25 FebMt. Rainier

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One of the biggest joys about living in Washington State are all the great mountains we have here. Real mountains, with snow and everything. Not dirt hills that are a little bit higher in elevation then the road.

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My favorite mountain by far is Mount Rainier; this may be a biased opinion because I was born and raised in Puyallup, WA and this is the mountain I woke up to each and every morning.

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Sunday morning-ish, Kevin and I decided to go hiking on this mountain. We checked the weather reports and the snow levels and found we could drive all the way up to Paradise which is at about 5400 feet of elevation, so not even halfway up the mountain. But it was covered in quite a few feet of snow though the roads were clear so the drive was easy and didn’t require chains.

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We took Brian, Andrada, Trenton, and David with us. The wind was extremely chilly when we first go out of the car, but after bundling up it wasn’t so bad. Also, once we got on the trails the wind died down even more making it a bit warmer.

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We walked around and played in the snow for bit, but none of us were really dressed for it. Trenton found a great hill to slid down. It was pretty fun for them for a few minutes, too bad we didn’t have any sleds or anything, but they seemed to do fine without them.

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After hiking around for about an hour, we headed back down to the river where it was sunny. I packed everyone up some lunch, so we all ate our lunches by the river. It was quite a difference from Paradise. There was no snow and the sun was blinding.

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We walked along the river. Trenton and Kevin made a bridge out of logs to forge the river and explore the other side. Kevin, my adventurous one, pole vaulted back across the river, but he wisely made Trenton and David cross back over the bridge.

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All and all it was a fun day up at the mountain in gorgeous weather. In the next few weeks, we are hoping to go up there for a weekend and camp overnight. Of course that means buying new gear. I have no snow pants and no snow jacket, so I’ll have to get both of those things. Thankfully, we got a few gift certs. for Christmas that need to be used.

24 FebFuture Chef

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On Saturday, I made plans to kidnap my eldest niece for a few hours. I helped her set up a blog, like mine, and then we cooked dinner together. Okay, seriously, she didn’t need any help I was just making myself sound better.

Halie came into my life almost twelve years ago, give or take a few months. I was a whopping 21 years old then and I was excited to be an aunt. Halie was always a sweet little girl and she was fun to be around. When I moved to Vegas in 2001, Halie and I would write back and forth to each other a few times a months. I always loved getting letters from her over the years. Watching her handwriting improve, her letters got longer, and her pictures were fun too. In fact, I still have some letters she wrote to me.

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Time has gone by and its easy getting caught up in life and forgetting what is most important, family. Now, I have 5 nieces and nephews (2 nephews, 3 nieces, and soon a fourth niece when I actually get married). It gets hard to try to have a relationship with all of them, but thankfully I do.

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The past two years have been difficult because my brother and Halie’s mom got divorced, which makes it harder for me to see Halie. I have taken her out to lunch for her birthday, but that is only once a year and I really need more time with her. She is growing up so fast and I love discovering the women she is quickly becoming.

A few weeks ago, Halie asked me how to set up a blog like mine. I thought to myself, ‘what a perfect reason to get together with her’. So I made a date. Halie wants to be a chef so I added on a dinner making date to plan, so she could show off her skills.

I picked her up a little after 2pm on Saturday and headed up to my mom’s house (grandma wants to see Halie too). She looked through her Julia Child cookbook and found a recipe she wanted to try. Then, we made a shopping list and headed out to Safeway. It was a good way to have some one-on-one time with her.

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We came back to my parent’s house and Halie started the cooking process. I’m impressed with her skills and though some might say cooking from a book is easy, I think it still takes some skill and timing to get things right.

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She made us some Chicken in a Cream and Onion sauce. Mom cooked the broccoli and Kevin made the salad. Then, Halie also made deviled food cake for dessert. It was delicious, she did a great job.

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After dinner, I helped Halie set up her blog (which I added to my blog roll if you want to read it). I gave her the basic rundown and she did the rest, she is smart like that. Then, she hung out with her future cousin, Trenton, and his friend David. They were drawing pictures and then taking pictures of those to make movies or something.

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Sadly, I had to return her home. I think she was a having a really good time with everyone, and it was so good to see her again. I think next time we will have a girls night. Just Halie, myself, my mom, and maybe Halie’s BFF. It will be fun and we can cook again, watch some movies and just hang out…slumber party!!!  I hope to start spending some more time with Halie because I love being around her.        

12 FebBook Review, “On Writing”

 

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I love to read fiction books. I love getting into the story, getting to know the characters, getting all involved in the drama, and feeling good when the story comes to a good conclusion. I have pipe dreams of writing many good mystery novels and giving this kind of joyous excitement to others.

I strongly dislike non-fiction books. I find that I read the parts I want to and then put the book aside. I have a hard time reading a non-fiction book from cover to cover, even upbeat memoirs are difficult for me. I can honestly say I have never made it all the way through a non-fiction book before (not even textbooks).

All this changed when two weeks ago (or so) Kevin bought me a book called “On Writing” by Stephen King. This is not Mr. King’s normal fiction novel, this one is non-fiction and gives tips and techniques for writing a novel.

I was intrigued when I got the book. I had been curious about it for sometime, but never brave enough to conquer a non-fiction book. I also have never read a Stephen King book before; seen some of the movies, but never read the books. I had no idea what to expect out of this book.

Since I am currently working on my second novel, Kevin thought this book might be helpful in my endeavors. Plus, he heard through the grapevine that it was a good read.

From the first page, I was hooked. Stephen King is a brilliant story teller. He had me laughing really hard at some points.

The first part of the book is a brief memoir of his life growing up. He tells different stories about when he first started writing, rejection letters, and trouble he got in at school for selling “inappropriate” stories to the kids. Eventually, he even tells how he came up with some of his story ideas. For instance, he thought of “Carrie” while cleaning the girl’s bathroom at a school. He came up with “Misery” after having a dream similar to the plot line.

The second part of the book, is the more technical portion of the book. This is where he talks about the writing. This part can be a bit mundane if you have no interest in writing a book or learning how the process actually goes…but for those that are writing novels, this is great stuff. He has a lot of good pointers and techniques that I will put into practice. Things I never even thought about. For instance, he says after you write the first draft, put it away for at least six weeks before even reading it through. This way you are more detached from it and are able to really tear it about and rewrite it.

Of course, everything he talks about are the techniques he uses and don’t have to be followed exactly. everyone has and will develop their own style for writing. But since this book comes from a multi-millionaire author, I stood up a little straighter and paid a bit more attention.

The final part of the book, talks about Stephen King’s accident in 1999. He was hit by a car while walking down the street. Again, I was blown away by this man’s ability to story tell. Yes, I know he is a popular author, I know he has some good books, and I know his movies are creepy, but he is a born storyteller…enough said. He retells his story as if I was standing on the sidelines watching. I laughed and cried a bit, this part was brilliant.

I was a little sad when I came to the end of the book. I had sucked up a ton of knowledge and I wanted more. I do feel I am a little more prepared for the writing biz, and I need to work on my craft a little more. This book has given me a better perspective on myself and my writing and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good read, but mostly to those that are dreaming of writing some good fiction novels.

Five Things I Learned from this Book:

1) Rejection letters are the building blocks of your craft. Editors will often give you little tips on why your work was rejected and that is what you build on.

2) Ideas for books will come to you at the strangest moments, when two completely different ideas come together to form one.

3) Get through the first draft before you decide if your work is crap or not. Once the first draft is written you can always come back to it later. King almost didn’t complete “The Stand” because he thought it was crap half-way through.

4) Don’t worry about the plot, put “a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free.” The plot will naturally work itself out.

5) Aim to write 10 pages everyday. Your first draft doesn’t have to make sense, just get it all out on paper and revise it later.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon: On Writing

27 JanWhat I Eat

 

Everyone wants to lose weight, right? With the New Year up and running, weight lose is huge right now. I’m one of those people who would love to lose 15-20 pounds of fat and tone up my muscles. One big problem I’ve encountered is that 1) I’m lazy and 2) I like to eat.

Over the past summer, I kept a chart of everything I ate during the day and how many calories were in each item. I was shocked when I discovered that I was in the 1500-1800 calorie mark, well not that shocked, but still I knew I had to get my calorie count down if I wanted to lose any weight.

I tried a lot of different things during the course of the past six months. I tried just cutting down what I ate for all three meals, while still having 3 meals. I read website after website trying to figure out the perfect meal plans, but I always struggled with one thing…I was starving all the time!!! No matter how many “little” snacks I added into my day, it was never enough and a few hours later I was starving. Being hungry all the time is not good at all for your metabolism, it actually slows it down, so that needed to stop.

I think it took me until December to figure out a meal plan that actually worked for me. I would eat breakfast and stay full until lunch, eat lunch and stay full until dinnertime, eat dinner and wake up ready to eat, but not starving. It was the best feeling in the world. Not only did I figure things out, but I cut my calories down to right around 1000 calories a day.

How did I do it, I found the right match of foods for me. Everyone is different and every body is different, but this seemed to work for me.

For breakfast, I make a bowl of Malt-O-Meal (I can’t stand oatmeal, but it would actually be better for me.) One serving is 170 calories.

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I also like to start the day with coffee, but Starbucks will go straight to your thighs no matter how good it tastes. So, I go with International Cafe, French Vanilla…and they have a low-fat variety so it is only 70 calories per cup.  Breakfast=240 calories

 

For Lunch: I go with soup with heavy broth. I found two kinds of soup I like and I rotate everyday. They are Progresso’s Light soups.

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If you are doing the Weight Watcher’s plan, the veggie soup is 0 points and the Italian Style Meatball is 1 point, so that is a plus. They are both under 100 calories for half the can (I like to eat the whole can, but still keeps me under 200 calories for lunch). Since both of them are made with vegetable broth and have lots of veggies in them, I get a good chunk of my daily vegetables right there.

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Kevin has introduced my taste buds to all things spicy, which I did not grow up loving. One of the best things we have found is Evergood Hot Link Sausage. This stuff is good, but I warn you, it has a kick. At first, it was too spicy for me, but now I put it in almost everything, including my lunchtime soup. I take one sausage cut it up and mix it into my soup. It gives me soup a nice spicy kick. One spicy sausage is 160 calories. Lunch=320 calories

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Dinner has been getting tricky lately. The trick is to keep it healthy. Lately, I have enjoyed a baked potato with some spicy sausage, cheese, and sour cream…which is loaded with calories, but still keeps me under the 1000 mark, which is my goal. Potato: 110, half a spicy sausage: 80, cheese: 110, light sour cream: 70. Sometimes I add a cup of skim milk for the bones: 90 calories. Dinner=460

Total calories for the day=1020 (so that puts me slightly over 1000 with the milk).

That was my typical meal plan for the past few months. However, with Christmas and the holidays there was more eating and more going out to eat. My goal this next month is to eat out less, maybe only once a month and to work out more, to burn those extra calories.

My dinners have changed as well. I try to mix up dinners now, but keep it pretty healthy. I’m the kind of person who can eat the same thing everyday and not get tired of it, but some days it helps to mix up dinners and make something different everyday.

Just by changing my eating patterns and my calorie intake, I have lost and managed to keep off 5-6 lbs. over the past few months. Hopefully, now by adding in a regular workout and weight lifting I can get down to my goal weight…but more on that later.

21 JanChanging up the Outlets

Keeping up with the changes made around the house, it was also time to update the outlets in the house. This means changing the off-white color switches and outlets and face plates to white. Here are the old ones:

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Kevin started in the kitchen many months ago, but failed to finish. I was quickly painting up a storm and as I finished I figured it was time change the outlets as well. I didn’t want to just change the face plates while keeping the off-white light switches and outlets; it just looked strange. I figured it was time to quickly learn how to switch out the outlets myself; otherwise, I might be waiting a long time.

I’m just a girl and I don’t know much about electrician or wiring work, but I’m pretty smart and figured I could figure it out on my own. The first thing I did was got to youtube and watched a few videos. I looked easy enough, I just had to put the wires in the same spot.

The first thing I did was go downstairs and try to decipher the fuse box so I could cut the power, knowing if I didn’t I would shock myself.

Here are the steps to changing an outlet:

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So first, you have to unscrew the outlet from the wall and pull it out to disconnect the wires.

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The easiest way for me to do that was to simply break the outlet, meaning I stuck a screwdriver in the little dips and broke pieces off and pulled the wires out.

Next, I used a small set of pliers and curved the end of the wires a bit to fit around the screws. On an outlet, there are four wires to connect and then a grounding wire on the bottom of the outlet. It was a pain at times to wrap the wires around the screws, but I powered through it and hook everything back up.

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The hardest parts are over. Now it is simply pushing the wires back into the wall, screwing the new outlet in place, and replacing the faceplate.

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I changed about 20 outlets and light switches out. It was a long process, some taking longer than others, but I completed it. The light switches are a lot easier to switch out because they only have two wires, unless you are changing a two-way light (a light that can be switched on and off from two different places).

Through it all, I only hurt myself one time. A small slice with the screwdriver, for changing so many outlets and being…well, me, one cut is like a Christmas miracle.

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So again, if I can do it anyone can do. Why wait for your man to finish things up when you can just do it yourself? That is my new motto, but there are so many things I need to learn how to do first before I throw the man out the window…and I really like him.

20 JanGetting icky with it

I do a lot of work around here to keep the house looking good and ‘earn my keep’ as I like to call it. I have to admit its not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes I really have to get my hands dirty and hold back my vomit.

Two of the last clean-up jobs I did required a strong stomach and a lot of holding my breath.

Almost a year ago, Kevin and I decided to go with some granite tile for the counter tops as a new updated look to the house. Kevin, who I really love with all my heart, likes to start things, but isn’t always the best at finishing things…but I still love him. He got as far as cutting out most of the tile and setting it out on the counter, but he didn’t glue it down or add the grout. I have to say it did look pretty good:

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However, I noticed over the last few weeks that water was leaking in between the cracks and when I accidently moved a tile, I got a whiff of the most disgusting, make me gag smell, ever. It bothered me so much that one day I manned up and decided I needed to just remove the tiles until we were ready to commit to gluing and grouting. Of course, this meant I would have to bare with  the smell and scrub the counter tops down.

Here are some pictures of the wonders I found beneath the tiles:

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Pretty disgusting right?

Well, now the counter tops are granite tile-less and clean. Maybe someday we will finish that project.

Another one of my gross projects was quite by accident. While I was preparing to paint Kevin’s side of the bathroom, I had to pull down a light from the ceiling.

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and when I did, I tried not to scream. I was standing on a chair directly under this light mind you…

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Okay, so the build up was better than the result, but it was pretty gross. I used a vacuum and sucked all the dead bugs out.

So, while projects are fun and make me feel like I’m doing some good around the house, sometimes I have to do some pretty nasty things. But, if I don’t do them, who will

19 JanPaint Prep

 

The hardest part about painting is the setup and preparation. During my last few weeks of painting, I found that the actual painting took about 30-40 minutes, while the set up took an hour or more.

Each painting job requires different things and the more you paint the more you will realize what things you personally like to work with. For instance, I typically only use 2” paint brushes, anything bigger than that is too big for my hand and anything smaller is useless. I also recently discovered the smaller 4” rollers and fell in love with it. It works great for trim or small sections of the wall where the large roller doesn’t fit.

In our garage, we have a large bucket full of paint stuff.

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Pretty much everything I need for painting is in the bucket. The first thing I do is select my tools.

Paint tray and disposable plastic tray insert, 2” paint brush, one for each color of paint, blue tape, plastic to throw over the floor, my two rollers, and my paint can opener.

041_QVga I got this at Home Depot with one of my paint kits, I love it. I makes opening paint cans and breeze and it doubles as a bottle opener for those who need beer while painting, I guess.

Next, I like to designate a section of the house I call “the painting room”. I know, not very original but everyone knows what I’m talking about when I use it as a direction..’near the painting room’ ‘it’s in the painting room’ ‘on the table next to the painting room’; you get the point.

Anyway, I set up the painting room for cabinets, doors, or anything that comes off the wall and needs to be painted. I start with a table, throw on an old comforter over that, and then gather cardboard boxes and set them out as well.

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Then, I set all my supplies out on the table; easier for storage at the end of the night and easy to grab things while I’m working.

016_QVgaHere I have two paint trays because I was using two different colors; white and tan.

One great money saving tip, is to use old soup cans or old cups as small paint holders. When its time to do edging or corners or those areas that require a small paint brush, it helps to have a small container to hold the paint instead of carrying around the large can or painting tray. No need to buy small paint holders when you can just use a soup can. I clean mine out really good and then I can simply carry that around and get all the areas that require a paintbrush.

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The next part of prepping involves taping and laying down the plastic. This is the part that takes forever, or so it seems. I have tried painting many times without the tape and have made a huge mess which requires more painting or replacing baseboards and trim. Of course, you could very easily remove the trim to start with, but that is a preference thing.

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Once all the prep work is finally done the painting can start. Of course, by this time half the day is gone and its about time to start cleaning up. To avoid this, I typically try to prep the day before or set goals as to how much I want to get done.

If your project is not finished, plastic wrap is great for keeping your paint from drying out. Simply put the lids back on your cans of paint and then wrap your paint brushes in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out overnight. I also put plastic wrap on my small soup cans and over the paint trays. This way, I don’t have to rinse everything out just to dirty it the next day.

When, you are completely done with your project, then you will want to rinse out all your paint supplies. I throw away the plastic drop covers and the plastic paint liners and usually I throw out paint brushes too, but that is just because I’m too lazy to clean them.

Of course, the big question is what to do with all the left over paint or empty paint cans. I did a lot of research, in my area at least. Empty paint cans can be thrown in the garbage. They can only have 1/4 of paint in them and the paint must be dried out. Then, you can throw the cans in the trash with the lids off so the garbage collectors know they are empty cans. If you leave the lid on or put the lid back on, the cans will not get picked up. I take my cans outside with the lids off and let them dry out for a few days before throwing them in the trash.

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Those are my tips and tricks for paint prepping. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I’m not an expert at all, I just enjoy making my house look and feel better.

18 JanBehr Shout-out

 

I may have mentioned once or twice about my painting spree. I do have to give a shout-out to Behr paint, the paint I used to paint my walls.

Behr paint is thick, so that I only had to use one coat in the bathroom and it went on smooth and easy with no lines. On the textured walls, I had to do two coats, but there is no skill or magic to applying the paint. With some paints, you have to choose a direction (up and down or side to side) and stick to it or you will get unsightly lines. With Behr, I could haphazardly apply it and the final result still looked fabulous.

I used their basic Ultra white paint for the cabinets and doorways.

047_QVga We went from this ‘smoker yellow’ color to this brilliant white color!

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This was done using Behr’s Ultra Pure White, in Satin sheen, its hard to see because I’m really messy.

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For the walls I used a color called Indulgent Mocha, and the name alone is enough to make you want to use the color. It is a really light brown, almost a mix between tan and taupe. It was perfect for what I wanted, something to go with the white trim and help brighten up the hallway, not darken it.

We went from this:

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To this, its a little hard to tell with camera light, but there is a difference though it may be subtle.

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This time we were given semi-gloss sheen because initially this paint was intended for the bathroom. I just happened to have enough left over to do the hallway.

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All in all, I’m very impressed with Behr paint. I have used it all over the house and have not been disappointed yet. This paint goes on so well, we end up having lots left over and still have some colors out in the garage. Great paint and a great price.

17 JanThe Painting Never Ends

 

What started as a simple painting project, the guest bathroom, turned into almost three weeks worth of projects. In a previous blog, I wrote about painting the guest bathroom which led to the painting the doors in the hallway, which led to painting the cabinets in the master bathroom, which led to painting the master bathroom, which led to painting the hallway, which led to not wanting to paint again for a long time.

Not only did I paint, but I switched out all the outlet from off-white to white. I was in full project mode last week and the house looks great now.

Here are some pictures of my projects:

 001_QVga  It’s always hard to tell colors from pictures, but here I painted the ceiling which was a strange yellowish shade and is now white.

003_QVga  Same thing with the walls, this is Kevin’s side of the bathroom. The walls were a pinkish shade and I painted them a light tan-ish shade.

 009_QVga I painted the cabinets in our bathroom, but went back and decided the baseboards needed to be painted too.

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Here are the walls, this one is the hallway, but the bathroom walls were the same pinkish shade

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Before I could paint inside the actually bathroom area, where the shower and toilet is. I had to clean mold and mildew off the ceiling and then apply Killz. Here is my outfit and how I protected my face and eyes. I couldn’t find any goggles so I had to use my shooting goggles and I didn’t have a mask so I used a do-rag. It was hard to breath and my goggles kept fogging up, but it was entertaining none-the-less.

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I love projects, but I think it is time for a break.

16 JanBook Obsession

 

Every since I was a kid I loved to read. When I was in grade school, I would spend many afternoons and weekends holed up in my room with some good books. Back then it seemed I could read one or two books in one weekend. Of course, the books I read back then were much simpler to read, with shorter chapters and fewer pages. Books like The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High and even, Nancy Drew were among my favorites.

These days, the books I read are longer and more in depth, in a way. I still love to read, but instead of going through a book or two on the weekends; it takes me about a month to read one book. I usually only read at night before bed. Some nights that means one or two chapters and other nights it may mean half a book.

007_QVga My nightstand with the current read.

Even though I don’t read as fast as I used too, I am constantly buying new books. These usually means I have a stack of books to read that never goes down because I’m always adding to it. Last night, I told Kevin he needs to cut me off from buying books until I go through the ones in my nightstand bookcase; all the books I have yet to read.

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I keep most of the books I haven’t read by the bed, so I have some choices when I finish up a book. Once, the book has been read I move it downstairs to the big bookshelf in case I want to read it later.

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These days, I’m reading the Twilight series. I had read the first two books and half of the third book before I got bored and needed to read some good mysteries. I like variety and I like to mix things up a bit; I have a hard time reading straight through any series without a break because I get bored. Now, I’m back to reading Eclipse, this time all the way through and I will read the final book as well, before going back to a mystery book or maybe a James Patterson book.

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All I know is that I love to read and I love having options on books to read. My goal is to read all the books next to my bed and then some downstairs that I haven’t read yet; all this before I go out and buy some new books. I’m going to have to read fast though, because some of my favorite authors have new books out and I’m going to want to buy them as soon as they come to paperback.