us had ever seen an active volcano and were looking forward to the experience. I had always wanted to visit a volcano, but was always worried that it would be too dangerous. We figured this is probably as safe as you can get, as it had been a long time since its last eruption. After a 4 hour bus ride we saw the sign for the national park and the bus started the long climb to the top.

We were told about the history of the volcano and that, although it was an active volcano, it had not erupted in over a century.
Steam rising from the crater of the volcano.
There was no guarantee of seeing lava but it was visible on occasion. Once we got to the top of the volcano, we had some free time to view the crater and we were given evacuation instructions in case the volcano decided to erupt or the sulphur levels got too high. We both went over to the crater to see if we could see any lava and although there was plenty of smoke (with a lovely sulphur smell as well) there was no lava visible. It was obvious that it was still very active due to the amount of smoke rising from the crater. After a while we all climbed onto the bus and then headed down to the city for our tour. It was a great experience and was a great way
Crater of the volcano.
to see just how powerful nature can be. I would love to see another volcano one day and hopefully one that has some lava to complete the experience. If you ever get a chance to see an active volcano I highly recommend it.

Our first summer mission trip to Nicaragua was an incredible, eye-opening, and heart-changing experience. We are so grateful for that opportunity. Being able to tour some of the sights of Nicaragua was a beautiful bonus. Masaya looked in the distance like a mountain, but as we climbed we could see the hardened lava rock and we could see the smoke pluming from the crater. Standing on the edge, looking down at the smokey center, and thinking about the last time it erupted when thousands died was an awe-inspiring experience. We did not see lava, but we smelled the sulfur. Not having volcanoes anywhere near home, made this a unique experience for both of us. It is, hands-down, one of the coolest things we have been able to visit on our excursions. Here are some more photos - they do not do it justice!

Crater of the volcano

Amanda and I with the crater behind us. Don't we look young?

Top of the volcano (There is a large cross at the top that is barely visible in this photo)
Tourists looking at the crater of the volcano

Group photo at the volcano.

Painting of the volcano erupting in the volcano museum.

Have you ever visited an active volcano? Share that story with us in the comments or on Facebook.

Happy Travels,

Sunday, February 23, 2014

His and Her Sunday Social, Week 90

We had a pretty crazy and hectic week last week. A few late nights, some doctor's appointments, and lots of work. Busy! Busy! Busy! We are both grateful that it is Sunday - the day of rest. 

Before that resting can begin, we have to participate in the - 
 Sunday Social

1. What is your favorite breakfast food?
Amanda - I am a sucker for anything made with sausage. I love breakfast sandwiches with eggs, sausage, and cheese.
Panera Sausage and Egg Sandwich on Ciabatta --- My favorite sandwich when we meet on Saturday mornings to knit.
Sean - Nothing beats a nice hot fresh chicken biscuit from Chick-Fil-A. If you have never tried one you are certainly missing out.


2. What is the best way to spend a free day?
Amanda - A leisurely sleep in, a good cup of coffee, some time with the ladies I knit with, and some time with Sean. That sounds like the perfect day to me!
My favorite thing to do on a free day!! {Source}
Sean - If the weather isn't nice I like to stay at home and watch some shows on Netflix and be lazy. If the weather is nice I like to be outdoors and either ride my bicycle, go for a run, or head out to the local disc golf course for a round or two.


3. If you had an airline ticket to anywhere in the world....where would you go and why?
Amanda - I would absolutely love to fly to London and visit that city for a few days, then take the train to France and Italy. That is my dream vacation.
Sean - We are talking business or first class right? If so I would definitely go to Sydney, Australia so I can catch up with family and friends again.
Sydney Harbour at night

4. You can only leave the house with one thing...what is it?
Amanda - If the house is on fire and I can only save one item, then I am grabbing our puppy, Alex. If I am running out to do errands, then I have to have my phone.
Isn't he adorable?!?!
Sean - My wallet so I could go and buy something if I need to before I return.

5. How do you take your coffee?
Amanda - Coffee for me is a "hot blonde with sand" --- sugar and a little milk.
Sean - I am not a big coffee person and only drink it on occasion. I do prefer the flavoured coffees over the plain coffees. 

That was another fun set of questions. Choose one - our favorite was #3 - to answer below in a comment or on Facebook. If you already posted your answers on your blog, leave the link so we can visit and compare answers.

Happy Sunday,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Her 1st Attempt at Double Knitting

On Saturday I went in search of a knitting project that was simple enough that I could knit it while watching the Olympics, but complicated enough that I wouldn't get bored. Enter this video on YouTube...

I have seen other videos about double knitting and always wanted to try it. The woman who made that video made it seem so easy that I grabbed some yarn from my stash and cast on.

Incidentally, her way of casting on is my new favorite! Click here for that video.

The pattern is for a double knitted bookmark that is three or four square panels, with a heart in each square. The color chart for her pattern can be found here

I was delighted to find that, though it wasn't as easy for me as it was for the lady in the video, it was pretty easy. I was able to finish the bookmark in a few hours, which is quick for me. Here's what my final product looked like.
Side A
Side B

I did mess up in one spot where I managed to reverse the yellow and brown. Here is a close-up. 
I'll be honest, I don't know how I did this. I only did it once so I am hoping it was just a fluke.

Here's what I found to be true about myself and double knitting:

I need written instructions. The pattern is only a color chart so I got a notebook and wrote row by row instructions to follow. It's required in my world.
One of the pages where I wrote out the stitches.

I love the look and feel of double knitting. It is so cool!

The basic premise behind double knitting is a seed stitch - k, p, k, p. Normally, I hate seed stitch because I feel like I can't get into a good rhythm. I did not have this problem with double knitting. I found I liked it and could get into a good rhythm. 

Once you find a rhythm with it, double knitting goes pretty quickly. Until you find your rhythm, double knitting is a little slow. I got into a good rhythm by row 15.

I love that you don't have to weave in the ends. She shows at the end of the video how to use a crochet hook to tuck the ends into the middle. So much simpler!

A double knitted bookmark is a great gift for someone when you want to do something simple that has a big impact.

I very much prefer the look of stockinette to garter stitch. I think this is why double knitting appeals to me. All the purl bumps are hidden in the inside of the fabric, showing only the stockinette panels. 

I was worried about binding off with two strands at a time, but it was surprisingly easy. I found it easier than some of the other projects I have bound off, using the regular one-strand method.

These are some more videos from YouTube that would be helpful if you are going to try double knitting.
She does a good job of explaining what double knitting is. Her cast on is more difficult though. I prefer Lattes and Llamas cast on.

I really like her way of explaining how to knit the foundation rows and how to master the basic stitch.

Her way of explaining chart knitting in regards to double knitting makes it seem so easy. I wish I had watched this before I started.

She shows how to fix mistakes in this one - great tips there. How to bind off is also included in this video.

I loved this form of knitting so much that I immediately cast on another project. This one is my own pattern - yep, you read that right. I am creating my own pattern. Who would have thought I would write a pattern one day? Cross your fingers that it turns out. If it does, I will share it when I am done and after a few friends have helped me finalize the details.

Have you tried double knitting? Would you ever if you haven't already?

Happy Knitting,

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