100_0567Tuesday, I had a nice surprise.

The Quiltin' Ladies banded together (behind my back!) to stage a surprise party for me at (where else?) Koodie Hoo's after work.
Too bad I had to go back to work that evening, or I would have eaten more cake. ;-)

I got some FABU jewelry to wear (including the tiara, which I wore back to my book discussion later that evening, to many questions and salutations)...some beautiful prezzies (a homemade quilt and homemade pillow, a quilting journal, a free pedicure, and a beautiful100_0576 card)...a tasty meal, and to top it off, Mary made me a cake.

But not just any cake...

Check out the homemade UNION JACK cake!

(Tasty and delicious, I'm happy to report!)

I was floored by the party, the cake, and my wonderful friends - thank you, QL! ;-)

Well, it's been a week since we stepped off our Carnival Cruise from the Bahamas, and I'm STILL wishing my sister Michelle and I were on vacation.

We had a fantastic time, despite some trepidation about our very first cruise aboard the Carnival Sensation!

Photos and highlights from the trip (warning: photo heavy)...

After leaving the Big C for Indy (and encountering some traffic and storm cloud along the way), we hop a flight to Orlando to begin our three day adventure!


We safely touch down in Orlando, and our luggage arrives with no problem. We await our chariot (well, coach) to Port Canaveral to board our cruise!

Our first glimpse of our ship (with the big tail), and walking across the gangplank!



We head to our interior cabin, and it's perfect for us! Just enough room for sleeping and storage our luggage - goodness knows, we didn't spend much time in our room!



We head out to explore the ship, grab some lunch, learn about our flotation devices, and watch the ship push away from the dock and head for the open sea!



The rest of the day is spent exploring, getting "tattoos", grabbing an alcoholic beverage or two, and enjoying the open sea...



It's rather windy topside. ;-)


After walking around, we hit the casino, get ready for dinner, and have a pre-dinner drink (which, as it turns out, we REALLY needed):



We have dinner with our companions for the cruise, two very nice ladies, and two, well, INTERESTING men. Three sheets to the wind and stuck on themselves. By the end of the cruise, we were okay with them, but man, that first night was TOUGH GOING...

After dinner, we head to the discotheque to dance the night away. At midnight, I was on the dance floor, gettin' my groove on when I turned 30. :-)


The next morning, we order some room service then head out to see Nassau, our port of call. We hung out topside for a bit, then went on shore to find our excursion group.


We chose to go to a "private island" (Blackbeard's Cay) to hit the beach, swim, eat and...swim with stingrays.

Our private island as we approach by "catamaran"...


Now, it should be said that I have fish fear. I know it's irrational and silly, but I do. (Damn muskies) So, for my 30th birthday, I pushed my fears aside and snorkeled with stingrays. They are huge and weird looking, and feel kinda slimy. But I feed them, I touched them, and I SURVIVED! Go me!


After our stingray adventure, we grabbed some grub, grabbed some drinks, and took in the sunshine on the beach...and went in for a dip, of course...ahhhh...




The colour of the water was just amazing. In too short a time, we had to reboard our boat and take the 30 minute cruise back to the Sensation. Sitting on the front, the wind blowing around us and Bob Marley playing...well, it doesn't get much better than that. *sigh*



After docking, we went to the Straw Market, then wandered back to the ship to shower, change and get ready for our "formal dinner"...



We eat dinner, go gambling, go dancing, and general wend away the night. The next day we decreed was going to be our "limin'" day...we nabbed a spot on the sundeck, loaded with magazine, SPF 30, sunglasses, and a very attentive waitress. We didn't take any photos of our "limin", so just picture two deck chairs with us on them. :-) We moved around throughout the day (seeking shade) before finally going inside to get ready for dinner. My sis did a great job of making my hair pretty. :-)



Our favorite "Carnival Towel Animal" - a monkey!


After a nice dinner, it was time for one last gamble, one last dance, one last walk around....we were leaving early the next morning...

Before we knew it, it was time to go through customs, disembark, catch a coach and go back to the airport. We got our flight, and wearily made our way back to the Big C to catch our breath, look at pictures, and go to bed early.

It was an AMAZING three days, and we had such a good time. What a memorable birthday, and what a way to ring in a new decade! A million thanks to my big sis for putting up with me, going along with me, and helping me have such a blast (even if she did get more tan than me)! *hugs*


(The ENTIRE photo set is here - I couldn't fit them all on the blog!)

How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life by Kaavya Viswanathan

I actually checked out this book before all the controversy erupted around it. Now, the title has been pulled from production, with no plans for reissue, and Viswanathan's second novel will not be published either.

Bearing in mind I have not read any of McCafferty's titles, I thought this title was cute, but to me, would have been much better marketed to a YA audience, rather than an adult audience. It read and sounded like a YA novel with lots of pop culture references - much better suited to today's teens rather than today's baby boomers or retirees.

What Viswanathan did was clearly wrong, but I think it's time for the storm to pass. If we all were blasted on CNN for the mistakes we made when we were 19, none of us would have made it to 20.

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

I have been a fan of Weiner's since her first novel debuted, Good in Bed. This time, Weiner takes on the mystery genre while still staying true to her "chick lit" roots.

Kate Klein is a mother of three, stay at home mom in the 'burbs, where all the other mothers are perfect, with perfect children. Her world is turned upside down when one of the other mothers is murdered in her kitchen. What follows is Kate's race to solve the mystery, and to try and repair the cracks that begin to appear in her marriage.

Weiner's prose is snappy and funny, and the plot cruises along with lots of twists and turns along the way. I love all of Weiner's works - if you haven't read her, do so!


Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

This short work of nonfiction has been read by most people in the western hemisphere, but not me. I grabbed the audiobook, knowing I was going to be in the car quite a bit over the last few weeks.

Albom's work discusses his connection to a former college professor, Morrie Schwartz, as Schwartz is battling (and losing) ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Albom and Morrie discuss life, love, work, and everything in between as they connect in the last few months of Morrie's life. Morrie's words are insightful and thought-provoking, and Albom a willing recorder of those thoughts.

A touching, warm story about a remarkable professor and his student.

Note: I listened to the audio edition, narrated by Albom himself. Albom's narration is incredibly fast, but well done. As a bonus, you can hear Morrie himself speaking on the last disc.

Sex, Lies and Vampires by Katie MacAlister

This was another "cruise" title, and it also fit the bill perfectly! I love all of MacAlister's "vampire" books, and this was another classic!

Nell is a Charmer, reformed. Adrian is a vampire, very bad. What happens when these two get together? SPARKS! This is a sexy, suspenseful book full of funny moments, great characters, and rawr....sexy vampire. ;-)

I've read most of MacAlister's books, but I have to say, the vampire ones are my favorite. Highly recommended!

Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie

I made it a point only to take fun, fluffy, chick lit authors on my cruise with me, and of course, Jennifer Crusie is at the top of that list!

This title (written several years ago) features all the Crusie greatest hits - a dangerous boy, a dog, a transformation, and a sexy romance. What more could a girl ask for??

This is another fun, flirty, fast title from Crusie, and I enjoyed every page. If you haven't read Crusie...well, why the hell not?? :-)

Long Time Coming by Sandra Brown

If you are looking for cheesy, girly, no-chance-in-hell romance, Sandra Brown usually has your number.

This title, written in 1988 and recently released, features Marnie Hibbs and her son David, and what happens to their lives when an unexpected man walks back in - astronaut Law Kincaid. (Remember, this is 1988, only 2 years after the Challenger explosion) Though not one of Brown's strongest works, I still enjoyed the escapist novel for a while.

Note: I listened to the audio version, narrated by Susan Denaker. Her voice is very good, though I did find myself mocking some of her southern tones and the way she said some names - but in a good way.


Starting tomorrow, I'm going on vacation - not due to think about budgets, plans, meetings, architects or anything relating to work for the next few days.

Nothing but boats, beaches, books and bummin' around.

My sister and I are taking a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate our birthdays...

I turn 30 on Friday.

A cruise to a beautiful tropical island seems a good way to ring in a new decade, no?

I plan to take lots of photos to bore you all with when I return, but until then...be safe and well.


Happy Mum's Day, Mum.

Lots of love from Clacton Beach,



CIMG1843What to do when the skies finally clear, but it's cool and crisp outside?

Have the three B's, of course.

Bonfire, beer and brats.

Becca and Kevin had a mini-bonfire over at their place last night, complete with weenies roasting on sticks and marshmallows to make cookie sandwiches.

(Note to self: must work on my hot dog roasting technique)

Thanks, guys!

This video on the evolution of dance is bloody brilliant!

Sorrow's Anthem by Michael Koryta

This is the second installment in Koryta's Lincoln Perry series, and it's just as impressive as his debut, Tonight I Said Goodbye (which was written when the author was 20 years old!)

This time, PI Perry takes on corruption, fire, mistaken identities and a lot more in a Cleveland neighborhood as he races to solve the murder of his former best friend. Koryta's writing is sharp, the plot twisty, and the characters well fleshed out. I enjoyed this mystery novel immensely.


CIMG1823Last night, I had the pleasure of eating dinner with a New York Times bestselling author.

Robert Hicks, author of Widow of the South, came to APL last night for our APL Friends Annual Dinner and Meeting.

Becca and I sat with Robert and his friends, and then he gave a wonderful talk about his book, his work to save the Carnton plantation in Franklin, the Civil War, and autographed copies of his book after the talk.
Everyone who attended the dinner and the talk commented on what a lovely night it was, and what a wonderful speaker Mr. Hicks was.

What a great night for APL!

My friend Carrie had her baby!

Welcome to the world, Isabel Ruth (aka Lizzie)!

(Clearly, Auntie Marissa is her favorite)


I made Carrie a really cute baby quilt - I'm so glad she liked it!

In other news, while my parents were down, I took a day off to see my godparents, who I only see on occasion and are just lovely people.

See, I don't visit with them much, because they live in an RV.

Anyhoo, there was an RV rally, so they came to Indiana for it - in Boonville.

Yes, Boonville, IN was home to an RV rally last weekend.



We headed over to Boonville (and hit the quilt store, bien sur!), and then went to Scales Lake, a really nice park and RV camp. We socialized, we pet wild donkeys, we ate, we built a fire, I stuffed a tumbleweed in the trunk of my car (it's for Relay for Life, I swear!), and we just had a really nice day outside.

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So last weekend, my folks came down for an extended visit - loaded with food and beverages, of course. ;-)

They came down to attend the TinyTown Relay for Life Survivor luncheon, which is a really nice event we put on for all the survivors in town.

There was a catered lunch, cake, dancing (I know!), and then a little speech by yours truly. I talked about how amazing TinyTown's committment to Relay is, my part in it, and how proud I am to have my parents drive so many hours to be a part of it. They even got a round of applause. It was pretty cool.

(And no, the orange shirt wasn't my choice - East HS, represent! - it's our committee shirt for the day of Relay)

Anyway, all this talk about Relay brings me to some news...

Mum is going back into chemo.

One of her numbers came back elevated, so she's going to be starting chemo the day after Relay for Life. It's going to be three sessions at three week intervals, and everyone is optimistic and in good spirits. We thought it was the best course of action, considering her history.

Anyway, we appreciate all the positive thoughts, as well as all the donations to my Relay for Life effort.

It means so much to me. Thank you.

Gentle readers, I feel so guilty for neglecting my blog! It's been a wacky few weeks, and if it weren't for the pictures, it would all be a blur. I've had family visits, work stuff, vacation preparations and entirely too little sleep.

But let's see if I can play catch up with lots of mini-entries...

First off, the work stuff...

CIMG1784For the first time in my tenure at APL, I got to be a part of our annual "Battle of the Books", a really cool program where select fifth graders from area schools read certain books, and then are asked questions about it. Omigod, so much fun! It was a really competitive night, and I even got to be the emcee!

(That's me, getting my emcee on!)

It was a really cool night, and I was glad to be a part of it!

A couple of days later, I got to do something they never told me about in library science school...

I got to demolish a building.

(Okay, not me personally, but you know what I mean)

We bought property across the street from the library last year, and it was an icky, falling down old building, so it was time to do the job properly.

It was much fun cheering and clapping early on a Friday morning as the roof caved in, walls fell down, and the bulldozer plowed over all the rubble. It rocked.


All the other fun demolition photos are right here. Sweet.

M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts

This is a super cute YA novel about mistaken identities, IM conversations, and trying to find that first love in high school.

Frannie and Marcus are best friends, but not dating (as everyone thinks) because Marcus is gay. Frannie gets a crush, Marcus helps her IM her crush, Marcus falls for the crush, Frannie freaks about the crush, the crush has a best friend...

You get the idea. ;-)

This is a fresh and funny novel with two great lead characters, and is well written from the male and female point of view by two authors. Cute!

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

As you can tell from my reading lists, I'm a huge devotee of Picoult, whose writing is amazing, her stories arresting, and her "twists" at the end of novels are famous.

In this latest entry, Picoult mixes graphic novel with literature, telling the story of a teenage girl who is raped at a party, and the fallout that occurs within her family. Picoult merges Alaskan culture, infidelity, rape, death, comic books and Dante. This is a compelling, fast reading, well written novel.

If you haven't read Picoult, do so. You won't be disappointed. Highly recommended!

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This autobiography by famed writer Didion is well written, sad, jealousy-inspiring and thought provoking.

Didion chronicles the year after she loses her husband John Gregory Dunne to a massive heart attack, while also dealing with her daughter's months spent in a hospital battling septic shock and various bugs. She goes through all the steps of grieving, but writes in such a way that you take the very personal journey with her, and become invested in her family and her life.

This fairly short, quick volume has been on and often the NYT bestseller lists since publication last year. Recommended!

Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

What a fun collaboration! Crusie is a chick lit author, and Mayer is a suspense writer specializing in novels about special ops, Green Berets and the military...when these two get together, it's a wild ride!

Part chick lit romance and part suspenseful military op, these book is packed with fun characters, good action scenes, snappy dialogue, dry wit and a hungry alligator. ;-)

I tore through this book, and loved every bit of it! I'm hoping for another CrusieMayer collaboration soon!

Highly recommended!

(Bonus: the authors have a shared website to promote the book - www.crusiemayer.com. I laughed pretty hard at the Q&A and the "How It Happened" section....)