Yes, It's A Review

This weekend I am heading to the Bay Area for (hopefully) Snack-a-palooza TAKE II. (You can see Snackapalooza I here) I am very excited. More to come on that later. Happy Memorial Day to all!

But now, I give you...a book review.

Tarantula Woman by Donald O'Donovan

This is a story about an American man living in Juarez, Mexico. He has a job translating and writing letters in English for his clients in Juarez, who are mainly whores. Aside from them being his clients, he is also frequently theirs.

It seems the author does have a personal experience with Juarez, or at least Mexico. He details the city and the characters well. However, other than that, he does not really seem to have a very intriguing story line. The book goes on and on about the main characters exploits with different whores. Other than that, the main character never seems to have any money, but always seems to have plenty of drink and women.

I did find it fascinating to imagine this life that I have no idea about, this life in Juarez, one of the more dangerous cities, and it’s seduction to Americans who can easily go over the border and enjoy what it has to offer. The author makes Juarez seem like a fun and exciting place to be, whereas I always pictured it as a mixture of gangs, violence and drugs.

I was also interested when he spoke a little about the Mexicans trying to marry an American in order to get a green card. In one passage a girl he liked at the time wanted to marry him but he wasn’t ready so she tried to sneak over the border through a culvert. It rained really hard and she and several others got washed from the culvert and caught by the authorities. Again, the struggle intrigues me. I like to be able to feel what others feel and by reading this section of the book, I had an idea of how hard it must be.

I think this author is trying too hard to be a modern day Hemingway. Just like Hemingway, the focus of the book is on booze and women. The only thing he is missing is fishing or bullfighting or some other manly sport. However, as fun as booze and women can seem, I think it is missing an actual story.  You can’t have an entire plot based on getting drunk and getting laid.

In conclusion, I would have to give this book 2 out of 5 stars. Although the characters had the potential to be very interesting and several of the scenes were eye-opening to me, it did not have a very developed story line.

Note: I received this book free from LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  



xerostomia 1: abnormal dryness of the mouth resulting from decreased secretion of saliva [syn: {dry mouth}](source)

Okay, I know you are wondering why the weird word? Well, I started the A-Z blogfest and was supposed to be done by April 30, but I didn't do it in time, but I am determined to finish anyway! So...I needed an X word, so I looked it up. What I found was that most X words have to do with medicinal terms or scientific terms.  And they are pretty weird. For example, the above, also linked in family with anything else starting in xero- means "dry". Basically. But that is not what I am writing about today. Today, I am going to talk about....WORK. If you looked at my pictures I put up earlier (HERE) you will already know that my work days have not been DRY.

There is always work to do, even when you don’t have a job. If you are me, you not only have family and friends who need help with things, but you also keep an overly full to-do list of things that you probably won’t get to in years, but always have on your list anyway. And you make work for yourself by adding to this list daily. Organize photos. Clean out storage area. Put all old VCR tapes on DVD. Bake cookies. Eat cookies. Bake more cookies. The list goes on. And usually these things, even if you do them once, still need to be done again by the time you get back around to completing things on the list. So you just leave them on the list all the time.

I have about a million things on my list. As I mentioned before, I wanted to have a little fun before starting on my chores. After visiting with some friends and going fishing with my brother, I had a really great time at the Giants game with my old buddy Jack, who I used to work with in San Francisco. 

Jack and I at ATT Park. Go Giants!

Then my grandma and I drove to my parent’s house, which is about a 4 hour drive (for me – I think it took her about 6). Of course we had to stop at the Roach Coach and get a “real” (read: California. The one with the cheese and sour cream) burrito on the way. 

Gma + Roach Coach

Man, I really missed these!!!
Then we had a wee small birthday party for moi, where I received gifts wrapped in duct tape (classy!) and got to visit with my oldest friend and her son. We've been friends since we were born, basically. 

The gang's all here! (birthday fun)

Starting him off early

After that, real life took hold again and the work began.

Since then, I have been scraping, priming, caulking and painting. I have used every kind of power tool in the 5 tool set. I helped replace windows. I used a rope to climb up on a roof in order to scrape paint from the fascia. I taped so many squares of newspaper over so many window panes. It’s been a busy week. A very busy week. 

work clothes
primed and ready

What I have realized is this: Carpenters are my heroes. It is hard work! Plumbers are even more heroic. I mean, who wants to dig around under someone’s house looking for a leak in a pipe? Or fix things having to do with sewage? Yuck. Don’t even get me started.  Even painting, at least the scraping part, is a pain in the butt. Inhaling paint chips all day is not fun. So, hats off to all those laborers out there.

The second thing I learned? I am out of shape! Just scrubbing a wire brush back and forth has made my back sore. Standing on a ladder looking up has made my legs and my neck sore. Bending over to scrape has made my knees sore. It’s not like a kick butt boot camp sore, just a little bit every day, but still…wow, I am out of shape.

So. After I finish this round of home repair stuff, I need to find myself a carpenter boyfriend and start running again.

Just kidding! I already have a carpenter boyfriend. Now, about that running thing…



I just took these photos -- literally 5 minutes ago. Snow. In May. Can you believe it? And yes, I am back in California. In the snow. In May.

I took this one earlier today.

I noticed the weather in New Orleans was about 90 degrees today. How is the weather in YOUR neck of the woods?


Very Glad to Meet You

Being back home is so great. While traveling, you kind of can't wait to be back home, while at the same time, you really, really don't want your travels to end. So I usually don't go straight back home. I go and visit with friends and family before heading home to start working, errands and chores a few days later. Then I go home and the work starts. My mom says I have a whole (huge) BOX full of mail to open. Ug. I also have a To Do list about a mile long. So I put that off for a few days.

Little A
I got home on Mother's Day. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend time with my own Mom, but I got to have brunch with one of my best friends, KJ, my Other Mother, C (KJ's Mom), and my other "cousins" and friends, as well little A, who I haven't seen in about 5 months. She is getting so big!  She is KJ's daughter and it was great to spend mother's day with three generations of my favorite ladies.

KJ, Bro and A on Shattuck Ave
Next, I had a great time with KJ and my brother. We went to Berkeley for a food extravaganza. Unfortunately, The Cheese Board Pizza shop was closed, but we went instead to the Imperial Tea Court on Shattuck Ave, which has great pulled noodles and a fun dim sum sampler. As well as an amazing selection of great tea, served in the traditional cup with the lid. My pulled noodles were actually not as good as the last time I was there, but hanging out with KJ, A and Bro was fun no matter what.

After that, my Bro and his lady and I spent the day out on the coast near Jenner, attempting to catch some fish. Unfortunately, we didn't catch anything, but we had a great day, and an uncommonly sunny one (although it was not warm) at the coast. This was my first time fishing from the shore into the ocean, and I don't think I am very good at it! My arm was super tired from the heavy weight and the long pole, and I was soaked up to the waist, since I went too close to the water to make a cast and the wave came up and hit me. I kept losing my bait. I think I spent more time reloading my bait and trying to stay out of the way of the waves than actually fishing. I actually did catch a couple things -- seaweed and someone else's fishing hook. Score.

Here are a few photos of our fishing extravaganza.

Bro and I -- ready to catch some fish!

Bro and Lady -- FISH ON!

Bro tries to (unsuccessfully) start a fire
We also saw THIS SIGN -- I mean, I am back in CA, but the signs are still not spelled right? Funny.

Oh and my brother got me a Kindle for my birthday! Yay. I am excited to start using it. Any eReader pros out there have any tips for me? I already have some classic books downloaded for free from Amazon. Any other ways to get cheap and or free books? Did you guys know you can lend books to other Kindle users now?

Do you like coming home after being gone for a while? Who is the first person you visit? Dose (haha) anyone have any off shore fishing tips for me?

V is for Very. A-Z is almost done. Only a month late.


Uncomfortable Nights

Buy this pad from REI.
So we slept in a campervan for a while, and let me tell you, they say that the best way to get to know someone is to take a long car ride with them. How about a three week long one, is that long enough? Well, yes, yes it is.

But that is not what I am going to talk about. What I was going to say is that the campervan is also a little bit cramped. I mean, if you slide the bed out, you can’t get to anything underneath (there is storage there) and if one person is putting on their shoes, the other has to step aside. It’s not all bad, but it is a little tricky to manage at times.

The other thing that is a little hard is the sleeping situation. And when I say HARD, I mean hard both literally and figuratively. The bed is not very wide, and for a person who sleeps on their stomach with their leg thrown out to the side (me) it is not enough room for that. So you have to lay pretty much straight, if on your stomach. Or you can lay on your side. However, like I said before, it is hard. The bed is made of wood with a small pad over it. So you end up laying on one side until your hip is numb and your back hurts and your hands are asleep (yes, this happens to me a lot) and then you roll over until it happens on the other side.
However, the good news is: this is NOT the most uncomfortable place I have slept in the last year.

The worst was the tent.

The good thing is, we traded it with these nice people for a used Lonely Planet Europe (about a 30 dollar value new, so maybe 15 dollars used). The bad news is, and it’s not the tent’s fault (or S&Rs!), the ground is hard and it’s cold and my sleeping bag, which is supposed to be good down to 40 degrees, isn’t.
We went through a few stages of uncomfortable tent camping.

(1) THE WORST: No padding/mattress. Rocks beneath me. Can’t curl up in my too small sleeping bag. The wind was blowing hard. It was about 33 degrees outside.

(2) RUNNER UP: Bought an air mattress. Did NOT buy an air pump. Tried to blow up mattress with lungs. Did not work. Slept on little air. Every time one person moves, the other gets rolled off the mattress.

(3) THIRD WORST: Bought an air pump. Blew up mattress. Heavy wind and rain at beach turns tent into a swimming pool. (we slept in the car that night)

(4) BEST: Blew up mattress. Bought an extra blanket. Finally got a good(ish) night’s sleep. Still worse than the campervan.

I have decided that the main problem, since normally I don’t mind camping, is the gear. You HAVE to have good gear. Buy a sleeping pad (I have one at home). Thermarest makes a good one. Spend the money to buy a GOOD sleeping bag, down to 15 degrees (F). It is worth it. Buy a WATERPROOF (3 season) tent (I also have one of these at home). I guess what you could probably add to me is: AND BRING IT WITH YOU. But carrying all that stuff around for 6 months is not always feasible. But you will be more comfortable!

So, where is the most uncomfortable place YOU have slept? Do you like camping? Have you ever slept in your car?

U is for Uncomfortable.


To My Mother

Today I was born. Okay, that's not the complete truth. Actually, I WAS born on Mother's Day. However, Mom's Day changes every year; it is the second Sunday of May, and therefore each year is different. Well this year, it is NOT my birthday. However, the day I was born WAS on Mother's Day. That year. I don't need to tell you WHICH year that was. However, here is a picture of me and my Mom. Happy Mom's Day Moogle!

In New Orleans on a Bright Day
But. This year is not the day I was born. This year Mother's Day is the day I arrive. Back home. I fly into the LA airport on the 7th at 8 pm and then fly to Sacramento and arrive at 12:20 AM. I will have arrived home. Happy Mother's Day Mom.

Note: I am writing this in advance, because once I arrive I will be tired and sore and grumpy and I will meet up with friends and not have time to get online.

Of course, now that my vacation is over, it is time to get back to work. First off: a little fun. I meet up with my friend and her family (my second parents) for Mother's Day brunch. I will be wearing my scrubby backpacker's clothing, because that is all that I own. It will probably smell a little (or a lot). But it won't matter, because these people are my family.

Next, I will go and visit with my brother, who will hopefully serve me dinner and beers as I lounge on the couch watching his Tivo (catching up with Top Chef). Then we will FINALLY go to a Giants game (I have REALLY missed the Giants) with my friend Jack from work. We used to get free tickets from our company, back in the day when we worked together (2002) and we used to always have A BLAST. It will be great to reminisce with him and watch the game, drink a few overpriced beers, have a gross (yummy!) nacho and enjoy the game.

After that, I meet up with my grandma and together we will drive up to my parents' house, which is about a 4 hour drive from San Francisco. I can't wait to go home. The area where my parents live is beautiful and it is going to just be starting summer and it is going to be great! Everything green and flowing water and blue sky. Yum.

After that, the to do list begins. Sorry, that should be The To Do List. It's THAT important. Not only is it my To Do List, which I have mentioned before, and is forever getting longer and longer, but my Dad has one for me as well, which will also be long. However, with him helping me with mine and me helping him with his, we are a force to be reckoned with.

So, getting home is a blessing. It will be great to see friends and family. But it is also a "curse". I have so much to get done (including getting a job) and so will be very busy (and maybe even a tad stressed) over the next few weeks.

To top it off, maybe you haven't heard about this, but Mr. Lovely lives Back East and I live in California. So we will each go back to our own (parent's) homes for now. But who knows what will happen later. But this is another story all together.

Another A-Z. T is for To. You can see more here.


Some Great Australian Places

Have you been to Australia? Although there are many cool things here, like Koalas, Kangaroos and The Most Deadly Snake in the World, The Black Mamba (spoken in a Steve Austin accent, as he shoves the snake in his face). BUT. They have a lot of other cool things. So. Let me talk to you about what we have done and liked...so far.

First up, and everyone should do this, is the Great Ocean Road. You drive along the coast and it IS beautiful. There are weird stone formations, blue blue water and the drive itself is (windy but) divine.

The Twelve Apostles
Next up, was some Lebanese food. I know, you thought, LEBANESE? In Australia? YES. And it's great.

Falafel, Kibby, Tzatziki, Hummus and more!
Then we went to Melbourne to meet up with some friends I had met in Argentina. And we walked around town. And we ate. And ate. AND ATE. Yum. I had heard there was great food in Melbourne but I had never experienced it. Well.... it was great!

Melbourne Grafitti

Swanston St

Yarra River

Dinner with Friends!
We also went to the Healdsville Animal Sanctuary, where we saw all the usual cuprits that I spoke about the other day: koalas, kangaroos, echidnas and emus. It was so fun! One more example:

Echidna -- bad photo

You can see a better example of an Echidna below. By the way, it is another egg laying mammal. Weird.

Next up: Sydney!

Then we go home...I can't believe it has come so soon. It seems like it's been so long...and I can't believe it's over so soon.

S is for Some. You can find more A-Z blogfest posts here

Have you ever been to Australia? What were your favorite places?  

PS. I have been here before (it was pre-blogging) and will post some other great things in a future post. Some things I won't get to this time, but I know are worth seeing!  



Did you know?

In Australia, they don't have the Easter bunny, they have the BILBY:

In Chocolate (source)
Normal View (source)
They also call a walk around the block a BLOCKIE.

A TRAVELER is when you take a beer to go on the walk to the next place.

Your SUNNIES are your sun glasses.

BREKKIE is breakfast.

An ESKIE is a cooler/ice chest.

SUSS means something that is suspect.

A STUBBIE is a small or short beer. 

To say "hello" they say "HOW YA GOIN'?"

They really do say G'DAY and MATE.

If you SHOUT a round of drinks, you are buying a round.

Of course there are still the "normal" sayings like "Do you reckon?" and "I have to go to the loo".

We got into a long discussion with my (Ozzie) friend about "BISCUITS". In the US, they are served with gravy; in Australia, this is the equivalent of a cookie. Their equivalent of our biscuit is a SCONE. (our scone is another matter entirely! Not the same as their scone!) You can find Australian biscuit recipes here.  

So, I guess that after having BREKKIE, you can get a TRAVELER out of the ESKIE, put on your SUNNIES and do a BLOCKIE. 

But I reckon that is a little ambitious. 

R is for "Really". You can see more A-Z blogfest here.  


Quicky Koala

Koalas aren't quick, so I am not sure why that one koala was named Quicky. However, it is lucky that they aren't because this gave me the chance to see a few. Here are photos to prove it. 

And of course a few more animals we found while searching for the koala. 

The Dingo That Ate Your Baby


Hugest Dragon Lizard I've Ever Seen

And of Course, the Kangaroo! Boing!
If you haven't guessed, we are in Australia! More on that later! 

Q is for Quicky! See more A-Z challenge here!


Picasa and Pandora

A blogger buddy was talking about Pandora the other day. Basically she said that some people don't know what Pandora is. It made me think of a couple things.

(1) It's amazing how I can use something every day and LOVE it and other people don't even know what it is OR use it.

(2) What are THEY using that I don't know about?

So, firstly, as Kim said, you should use Pandora. If you have the internet and you like music AT ALL, this is the thing for you. It is free. What you do is you pick a band you like, you enter it in as a "radio station", then it plays that band AND other bands that are similar. There is a little icon for "thumbs up" and "thumbs down". If you like the song, give it a thumbs up and if you don't, give it a thumbs down. Then Pandora knows what you want...and they give it to you. You can't get much better than that. Really.

The only drawback: I am traveling, and they won't let me use it abroad. Booo. 

The second thing I use a lot is Picasa. If you like to take photos and need a simple editing tool that is also FREE, you should download this. Also, it can upload photos right to your blog or your internet photo album or send them as an email, also for free.

I love the "star" function, which allows you to select favorites and then sort them that way later. You can also tag, geo-tag and see the EXIF data. Oh and don't forget about the face recognition software! Now you can see just how many photos of you really were taken on your last vacation!

Below are a few examples of what Picasa can do. The mix itself is a collage; the separate photos are examples of editing tools. As you can see, you can also add lettering, borders and more. It's a great tool!

What do you use for photo editing? What do you use to listen to music? Do you have any other free software tips? What are YOU using that I don't know about?

April is over, but A-Z is not dead. P is for Picasa.


On Being Frugal

I believe I am mentioned before that I am frugal. Okay, some may call it cheap. But frugal sounds better, doesn’t it?

To be honest, I never really thought of myself as cheap. I like to save money; I have a budget; I put money away in my 401k every month. I am money conscious. I am savings savvy. I save enough to have fun, go on trips like the one I am on and still put money away for retirement. I think I am being intelligent with my money.

But. And there is always a big but, right?

When you travel with a “why not have fun and spend your money now in case you die tomorrow - you can always make more later” kind of person, you seem like less of an “organized saver” and more like a tightwad.

EXAMPLE: We go to the grocery store and buy (perishable) supplies of food for the next couple of days. We drive past a McDonald's.

He says, “Let’s stop and get a hamburger”.
I say, “We just bought lunch meat. Let’s stop and make a sandwich”.
He says, “But I feel like a hamburger”.
I say, “But the lunch meat will go bad.”
He says, “So we will buy more lunch meat tomorrow.”


Another Example: We rent a campervan for three weeks in order to drive around (and camp in) New Zealand. We decide to stay in City A. I check the camping ground booklet. Aha! There is a camp ground; it’s 6 dollars a person. We arrive in City A.

He says, “Maybe we should just get a hotel”.
I say, “But we rented a campervan and there is a camping ground right here and it‘s only six dollars a person”.
He says, “But I don’t feel like staying in the campervan.”
I say, “But we didn’t budget for a hotel. A hotel is 60 dollars.”
He says, “But a hotel would be nicer”.


Oh the joys of travel. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. And sometimes you spend more on one night’s accommodation than you planned on spending for three day’s budget.

It's hard sometimes.

Are you frugal? Does your significant other agree with you when it comes to money? If not, how do YOU deal with it?

The A-Z blogfest is over, but I am still plugging on anyway. O is for "On". Stay tuned for P!


Never Put it Down

Note: on a completely different note, is Bin Laden REALLY dead? What do you guys think about this? Will there still be terror? Talk amongst yourselves. 

Now, onto my normal scheduled post. N is for Never.

I know I talk about books a lot, but how can you not? They are great. They take you out of your life and into someone else's. How cool is that? I have one problem though. I cannot, and I mean cannot (it pains me) stop reading a book if I start it. Even if the book is pretty darn crappy, I almost always finish it. Even if it takes me weeks. And it sometimes does. I will read a page and put it down and go find something else to do, and then read another the next day (or week). I hate leaving things unfinished. It is an obsession of mine.

However, there have been (over the years) a couple of books I just couldn't finish. Ironically enough, one of these is a classic and was supposed to be really good. They were:

Catch 22 -- War, planes and DULL-city abound. I tried to read it, really I did, but when the guy kept talking about how he couldn't get out of the war, on the hundredth time I read that, I got fed up. And I was living in New Orleans where I had much better things to do than read a book I wasn't even interested in anyway. So I didn't.

Yiddish Policemans Union - By the same author as Kavalier and Clay (which I liked), this book was a letdown for me. This was one that my Mom really liked, so maybe my expectations were too high, but I had a really hard time getting through it. Or NOT through it. It did make me curious about the so called Jewish settlement in Alaska, which was fictional. Other than that, it just didn't catch my attention

So, that's it so far. Do you finish every book you start or do you put it down if you hate it?

Now, another quick sidenote. BBC came out with a list of their top 100 books. Here are the top 20. I have crossed the ones I have read.  

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller **oh JOY, speaking of, see ABOVE!!!**
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Out of 20, I have read 11. Out of the entire 100, I have read 31.

Which ones have you read?? Please go to the main list and see: out of the 100, how many have you read of those?