Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

Outcasts United took me way too long to read... and so it is with great pleasure that I finally bring you this post - signaling the end!

St. John's book is based on a true story that takes place in a small Atlanta suburb called Clarkston.  This Georgia town happens to be the landing spot for many refugees making their way into the United States.  If you're from a small town similar to that of Clarkston, then you can probably begin to imagine the issues that would occur when a large volume of "foreign" people take up residency in your town!  In short, many locals were NOT accepting of the rapidly growing diversity that was consuming their neighborhoods.  Still, throughout all the opposition, a young Jordanian immigrant, who had lived in the U.S. for many years prior to moving to Georgia, managed to create a soccer team comprised solely of refugee boys.  Outcasts United is mainly about this group of young men and boys, a soccer team aptly named the Fugees.  The book talks at length about the struggles of uniting a diverse group of boys, the challenges faced with each practice and soccer game, and how the city council of Clarkston tried to sabotage the Fugees' success as a formal soccer team.

If you enjoy reading books about struggles over diversity/culture and/or soccer, then this book is for you!  I read this book as part of my church's book club pick of the month.  It was also the One Maryland One Book for 2010.         

I gave this book 2/5 stars on

The next book on my 2010 Book List is Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner.  I needed a light, girly read to round out 2010!  My goal would be to finish this book while on Christmas break.

Speaking of that upcoming holiday, I want to wish my readers a blessed Christmas and joyous New Year!  It is my hope that you are able to find peace in the meaning of the Christmas season, and happiness looking forward to 2011.  I, for one, am hoping that 2011 brings positive change to my life.  As many of you know, 2010 was dotted with illness, funerals for my uncle, grandma and grandfather, and of course, no year would be complete for me without moving.  I am looking forward to continuing my nursing education, exposing myself to new opportunities, and of course, reading more books!

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Photo of the Day?

Merlin & Charles face off - protected only by a pane of glass...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Over the weekend, I finally finished Kathryn Stockett's The Help.  Quite the read, I must say!  I really enjoyed it, although I will admit that it was not the BEST book I've ever read, but it was certainly a page turner. 

The Help is about black maids living in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s.  Many maids, according to Stockett, faced a lot discrimination in their jobs at this time - from being forced to use separate bathrooms in the houses they worked in, to being accused of stealing.  The Help takes you on a journey of several different characters' perspectives - told in large part by the maids and Skeeter, a white girl who quickly becomes an advocate for encouraing "the help" to tell their stories in a book she is writing.  What I liked most about this book was how a young woman, despite popular opinion, decided to stand her ground for the black community by writing this book about the maids' lives.  Skeeter lost her entire social life as a result of her non-conformance to the white socialite crowd in Jackson.  This could have ruined her life entirely, but yet she kept on doing what she set out to do - write this book.  I so very much admire people for standing up for what they truly believe in, especially in a time in this country when segregation was very real, and punishment for favoring the minority was severe.  Another favorite aspect of the book for me was Aibileen's ritual of writing down her prayers everyday.  I will admit that I often get distracted when praying - my mind starts wondering - and I thought this was such a genius idea and one that I will incorporate into my daily routine! 

I would give The Help 4/5 stars, and would definitely recommend it to you as well!  If you liked the Secret Life of Bees, then you will like The Help... but I stil liked the Bees even more! :)

Outcasts United is up next...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Catching Up

Blogging on a regular basis? Fail!

I have good excuses, I promise! 

Just a week and a half ago I completed move number 12 in my lifetime.  People have said: "It must get easier since you've done it so many times."  That is a big, fat NO!  Sure, I have acquired moving strategies from doing it so many times, but we're talking about how my very first move to Duquesne University was simply an SUV full of stuff.  Now I'm hiring movers and a using a large Uhaul-style vehicle!  As time goes on, more crap is acquired, and therefore it does NOT get easier.  It takes me longer to pack, longer to move, you get the idea.  Alas, on Oct 15 Charles and I left my lovely apartment and moved in with J-J.  I have been working ever since to get my bedroom in order and "just right" - making it my home away from home for the next....I don't even know how long at this point! 

On top of moving, school is still going on.  That bit of fun does not stop for moving unfortunately!  I spent a hasty Monday evening this past week catching up on assignments and turning papers in.  I even scheduled Spring 2011's classes just yesterday!  Holy cow I am a real college student again!  That is still a huge shocker for me!  I'm okay though - I'm keeping up and getting AWESOME grades and enjoying the lifestyle I have been forced into as a result.

I vowed that I would not let my reading habits slip under the rug like they did at Penn State.  Still, I am a slooooow reader and almost a month later I am still reading The Help.  A GREAT read, but my time is limited between work, school assignments and leisure time!  I have about 40 pages left and then I'll be on to the Maryland One Book selection for 2010 - Outcasts United.  I hope to give my review for The Help this weekend!

This past weekend I traveled to my sister's house in central Pennsylvania to visit with my niece.  She is so much fun, and also FUNNY. Two years of age and she knows so much already.  So polite and energetic and just so darn cute too!  We took part in some fall activities - jumping in raked-leaf piles and carving pumpkins....

Grace and her kitty, Jack

Relaxing after a long weekend of fun with Aunt Hilary! :)

"Lay down Aunt Hilary so I can throw leaves on you."

Here it comes....

Our pumpkins - I did the cat one on the left (free hand thank you!)

P.S. I'm going to be an aunt again come March 31!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where's Charles?

Tomorrow is moving day, and my cat is absolutely loving the conditions in the apartment right now.  It's like his own personal jungle - complete with ankle ambushes from behind boxes and "mountain climbing"... Tomorrow at this time the movers will be here.... wish me luck!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Susan G. Komen for the Cure #fightbreastcancer

Did you know that every 69 seconds a woman dies from breast cancer somewhere in our world?  That is a TERRIBLY alarming rate of death!  PLEASE visit the link below to find out how you can help find the cure for breast cancer!

Home - Susan G. Komen for the Cure #fightbreastcancer

**In Loving Memory of Aunt Lynda Bashline, who lost her fight, but will never be forgotten...- September 9, 2003** 

Monday, September 20, 2010

“Well, it’s a long way to Richmond…

…rollin' north on 95."

Actually, it's not a long way to Richmond from where we are at all.. and while we weren't actually heading north on 95, I still like that song and think of it every time I think of Richmond.

As I said before, we first traveled to Yorktown, VA – a very historical and colonial town set along the York River. While here we toured a huge boat, did some shopping, and a lot of walking. Where there is water, there is fish, and Joel took part in that activity as well. 
York River behind us...
The Peacemaker

From Yorktown, we traveled west to Richmond – a short hour and 15 min drive on I-64. I have been saying for a long time now that I wanted to go to Richmond for a little weekend trip. Neither Joel nor I were familiar with this city at all, so we had to improvise. While we arrived there Saturday afternoon with plans to explore the city, unfortunately I got a really bad headache after checking in to the hotel and that ended the rest of my day. I also think that my body needed some rest after battling this sinus infection and I simply could not go any more. After getting some much needed R&R, Joel and I headed out early Sunday morning to start our expedition of Richmond. Our first stop was Starbucks of course! After that necessary pit stop, we headed up to the Virginia State Capitol building, which resembled the White House is many ways.

Joel is King of the Self-Timer
that is me!  Gives you a good scale...
 It was so quiet around the capitol, hardly a soul was there! 

After that, we headed down Monument Row on our way to the University of Richmond. 
Monument Row
I know several people who claim this school as their alma mater, and I wanted to check it out since we were near it. It was a really nice campus! 

Joel graced the campus with his presence...
After UR, Joel and I headed back in to the city for our canal ride along the James River. En route downtown, we came upon this really cute town called Cary Town. It reminded me of College Avenue in State College – lots of little eccentric shops, including my FAVORITE – Ten Thousand Villages! If you EVER go to Richmond, I would HIGHLY recommend checking out Cary Town right on Cary Street. Virginia Commonwealth University separates it from downtown Richmond – it's really easy to get to!

Random dog car in Cary Town
After the mini shopping spree in Cary Town, we made our way back into the city to embark on our boat ride through the canal. For $5, this boat ride could not be beat! While it was not really scenic, the awesome guide made up for it! He was full of humor and great historical tales about Richmond – it was the perfect end to our overnight trip to Richmond. 

Actually, the really perfect ending to our trip to Richmond was our stop at the Bass Pro Shop on our way home! Joel loves this place for obvious reasons, but I love it because it is just HUGE inside with so much to look at. Plus, I love shopping and this place really has it all from food to clothing (including women's) to fishing supplies to a gigantic fish tank with live fish to every taxidermy-ed animal you can think of.

I almost forgot!  The REAL ending to our trip was actually a stop at the Charles Country Fair!  
Petting the sheep :)
Our next trips will include falls trips to Ocean City, MD, a road trip to Pennsylvania to check out the pretty fall scenery, and potentially a New England trip – a part of the East Coast I have yet to see!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend Travels

This weekend Joel & I decided to take a road trip down south.  Our first stop was Yorktown, VA, part of the "colonial triangle" in southern VA - Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg.  We're currently in Richmond... anyhow - below is a pic from Yorktown - such a cute, little, historical VA town!
Route 17 bridge spanning the Yorktown River

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Key To Making Friends At Work

If you put candy out....they will come...

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

 *Knock* *Knock*

Hello? Anyone still out there?

It's been 2 months since I've last posted – literally – July 15! But you've probably noticed that if you were even somewhat of a regular follower of Pritty Story to Tell. Summer has come and gone, and I'm actually happy about that for once. The heat, and combined humidity, in Maryland was the most intense I've ever experienced in the last 4 years of living here. Fall was a welcome change!

During the month of August and for the first few days in September I slowly made my way through Liz Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the book. No, it was because the only chance I find time to read is during my evening commute home from work. And lately, I have been the one driving that commute, not Boss Man (my bus driver). Anyhow, I'll be short and to the point. I loved the Eat and Love sections, and the Pray part was only so-so for me. The book started off strong with her wit, and the ability to engross me in her life struggles. I just constantly found myself laughing out loud or smiling when reading Eat, which mostly took place in Italy. Pray was the longest section and the tone of the book completely changed. It was a more serious section and very intimately outlined her experience in India, which, in short, involved a lot of prayer! Then came Love… and unfortunately I did not complete the book before I went to see the movie with my book club, so the Love section (Bali, Indonesia) was partially ruined for me. By the time I got to Love, I was half-a$$ing it because I knew what was going to happen, and being that it took me so long to get through this book I wanted it to be done. On a 5 point scale, I would give this book a 3.5.

As for the movie, I really enjoyed it. I felt like they did a decent job at recreating the book, with a few notable differences. But just a few – Julia Roberts was great. Was it a blockbuster? No, but it was a great Sunday afternoon matinee.

Next on the reading list is The Help. I've had quite a major diversion from my 2010 Reading List, especially since I've read a lot of the book club books that I was not intending to read. However, I did plan on reading 22 books this year and I've only made it through 9. Don't think I'll be hitting that 22 mark!

Lastly, I never thought I would find myself saying that I am back in college again… but holy Moses I am! Last week was my first official week in Nursing school. I have 2 online classes this semester, and so far it is more than manageable. I'm actually really happy to be back in school again! Good thing I have this in writing, so in another approximately 3 years from now when I'm done with school I can re-read that statement for proof that I was actually happy….to be doing homework again.

Happy reading friends!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

I've read two books in the last two months that have really made me realize if you put your mind to anything, it can happen! The first of those two books was Three Cups of Tea, and the second is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Here, we have a boy who lives in very poor conditions in Malawi, Africa. After having survived a famine during his early childhood and seeing the toll the lack of food put on his family and neighbors, he became determined to find a way to stop the suffering. Hence, this young man starts studying books at the library on how to create wind energy, and voila - the windmill! Of course, I'm leaving much of the details out here, but you get the idea. This kid was a pre-teen when he built this windmill, and also a child who lacked a lot of education that most of us are used to. The poor young man couldn't go to school b/c his family could not afford to make the tuition payments. But still, he pressed on and built this structure that ultimately gave his entire village a ray of hope!

When I found out what this book was about, I was a little concerned that a lot of time would be spent discussing the technical details of how energy is generated into electricity, etc etc. However, the majority of the book gave a really great background on the conditions that this young man faced, which I think was necessary to know in order to understand the magnitude that the windmill had on this village. There might have only been a chapter or two in the entire book that somewhat focused on the technical details, and even that wasn't that bad!

I enjoy books like these - they remind you to be grateful for what you have, and that fancy cars and houses and clothes and any other material things don't really matter so much in the grand scheme of things!

The Lost Symbol is next!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Last Kiss by Luanne Rice

Last Kiss was an AllYou Magazine book club selection. Since I read all of those books, I had to read this one as well. The book was a quick read. It was about a country-music singer named Sheridan who loses her 19 year old son, Charlie, in a murder in New York City. Charlie’s girlfriend, Nell, hires a private investigator to find out what happened to him. The P.I. happens to be Sheridan’s ex-boyfriend from many years ago. And thus the romance/mystery novel begins. Gavin works to figure out what has happened to Charlie, while Nell tries to cope with the death of her one true love. Eventually they discover how Charlie has died – and they lived happily ever after….

I’ll give it 3/5 stars. It was ok – I’m more than ready to move on to the next book! The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the next book on my list – selected by the church book club. More on that to come soon!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Let's face it - I'm in a reading slump! The last two books I've read have been mediocre at best, and I'm not even sure I'd go so far as to say that Peace Like a River was even that good! I will admit that it started out strong, with a murder of two young boys within the first few pages, but it quickly took a nose-dive.

Peace Like a River was a selection made by the book club I'm in at church. The story is told by a young boy named Reuben. Reuben has two siblings - a young sister named Swede and an older brother named Davie. The story basically begins with Davie's girlfriend getting attacked in her high school locker room by these two unruly boys. Davie's father, the school janitor, hears the girl's shrieks and comes running. Davie's father hits or threatens them (I cannot remember which), but it angers the unruly boys so much that they vow to get him back. A short time later, these boys kidnap Swede from her house, but is quickly recovered by the family. Now that the boys have hurt two people who are close to Davie, Davie is determined to put these boys in their place. Again, a short time after Swede's kidnapping, the boys return to Davie's house in the middle of the night, but this time Davie shows them who is boss - he shoots and kills them both! So at this point in the book, I was pretty enthralled! It sounded like the making for a good legal battle...

Davie is naturally put on trial for the murder of these two boys, and the jury seems to sway between their sympathy for Davie's situation and that of the family members of the two boys. I guess Davie sensed that he wasn't going to win the trial, so he breaks out of jail. This is pretty much where the story starts to go down hill. The bulk of the book is spent talking about how the family goes west in search of Davie. The ending does pick up a little with an unexpected romance between Davie's father and a woman they meet along the way, as well as Reuben's secret meetings with Davie.

When we discussed the book at the meeting, all but 1 of the ladies said they would NOT recommend this book to their friends! So - I shall not bore you with any more details :).

My next book, which I am nearly done with at this point, is Last Kiss - an AllYou magazine book club read! I'll be giving my review on that within the next day or so - as of right now it's not a slam-dunk winner, but a vast improvement over these last two reads. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Trip to the Beach

Two weeks ago Joel, his father & brother and myself took a long weekend trip to Ocean City, MD. This trip had been planned for months and it came at just the right time. Joel wanted to get there for the 'striper run' - he coordinated our trip right down to the phases of the moon (a striper is also known as a 'rockfish' or 'striped bass'. The striper run is when all the fish migrate north again after the winter.) After traveling to Pennsylvania for 3 straight weeks, enduring the loss of my uncle in the midst of that, a relaxing trip to the ocean was just what the doctor ordered!

The view from our balcony... & a crab-shaped cloud to boot!

The fishing had to begin almost as soon as we got there - Joel was ansy! That's him cutting up his bait, which was another type of fish.

So that just meant while Joel fished, I played around with some photography...

I'm proud to say I'm a close second to his love for fishing...

His 15 foot pole - it catches 'big shit'...

He was so excited to be fishing after a long, harsh winter in Maryland...

It is my hope that someday I will get to live next to this..

A heart I drew with our initial in it :) - JJ in the background

trying to go for the big one!

found a horseshoe crab with some mussels that decided to hitch a ride...

sadly for Joel - this was the 'big catch' of the trip - a stingray!

A partial view of the Ocean City boardwalk - I believe it's 2 miles long

As with many vacations, they are never quite long enough. We all could have spent a bit more time at the beach!

Ocean City - May 2010

A Little Update on Charles

I have officially had Charles in my possession now for 3 whole months. What an adventure this has been! From hissing at me every time he sees me to knocking plants over to cuddling up to me when I take naps on the couch. He is still a little hellion, but just look at him...

Trying to help out when I work at home...

Overworked & underpaid..

What everyone desires to wake up to on a Saturday morning...

What I like to call "bat-cat" or "Queen of Sheba"..

And even though he acts more like a dog than a cat, I still can't help but love him!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Jodi, normally you keep me coming back for more with all of your books. I hate to say it, but Vanishing Acts did not do it for me. I never thought I'd ever find myself saying that about a Jodi novel, but alas, the time has come.

Vanishing Acts is the story of a woman, Delia, and her father, Andrew, and the discovery that Delia is not who she thinks she is. When she was just a young child, her father 'kidnapped' her from her mother. As the story goes, early on Andrew is arrested at their home in New Hampshire and taken back to their home state of Arizona to await his trial for kidnapping. Keep in mind that at this time, Delia is an adult woman – I would guess in her late twenties/early thirties. Of course she is flabbergasted at her father's imprisonment, and travels to AZ to be near him during these difficult times. None other than Delia's boyfriend, Eric, is picked to represent Andrew. Eric is a recovering alcoholic, which provides an ironic (or not really) twist to the story.

I couldn't help but read some other book reviews while I was in the midst of reading this book. Many were negative, stating how the plot line was predictable and how there was a lot of unnecessary storytelling – I agree with the latter part of this for sure. There was a good chunk of the book devoted to a story of this Native American woman who lived next door to Delia and her daughter during Andrew's trial. I don't really see the point to that woman's involvement at all. Then the book ends in typical Jodi fashion – causing you to wonder what the truth really was! Was Andrew lying about why he kidnapped his daughter? I won't reveal what his reasons were, but if you did read this book – please let me know – I want to know your thoughts!

I'm not giving up on you yet Jodi! Of all the books of yours I've read, this was the only flop in my opinion. I look forward to reading others by you soon!

Next up on my list is Peace Like a River by Lief Enger. This is a book club selection from my church's reading group. Stay tuned for more!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lost But Not Forgotten

It brings me great sadness to share this news with you. On Friday, April 24, my uncle, Donald Miller, was killed tragically in an automobile accident. He has sadly left behind my aunt Patty and son Brice, age 9, as well as many others who loved and cared dearly for him.

As a result, I am returning to Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. I ask that when saying your prayers, you throw one in there for my aunt and little cousin - they need all they can get.

A song very fitting for our situation..

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sex & the City News!!

I had to quickly share this bit of news with you! It's almost as exciting as the latest addition to the Twilight series! The Sex and the City creator, Candace Bushnell, is coming out with a book about our beloved Carrie's life - pre-New York! YAY! Although this book is to be geared more toward the teenage audience, that certainly didn't stop me with Twilight, and it won't stop me with this. The book is going to outline Carrie's life as a teenager in Connecticut. I have literally watch SATC since its debut on HBO YEARS ago. In fact, I was probably too young to be witnessing that stuff at the time, but I turned out okay right? :) The title of the book is called "Carrie Diaries" and will be released on Tuesday, April 27. Candace also plans to release a second book in this series (or mini-series, we'll see) in the summer of 2011, which will depict Carrie's first year in NY, and when she met Samantha. I'm squealing over here with joy people - I cannot wait to read these!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Three Cups of Tea - By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

I've recently finished reading Three Cups of Tea. Back whenever I purchased this book, my attraction to it was the word 'tea' in the title (yes, I do judge a book by it's cover). I love tea - all kinds of tea! And if you know me, then you know my favorite is Chai! But, I digress. I recently discovered that the book club at my church was reading this, and I thought it was about time to pull it out and give it a shot myself. It was, afterall, on my 2010 book list.

Three Cups of Tea is about an American mountaineer named Greg Mortensen. Greg takes a trip to northern Pakistan to attempt to climb K2 - one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas. However, Greg doesn't make it to the top because a fellow climber falls ill, and they are forced to quickly descend the mountain. Upon their descent, Greg gets lost and eventually ends up in this Pakistani village where he is taken in by the village leader, Haji Ali. The village is so gracious to Greg that he promises to build them a school as soon as he can raise the money in return for their generosity. Throughout the next 10+ years, Greg manages to raise money continuously for the building of schools all throughout Pakistan. Greg's first trip took place in the mid 90s, so as time goes on in the book, eventually it brings us to September 11, 2001, and the chapter titled "A Village Called New York" addresses the events of that day from the perspective of a small village in Pakistan. This was one of my favorite chapters because it really showed the innocence of many people in the Middle East, which I think is something many people in the U.S. don't think about or don't realize. This chapter is titled as such because the village leader where Greg was staying during this particular visit was listening to a very staticky radio broadcast that day, and heard about the attacks. He ran to wake Greg up, and said to him: "Greg, Greg - a village called New York has just been bombed." I just found it heartbreaking reading this chapter and that sentence. It just goes to show how many innocent people in the Middle East are being affected by this war our country is fighting. That village didn't even know what New York was! The different towns where Greg built schools helped him realize that the key to solving terrorism was to educate the Middle Eastern children - essentially helping them learn right from wrong so they can make an informed decision when extremists come their way attempting to entice them with their radical ways.

I really enjoyed the book - it wasn't always a page turner, but I did learn a lot about the Middle East. It was also very inspiring - if everyone had the determination that Greg did/does, much would be different in this world today. Out of 5 stars, I would give it 3.5/5.

My next book is Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult! Happy Reading friends!

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