“Be Natural” Cereal Review

I was recently asked to review the latest cereal offering by “Be Natural”:

Manuka Honey & Spice Clusters with Flakes

I’ve seen the “Be Natural” range of cereals in our local grocery but since Chris is the primary cereal eater, I usually go off what he suggests rather than picking other options.  I was keen to try this box and to see what his take was on it as well.

I was impressed with the ingredients list – lots of fibre, lots of whole grains, and no processed sugars that I could see.  Here’s an up-close view of my bowl, shortly before digging in:

If you look closely, you can actually see the cardamon pods.

And here’s what my bowl looked like about, oh, 3 minutes later:

Delicious.  It reminded me somewhat of gingerbread and chai tea, only in a cereal bowl.  I’d even consider giving it to Joe once his digestive system is able to handle honey.

Naturally, I had to get Chris’ opinion as well.  Here is he mulling over the flavours:

It didn’t take long for him to decide that the Manuka Honey & Spice Clusters combined to make one yummy bowl of cereal!

His exact words were that it “seems healthy” and had a “good blend of textures”.  He also praised the fact that it “doesn’t disintegrate in milk”.  His only bit of constructive criticism was that it “could be a little sweeter”.  Of course, this is coming from a man who will occasionally eat chocolate for breakfast, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in that last comment ;-)

Overall, I’d recommend this cereal.  It’s healthy, tastes great, and as Chris says, “doesn’t disintegrate in milk”.  What more could you want from breakfast food?

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Please note that I was provided with a box of “Manuka Honey & Spice Clusters with Flakes” + three $1.00 off coupons for the same by the “Be Natural” cereals & snacks company.  However, I would never write something that I didn’t agree with.  If this cereal tasted bad, then I’d tell you.  All opinions in this post are honest and our own.

Waiheke Island

Chris and I finally took our trip to Waiheke Island.  Rather than making an overnight of it, we decided to just go for the day and save the extended trip for another time.

We started out by walking to the Auckland Ferry Building.  We purchased our tickets and waited for the ferry to arrive.

We got on board and headed out on the quick, 35 minute trip to the island, with a quick stop-over at Devonport {an Auckland suburb}…

We headed back out into the harbor.  The views were amazing:

The ferry ride left at 11am, so we decided to pack a lunch and bring it with us to eat on the way.  Chris made the sandwiches.  He never learned the secret to making a non-soggy PB&J…

{The secret: a thin layer of peanut butter on both pieces of bread with jelly in-between}

Needless to say, I decided to pass my sandwich over to Chris, who ate both it and his own sandwich.  He didn’t mind the sogginess :-)

After a short trip, we pulled into the Matiatia Wharf at Waiheke Island…

Olive trees on the hillside

Our tour guide from Waiheke Island Adventures met us at the ferry.  It’s still the slow season on Waiheke, so as it turns out, we were the only 2 people on the wine tour.  It was pretty nice!  She drove us around the island and pointed out various interesting areas.  Here’s a glimpse of our view from the vehicle…

Our first stop was the Saratoga Estate Winery, but I didn’t take any photos.  Of the 3 wineries we visited, this was my favorite.  I’d recommend it for those of you who prefer sweeter wines.  Our tour guide told us that most wineries on the island don’t make many sweet wines, so if you’re like me, you’ll want to put this one on your list.

The next stop was Cable Bay Vineyards.  Can you imagine having a view like this when you came to work each day?

Cable Bay was my 2nd favorite of the 3 wineries we visited.  The staff were quite nice and accommodating, and the view of the harbor and CBD were spectacular.  It also afforded me my first view of sheep in New Zealand!

Our 3rd and final winery was Mudbrick Vineyards.  I’d had enough wine by that point, so I decided to forgo this tasting and just enjoy the scenery.  Chris did a tasting and really appreciated how the guy at Mudbrick was willing to work with his choices…

The scenery at Mudbrick was by far some of the best.  They host a lot of weddings here – our tour guide told us they did over 200 last year – and you can see why…

Once we were done with the wineries, we decided to head back into Oneroa Village for lunch.  Oneroa means “Long Sand” or “Long Beach” in Maori…

The tour driver was so great.  They’re always very flexible and will drop people off to have lunch wherever you choose.  I much prefer to make my own dining selection rather than being told where to go and where to stop.  As it was, all I wanted was a sandwich – something portable so that I could eat and walk on the beach at the same time…

Once Chris was done wading, he decided to go for a swing.  He had a pretty good time…

Then he realized that there was a giant tree behind him…

And since he’s Chris, he had to climb it {one of these days I’ll do a post with all of the Chris-in-a-tree photos – if there is a tree nearby, Chris will either climb it, think about climbing it, talk about climbing it, or all three!}…

We had a lot of fun.  If you visit Waiheke Island, I recommend Waiheke Island Adventure tours.  They’re reasonably priced, friendly, flexible, and the owners have lived on the island for 30+ years.  They have great recommendations and know the ins and outs of the area {plus they don’t charge the standard 65 cents per km on their rental cars that that the other agencies tack on}.  I also recommend stopping by Saratoga Estate Winery to try their sweet wines!  We will definitely be visiting Waiheke again :-)

Fatso.co.nz (I miss Netflix!)

Chris and I aren’t big TV watchers*.  Don’t read anything judgmental into that – if you want to watch TV, go for it.  I just get bored easily and would rather not pay for a service that, for the most part, I won’t use.

We do like to watch movies and some TV series on DVD, though.  We loved our Netflix membership back in the States.  First of all, the free 1 month trial was fabulous, and having the option to watch movies instantly online was great.  We could access the site through Chris’ PS3, so that we were actually watching them online on our TV.  This was nice for me to have when I was working nights.  On my nights off, Chris would go to bed and I’d have a big selection of movies at my fingertips.  Or, I could watch a little bit of something to help me decompress after a crazy night.

They don’t have Netflix in New Zealand {nor do they have access to Hulu or most major network online TV episodes, though can sneak around the restrictions by signing up for a non-NZ IP address… I won’t go into that here}.  The closest that they do have is a service called… I hate this name… called Fatso.  Why the founders of the company chose this name, I have no clue.  Still, it’s the only mail-based movie rental option in the country at this time.  There’s SkyTV, which as far as I can tell is the only cable service in New Zealand, but it costs more than what we’re willing to pay, and the movies provided aren’t that great.

At first, we were doing fine with brick-and-mortar movie rental stores.  There was a corner rental shop nearby that had $1 week-long rentals on Tuesdays.  Yay!  Then they closed up shop and moved to the North Shore.  Boo!  There’s also the library, but at $5 per movie rental, it didn’t appeal to us that much {updated to add – movies from our library are now only $2 for a whole week – hooray!}.  There’s the theater, but tickets are $15 per person with assigned seating, and I like to watch most movies from the comfort of my own pajamas.  So, we revisited the movie service who’s name I hate.

First off, I had a bit of a shock when I looked at the prices.  I wonder how long it’ll take living in New Zealand before I get over that?  Anyway, here’s what their membership options cost as of August 2010…

{Keep in mind that at this time, Fatso doesn’t have an online access option and they only do a 2 week trial as opposed to Netflix’s 1 month trial, though I’ve recently discovered a voucher for a 1 month trial to Fatso}

Now, compare this with Netflix {which has unlimited online movies and TV shows}…

Prices as of August 2010

Excuse me for a minute while I go cry into my handkerchief.

We decided to give the Fatso trial a shot and signed up for it.

We signed up for it on Saturday, 14 August.  We received our first set of 3 movies on Monday, 16 August.  We watched a movie that night, put it in the mail on the 17th, and it was received 2 days later by Fatso on the 19th.  The next movie was shipped out that same day, and we got it on the 20th.  We finished watching the 2nd movie, and that was when I noticed something: they’d sent us 3 DVDs, but only 2 return envelopes.  Hmm.

I emailed the company and was told that I could mail the 3rd DVD back separately on my own, but that the return envelopes can hold more than 1 DVD and it was their policy to only send 2 envelopes with 3 or more movies.  This is annoying.  If you’re like us, it may take you awhile to watch more than 1 movie and in the meantime, you’d like to have your other selections sent out.  This way, you can return a DVD as soon as your done and while you’re waiting for the next to arrive, you can watch the remaining movie that you still have.

To their credit, the people at Fatso were nice enough to send us a couple of extra return envelopes to have on hand, but it still bugs me.

It also seems that, unlike Netflix, they don’t have a weekend return service.  With Netflix, if we mailed a DVD on Thursday, they would have it by Friday and we’d have our next selection on Saturday.  Pretty much no matter what, there was a 3 day turnaround time at all times with Netflix.  Here, if you mail a DVD on Thursday, they may get it on Friday, but you most likely won’t get your next one till Monday… if all goes well.  This means that it may be 3, 4, or even 5 days until you get your next selection.

Also, many of the movies that we wanted to watch weren’t readily available.  There were a few “Get It Now” selections that appealed to us, but they recommend keeping at least 15 DVDs in your queue.  We’re glad we did this because some of the selections that were shipped out were down at the very bottom of our list.  If we hadn’t had a long queue, there would’ve been nothing to send.

I suppose that since they’re the only service of their kind in the country, there isn’t much impetus for them to change.  There’s no competition, like with Netflix and Blockbuster and Red Box.  Who cares if one blogger is annoyed over their envelopes?  Who cares if people don’t like their prices – they’re the only game in town, so if you want it, you’ve got to pay for it.

For us, I don’t think we want it that badly.  I may change my mind at a later date if they consider lowering their prices {or adding in that extra envelope}, or if we end up going stir-crazy.  After all, this option is still more economical than SkyTV.  In the meantime, we’ll just keep things status quo and hope that another movie rental shop opens up nearby or hope that Netflix makes the move to New Zealand :-)

*When I say that Chris and I aren’t big TV watchers, I’m comparing this to the statistic that most Americans watch over 4 hours of TV per day, and most New Zealanders watch nearly 3 hours of TV per day.  We watch far less than that.

“Two Brides Too Many” – August Book Review

This month’s selection is a book entitled, “Two Brides Too Many”, by Mona Hodgson.

{ISBN 0307458903, Waterbrook Press, May 2010, 320 pages}

“Two Brides Too Many” is the story of sisters Kat and Nell Sinclair.  Recently arrived in Cripple Creek, CO to marry men that they’ve only met through letters, their world is thrown for a loop when no one meets them at the station.  Not being afraid of a challenge, Kat gathers her skirts and heads off in the direction of the nearest {and only} boardinghouse with Nell following in her wake.

Misfortune isn’t far behind, and it seems like one thing piles on top of another.  Kat discovers that her fiance is nothing more than a common, womanizing drunk.  Nell’s fiance is nowhere to be found.  And if that wasn’t enough, a fire breaks out in town and claims several lives and buildings.  Kat and Nell are separated in the midst of the melee, and Kat barely escapes becoming one of the victims herself while saving a young child.  After being stitched up in the local hospital and finding herself with the now-orphaned child she saved, Kat makes her way back to the boardinghouse, but not before being mistaken for a midwife and insulted by the town’s newest doctor.  Nothing is going according to plan!

But God hasn’t forgotten about the Sinclair sisters.  Things may not be going according to their plans, but He has everything under control.  Through hard work, trust, and more than a few embarrassing situations, Kat grows deeper in her faith and comes to rely on Him to meet her every need and the needs of those around her.  She learns that the hardships she faced were opportunities that God used to refine her and draw her closer to Him, all while showing her a love that she’d never expected.

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Hodgson does a good job of drawing historical aspects into her story, but the characters lack depth.  It would’ve been better to focus on one Sinclair sister at a time rather than trying to tie in 2 love stories in one novel.  Inevitably, one sister is short-changed, and the end result is that the story focuses more on Kat while Nell is barely a shade more than an afterthought.  The story lacks deep emotion or connection with the reader, but would be a good selection for a beach read or something just before bed.

*To read other reviews or to learn about my approach to reviewing, please click here*

Envirosax Review

You may remember me writing about purchasing a set of 5 Envirosax bags.  I’d never used them before, but given that we don’t have a car and are often walking to do our own shopping, I thought it worthwhile to purchase some reusable grocery bags.  Not to mention the fact that it’s better for the environment, and some NZ stores charge you if you need to use a plastic bag.

They arrived last week and I promptly put one in my purse, one in my work bag, and one in Chris’ book-bag.  I had my first opportunity to use one today while out running errands.  Just to give you an idea of the size, here’s a photo of one of the bags outside of my purse…

And here’s a photo of it inside my purse…

I was impressed with how little space it took up.  I’m able to keep the bag in there, my wallet, keys, cellphone, iPod, pen, gum, and chapstick with room remaining.  It’s definitely not too big or bulky to carry with me on a regular basis.

Once the bag’s opened, here’s what it looks like…

It’s plenty big and had more than enough space to hold all of my purchases from running errands today.  The website states that it can hold up to 2 grocery bags’ worth of items in one bag.  I think that’s probably true, depending on the size and weight of items you buy.  All things considered, this was a good purchase – 5 Envirosax bags for NZ$27.00.  These will be great to have on hand and would be perfect for traveling or trips to the beach :-)

If you’d like to purchase a bag or a set of bags, you can click here for the NZ website or here for the US website.  If you’re living in NZ and would like to join the free shopping group through which I purchased these Envirosax at a discounted price, just shoot me an email at mrs{dot}practicallyperfect{at}gmail{dot}com.

Happy shopping!

New York Pizza in New Zealand

Hello, my lovely readers!  Hope y’all are having a great week thus far.  Ours has been busy, but that’s a post for another day.

We had some friends over for dinner this week.  The apartment is still pretty barren, but in this case it was a good thing.  Our friends have a little one who loves to go exploring.  Since our gear is still en route from the States, it’s pretty well child-proofed.  We didn’t do anything fancy for the meal – pizzas, salad, and chocolate mousse that I whipped up earlier in the day.  In my opinion, laid-back dinners with new friends are some of the best :-)

We took their recommendation and got the pizza from Sal’s Authentic New York Pizza.

This is a hole-in-the-wall located on Commerce Street in downtown Auckland.  The ingredients are imported from New York, California, and Wisconsin, and the pizza makers are supposedly “experienced New York pizza makers”.  I don’t know if that means that the pizza makers are New Yorkers, or if they’ve made pizza in New York, or if they’re just experienced at making New York-style pizzas.  Either way, it’s close and delivery’s free within the CBD {Central Business District}.  Wanna know how they deliver?  On segways!  How cool/nerdy is that?

I wanted to be on the safe side and make sure that everyone had enough to eat, everyone being me, Chris, our two guests {one of whom is due to deliver a little one any day now!} and their sweet little daughter.  I ordered 2 large pizzas – a pepperoni {made with “Sal’s legendary sauce and premium Wisconsin mozzarella”} and a veggie {cheese, mushroom, and “capsicum”, which is what I would call a bell pepper}.  Those pizzas were ginormous.

See what I mean?  Big!  One slice covered your plate.  They were delicious, although the pepperoni was greasy.  That might make it more appealing to some, but I’m a low-grease kind of girl.  I’d say that we could’ve gotten by on just one pizza, but having two meant leftovers.  That’s fine by me because, as everyone knows, the best way to eat pizza is when it’s served cold the morning after ;-)

So tell me – what’s your favorite kind of pizza?  Are you the type that loves it fresh, or are you like me and think that it tastes better once it’s sat in the fridge overnight?

Excuse me, are those sheep in your car?

It’s not every day that you read an article with the title, “Police Find 14 Sheep Crammed Into Car”

Seriously – what were these guys thinking?!

Also, congrats to Tami of 29 and Holding for winning my May book review giveaway!  Send me your address at mrs{dot}practicallyperfect{at}hotmail{dot}com, and I’ll send it your way!

May Book Review + Giveaway: The Bride Collector

I’ll bet you thought that since I had just moved to another country, that I’d completely forgotten about the monthly book reviews.  Well, you’re wrong!  I didn’t forget, and this month I have another good one to share with you – “The Bride Collector”, by Ted Dekker.

Ted Dekker is known for being primarily a Christian author, but this book is considered a cross-over.  It’s a religious author, but there aren’t any, what I would call, significantly direct mentions of Christianity.  It’s been very successful and has been one of the top 10 New York Times’ bestsellers.  Here’s the official synopsis from TedDekker.com…

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He loves them because they are beautiful. He kills them because he loves them.

A virtuoso killer is carving a path of death across the west, intent on killing only the most beautiful women, all in the name of love. He has claimed six victims and slipped through the FBI’s fingers, each time leaving behind a hand written note and a bridal veil.

Special agent Brad Raines has hunted the Bride Collector from crime scene to crime scene, but each time finds himself one step behind. Desperate for help, Raines turns to the Center for Wellness and Intelligence, a private home for gifted, mentally-ill residents. There, he finds help in an unlikely group of four who eagerly agree to help him solve the case.

Raines is quickly drawn to an unlikely young woman named Paradise who struggles with psychosis. As they grow closer, he begins to see the world through her eyes. Together they enter the killer’s deadly game and begin to close in. But like Paradise, the Bride Collector is supremely gifted and he has a distinct advantage: This is his game.

Now Paradise will be pushed beyond her limits. She will learn what it means to be beautiful and what it means to love, really love. Full of surprising wit and hair-raising twists that will keep you riveted to the end, The Bride Collector will haunt you with a new way of looking at beauty, love and the world in which you live.

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I’ve read a couple Ted Dekker books (“House” and “Three”) and was excited when this one was published.  It was a refreshing change from what I normally read, and although there were a few cringe-inducing moments (the author gets pretty descriptive), I liked it.  It was entertaining, had some great twists, and did a good job of keeping you on the edge of your seat.  He competently switches the story’s point of view from that of the Special Agent, the killer, and Paradise in a way that weaves them together without leaving you confused.

I liked how it it focused on the mentally ill in society, specifically those people who have such unique mental “gifts” that they aren’t able to function well amongst the rest of the world.  It was interesting to see how an FBI investigation could possibly rely on the help of someone who would otherwise be written off and excluded.

Paradise presents an interesting character.  She’s smart, a leader, independent in an odd sense (she hasn’t been outside of the Center for years), and vulnerable.  She wants to be a part of the “real” world, but is scared to death of what might happen to her if she takes the risk of opening herself up to love.

I give this book 2 thumbs up, and I’d love to share it with one of you, my lovely readers.  If you’re interested, just leave me a comment.  I’ll randomly select a winner and announce it on Monday, May 31st.  The entry is open to all US and New Zealand readers (all 3 of you!).  Good luck!

“Demon: A Memoir” Book Review

This month’s book selection is a bit darker than those I’ve reviewed in the past.  It’s entitled “Demon: A Memoir”, by Tosca Lee.

Tosca Lee graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts, completing a degree in English and Literature and in International Relations in 3 1/2 years.  She later spent time at Oxford studying economics, and currently works as a consultant for the Gallup Organization.  How she finds time to turn out novels on top of working for such a large company is beyond me, but write them she does.  “Demon: A Memoir” was the first fiction book that she published.  It came out several years ago but is set for re-release this summer.  Shortly following will be her 3rd novel – Iscariot.

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One night changes everything.

Recently divorced and mired in a meaningless existence, Clay drifts from his drab apartment to his equally lusterless job as an editor for a small Boston press – until the night Lucian finds him and everything changes with the simple words, “I’m going to tell you my story, and you’re going to write it down and publish it.”

What begins as a mystery soon spirals into chaotic obsession as Clay struggles to piece together Lucian’s dark tale of love, ambition, and grace – only to discover that the demon’s story has become his own.

And then only one thing matters: learning how the story ends.

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Tosca Lee describes the premise of this book in her own words: “One day… I realized that being angelic and fallen was very similar to being human and fallen – except for one major difference: the provision of a messiah.  I immediately wondered what it must feel like to be unquestionably damned – and worse, to watch humans luxuriate in and take for granted the grace made available to them from a doting God.  And I thought: Why wouldn’t a fallen angelic creation resent a human recipient of God’s grace?  And why wouldn’t a demon want to prove that creature unworthy again and again as a result?  Now I knew what it must feel like to be an angelic outsider looking in with jealous eyes and… through this new lens “Demon: A Memoir” was born.”

I couldn’t help but compare this book to C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”.  Only instead of a collection of letters from one demon to another, this was the story of a man’s conversations and encounters with something truly evil disguised as a harmless human being.  It was unsettling, thought provoking, and left me feeling strangely bereft of hope.  The ending was unsatisfying, but I believe this was what the author intended.  I think that she purposely leaves you hanging so that you can answer certain questions for yourself.  Questions about what things are true, what life is for, how we’re supposed to live, and what’s most important.  Don’t misunderstand me – this is a good book.  It’s just different from my normal reading style.  If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

“Perfecting Kate” Book Review + Book Giveaway!

Welcome to my 3rd Christian Fiction book review!  I started reviewing books of this genre because, well, I enjoy reading them.  I wanted to share some of that joy with you, my lovely readers.  I hope that I’ve been able to do that, and hope that I’ll continue to do so with this month’s selection – “Perfecting Kate”, by Tamara Leigh.

Perfecting Kate

Considering the recent Heidi Montag plastic surgery debacle, this selection seemed to be an apt choice :-)  Read on to discover why…

*****

Kate Meadows is a successful San Francisco artist looking for a nice, solid Christian man.  So when not one, but two handsome bachelors enter her orbit in rapid succession, her head is spinning just a bit. Michael Palmier is a hunky and famous makeup artist who actually seems to be flirting with her – rather than her physically flawless housemate, Maia.  Trouble is, he keeps handing her business cards from various beauty professionals and plastic surgeons.  Is he trying to stamp out every last bit of self-esteem she has?

Then there’s Dr. Clive Alexander, good-looking enough to be mistaken for Brad Pitt, who sends Kate’s pulse skittering every time he comes near.  Too bad he’s only interested in her work – and doesn’t think she’s much to look at.  It’s enough to send a girl running for her paint-splattered, relaxed-fit jeans and swearing off mean altogether!  But after undergoing a makeover from Michael’s staff, Kate can’t be oblivious to the admiring glances men throw her way.  Maybe she should try contacts… consider some fancy dental work… and you know, that mole really could stand to go.  The question now is, what kind of work will Kate do on herself… and who exactly is she trying to please?

*****

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that I couldn’t put down.  This one fit the bill.  Tamara Leigh did a great job, and I found myself relating to Kate Meadows page after page.  I think that we’ve all been in Kate’s shoes before – more interested in fixing the way we look on the outside than who we are on the inside.  Every woman has those times when your weight or skin or hair seem far more worthy of your time than spending time with God or in prayer.  I’d read one of Kate’s journal entries and think, “Yep – I’ve been there before.  I know exactly what that feels like.”  Those times when you find yourself apologizing to God for not spending enough time with Him or for missing church or for failing to hold your tongue when you knew better.

No one is perfect.  We all have failings and shortcomings.  We all have flaws.  I’d venture a guess that every single woman out there has something about her personal appearance that she’d like to change.  I know I do.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change the way that you look, provided that you’re doing it for the right reasons.  If you’re focused on changing how you look because you think that it’ll help you find a man or find happiness or find meaning in your life, then you’re going to be disappointed.  True happiness comes from finding God and from having a relationship with Him.

*****

As in the past, I’ve decided to pass my copy along to another reader.  If you’ve read this review and are at all interested in the book, then leave me a comment sharing one thing about your self, your inner self, that you’d like to change.  I’ll close entries at the end of the week, and announce the winner on Monday!

“Never the Bride” Book Review + A Free Book

Some of you may remember me writing about my love of Christian/Inspirational Fiction back in June.  I’ve read quite a few books within that genre since then, and decided to review one of them for you, my lovely readers.  Since I’m done with the book, I’ve decided to give it away as well.  I have not been contacted by the authors or publishing company, and this review has been written entirely of my own volition.  I also haven’t read any other reviews of this book, so this post is 100% my own point of view.

My choice is entitled, “Never the Bride”, by Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge.

never-the-bride-250

To begin, let’s get a little background information: the story takes place in present-day California.  The main character is 34-year-old type-A planner Jessie Stone.  She’s been a bridesmaid eleven times, is working in a dead-end job, her heart’s been trampled on, and she has no relationship prospects on the horizon.  Oh, and did I mention that she’s in love with her best friend, Blake?  My heart went out to her just after reading the back cover!

Jessie became the guardian of her younger sister, Brooklyn, when she was 20 years old and when Brooklyn was only 12.  Since then, she’s worked to be part parent, part sister to Brooklyn, who is more than just a little irresponsible and relationship-challenged. Brooklyn has a history of coming in and out of Jessie’s life based on how well or how poorly Brooklyn’s relationships are going.  She’s a serial dater and tends to quickly move in with the guy of the moment, and when things fall apart, it’s Jessie who has to make room in her life to pick up the pieces.

And now for the twist – God decides to show up in Jessie Stone’s life.  He literally appears to her in human form, and after convincing her that He is, in fact, God, and not a crazed stalker, He offers her the following choice: she can choose to try to control her own life, her own love story, or she can step aside and give God a chance.  Needless to say, she’s a little reluctant.  It doesn’t help that no one else can see God except for her, and that she’s more than just a little freaked out by His appearance.  God gives her 24 hours to make a decision, and leaves her alone to make the choice.  But if she chooses to give Him control, then it’s got to be His way.  If at any point she decides that she doesn’t like what He’s doing, she can walk away.

The book takes off from there.  When I first started reading, I was a bit skeptical.  I figured this for yet another predictable romance with a sweet, sappy, oh-so-obvious ending.  That wasn’t the case.  As I got closer to the end and as I learned more about God’s plan for Jessie’s life, I found myself flipping back, re-reading certain sections and saying, “Ooooh, so that’s why He did it that way!”   The authors add such an interesting twist, and things definitely did not end the way that I foresaw.

There were times where I could really relate to Jessie, like when God asked her to do things that she completely, totally did not understand and which seemed to just be embarrassing or crazy.  Like dancing by herself in the middle of a restaurant.  Yikes!  But God worked things out for Jessie’s good, and it was so refreshing to see how God related to her in a personal way.  He wasn’t some voiceless, formless being – He was physically present, talking to her, seeking her out, and showing her how He cared for her and loved her.

I decided to rate this book across the following categories – (1) Interest and Creativity – basically, how interesting was this book? (2) Readability – was the book too long, too short, was the storyline hard to follow? (3) Likelihood of Recommendation – what are the odds that I recommend this book to another reader? (4) Moral Content – whether or not I think that the book does a good job addressing moral or spiritual issues, and (5) Overall.

  1. Interest and Creativity – This book was definitely interesting and creative.  It was a different story than what I was used to.  I give it an “A-” in this department.
  2. Readability – The book was relatively short as far as novels go – 310 pages. However, the storyline didn’t always flow, and sometimes characters, like Malia, were introduced without much background information.  I rate it a “B” in readability.
  3. Recommendation – I would recommend this book to another reader, but I wouldn’t gush about it.  “B+”
  4. Moral Content – It definitely gets an “A” for moral or spiritual content.  I really loved the way that they portrayed God in this story.
  5. Overall – “B+/A-”

Now that I’m done with this book, I’d like to give one of you a chance to read it.  If you’re interested, please leave me a comment, and at the end of the day I’ll randomly select a person to receive the book.  Good luck!

Farmer’s Market and a Movie

Good morning, everyone :-) It is absolutely pouring here!

This Saturday, Chris and I got up early and went to the South Bend Farmer’s Market. It was so great! After a little confusion as to how to get there (thanks in part to Google Maps and yours truly), we found it, parked, and headed inside. I think that I’ve found a new place to do all of my produce shopping. The market is open year round, several days a week, and is completely enclosed, which was nice. It was much bigger and had more variety than the one we tried in Massachusetts, and was even bigger than the one in Lafayette, IN, which we used to go to all the time while at Purdue. We’ll definitely be heading back. Here are some photos from our trip (people there thought it was so funny that I was taking pictures of their stalls!):

I’m assuming that “lope” is short for “cantaloupe”
Lots of people (and who’s that handsome guy on the right?!)
Look at the size of those turtles and caramel apples – huge!
All nice and enclosed
Lots of fresh produce
More vegetables – yum!
If I had been smart, I would’ve prepared the menu for the week and gone in with a shopping list, but I didn’t plan ahead. As a result, we only got a small “sugar baby” watermelon, some homemade apple butter, and some homemade pear butter. When we got home from the Farmer’s Market, this is what we saw waiting for us in the window of our townhouse. I was so glad that I had my camera handy :-)
He was sitting on top of the couch, sunbathing and people watching. He’s not allowed on the couch unless he’s been given “permission”, but he looked so cute that we didn’t scold him.
Later that evening, we headed to our local theater for the first time. It’s alright, but nothing like the great big, fancy schmancy theaters in Massachusetts that we’d gotten used to. We were vacillating between watching “GI Joe” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. I’ll let you imagine how thrilled Chris was at the prospect of watching The TTW, so we opted for “GI Joe”. It was okay, but nothing more than that. I thought that they did a pretty poor job on the special effects. Chris liked it, but I’m not in any hurry to see it again.
The rest of the weekend was just as relaxed. I did some cleaning, some laundry, some shopping, some cooking, some napping, some reading, some walking of the dog, and some talking to friends. I’m looking forward to my meeting tomorrow with the nurse recruiter. Hopefully, she’ll have some good options for me.

Have a great Monday!

Harry Potter Review (No Spoilers!)

Hi everyone. Chris and I went to see “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” on Thursday night (my day off). I thought I’d give a Practically Perfect review, for those of you who are really into HP and want to see the film.

For starters, let me say that I was really, really looking forward to this movie, and then I got my hair done. “What difference does that make?”, you may ask yourself. Well, my stylist LOVES movies and he is always going to first showings, so of course he had already seen it. His review was less than glowing, and that made me nervous.

We went to the 6:45pm showing and settled in, and I’m happy to report that there were no costume-wearers in the theater. It was good, but I wasn’t blown away. I give it 6 1/2 stars out of 10. I would be willing to give it another 1/2 star depending on how the last 2 movies turn out (yes, there will be 2 more movies even though there is only 1 more book), but that remains to be seen. Why only 6 1/2 stars? I guess because in my opinion this movie was kind of slow and was mostly about character development. In other words, it was a stepping-stone to the ending. I’m not going to assume that all of my readers have read the books, so I won’t give you any more details and spoil it for you. I would watch the movie again and will probably end up buying it to go along with the rest of the series, but I was a teensy bit disappointed.
Has anyone else seen it? What are your thoughts?

Reviews: The Duchess, Wanted, Finding Forrester, Friends, and Gossip Girl!

Okay, enough work-related drama! I’m getting sick of typing about it, so I’m sure that you are all sick of reading about it!

Today, I’m going to share some of the DVDs that we’ve watched over the last few weeks. I think that the 1st one we watched was “The Duchess”. I wanted to see this movie because I’d read some good reviews.

In my opinion, the reviews were wrong, and this movie was just plain boring. This may be because I’m not a huge Keira Knightley fan. I am a Ralph Fiennes fan (and yes, I do know how to pronounce his first name – it’s not “Ralph”, it’s “Rafe”), so I had high hopes that he would redeem the movie. But he didn’t, and we ended up stopping it halfway through. I’m sorry if you really liked this one, but I just couldn’t sit through it.
The next one that we watched was “Wanted”. This was Chris’ pick (gee, I wonder why… Angelina Jolie, perhaps?).

This movie was better than “The Duchess”. At the very least, we made it all the way through to the end. It’s still not what I’d qualify as a “great” movie, though. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen anything with Angelina Jolie, mostly because I don’t like her acting style. However, I do like James McAvoy, so that definitely helped keep me interested!
Next, we watched “Finding Forrester”, directed by Gus Van Sant (whose movies I usually like).

This is an older movie that I had seen a few years back, but Chris never had. I actually like this one. It’s the kind of movie that you can’t watch too often, but if you’re in the mood for something entertaining, intellectual, and starring Sean Connery, then this is one you should pick :-)
Finally, last night was spent watching 2 or 3 episodes of season 5 of “Friends” (the one with “Ross says the Wrong Name” and when Pheobe has the triplets. You know the ones!).

Does anyone else miss “Friends”? I do, and I wish it had gone on for at least another season!
And just in case you’re wondering, don’t expect any current reviews of “Gossip Girl” or “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on here. We don’t have cable (by choice, not neccessity) and only watch TV shows once the season has come out on DVD. I did try to watch some of season 1 of “Gossip Girl”, and while I found it mildly entertaining, it just wasn’t interesting enough to make me want to finish. If this is a show that you absolutely love, then please don’t stop reading my blog! I just kept thinking that the storyline was boring and overdone. Maybe I’m wrong about the show, and season 2 is an improvement. If so, please tell me and I’d be more than willing to give it a 2nd shot :-)
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