Sunday, August 26, 2012

Water for Elephant(s)?

As usual, I'm going to go ahead and throw out my typical book review disclaimer...I'm spoiler alerting you!  I have quite a few thoughts about this read that could potentially ruin the story for someone who has intentions of reading the book but hasn't yet.

But let me just preface this post by saying, I really did like this book.  The author does a really beautiful job with her descriptions, but almost to the point of it taking away from where the storyline is going sometimes.  I love vivid pictures, especially when we're talking about a circus and animals, but I also find myself getting frustrated with a book thats plot is hard to follow at times because we're going into so much descriptive detail (get on with the story already!).

Now I don't usually get hung up on book titles because most of the time it's fitting and make perfect sense...but "Water for Elephants" threw me off a bit.  First of all, there was only one elephant in the story and second, the watering of the elephant didn't really have much to do with Marlena or Jacob.  I'm not saying I could have picked a better title and I DO like elephants, but I'm just not sold on this being the best preface to what this book opens up.

It was pretty obvious from the beginning that Jacob was smitten with Marlena and he was going to fall in love with her.  I just felt like sometimes the occassional, random scenes where the author was trying to get hot steamy because Jacob was on the prowl for loving...was a little awkward at times.  Like when he was in the tent with all the dudes watching the stripper dancer who was FLOPPING her knockers up and down at ultra rapid speeds...WHAT?!...come on dudes...THAT WAS NOT SEXY! That was weird.  I'm just picturing this gross circus lady with melons so huge they're knocking people over...Maybe I was just "over sexed" by Fifty Shades of Crap so I wasn't that interested in those parts of the story because I didn't want to go THERE again...

I did enjoy the setting of the book.  I also appreciated the historical and factual accuracy of the tales being placed in an era of Prohibition/Depression.  That aspect of the book was highly engaging and entertaining for me.  But I'm intrigued by that kind of stuff.

NOT a fan of the Marlena/August drama.  I get annoyed the nice, normal, attractive and talented woman is stuck with the sloppy, drunk, bi-polar, controlling psycho who I also imagine has one of those Circus-Master beer bellies...He has nothing going for him and he gets the girl that the other dudes want.  Why does it always work out that way?  And can I say the scene (or chapter I should say) where August dies is really blurry.  It's like "Rosie picks up a stake and strikes August and he falls down..." Ok, I guess I'm used to Law & Order where we see the damage of the crime on TV, but I'm like "oh my gosh, is he dead, injured, split in two!?!?"  It wasn't really until later when there was a comment about his death certificate that I was like "Ok. Got it. The Jerk's Dead!"

But at least at that point, since the book basically turned into a love story, Marlena & Jacob could be together without her having to cheat on her husband forever and get divorced.  Rosie the Elephant (who Jacob gave water to -- and that's how the book got its title) did the dirty work and got rid of August so the true love birds could be together.  I was ok with that.

I like animals.  And especially zoo animals (and I REALLY love dogs)...and I think I always WANT elephants and monkeys and lions to have these tame feelings and emotions like we can communicate with them or something.  So I really liked that Rosie had this relationship with Jacob & Marlena, so her August strike was like her communicating that she got it...he was an abusive piece of crap so who better to get rid of him than the elephant in the corner?! RIGHT??

I will say, when my mind is in a more alert state (like when I'm back to having normal sleep patterns and I'm not uncomfortable 24 hours a day) I would like to try to read this book again and see if I'm able to follow a plot better.  Because I like the author.  And she seems like she's got a respectable head on her shoulders.  I mean, I appreciate any person who likes to contribute to charitable causes and is passionate enough about them to incorporate these passions into her writings.  Go Sara Gruen!  How about your write a book about an African Safari!  I bet I'd like that!

So yes. I liked the book.  I'm not going to say that I LOVED the book, but there were some things about the book I did find myself loving.  So I say, read it yourself and tell me what you think!  Well, obviously, if you haven't read it I've just spoiled it for you. The dude gets the girl (and the elephant and a herd of horses) and they live happily ever after-ish.  So I guess if you have ALREADY READ the book...Tell me your thoughts!

Me putting the feet up lounging in my parents sun room.  I call it the reading room.  I love it!  When I'm an official grown up and I have my adult-grown-up house I will have a reading room.  And it will be a grand circus!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pittsburgh Places: Peace, Love & Little Donuts

Growing up, my Dad always would always tell us stories of going on car trips with the Sundell Boys (these were my Mom's cousins) and he said that Jeff could always spot the "Krispy Kreme Hot Light" from miles away.  I didn't know what this Krispy Kreme Hot Light was until we were on family vacation and Dad spotted a hot light and pulled a Cousin-Jeff-U-Turn to treat us to the hottest, sweetest, melt in your mouth morsel we'd ever experienced.  I mean, everyone has had a Krispy Kreme from a gas station, but until you've had one of the glazed donuts the minute it drips fresh off the conveyor belt, you haven't lived!

So ANYWAYS, Tommy also has this THING for donuts too.  He is crazy about them.  More crazy than me.  When we first started dating we discovered that we shared a love for certain foods: lo mein noodles, cups of good joe, chimichangas and the boston creme donut.  When Tommy discovered we shared a love for the same flavor donut our food adventures kind of started focusing more on the donut/pastry/sweets side of life than other things (which I can't say I minded. Especially since I'm cheap and donuts are cheap treats!).

A few weekends ago, we were strolling through Pittsburgh's Strip District and we both smelled the sweet aroma of fresh donut wafting in the air.  Had we been driving it would have been one of those Cousin Jeff U-Turn moments, but instead it was both of us speed walking in the direction of the smell!

We found ourselves arriving at this cute little hole-in-the-wall donut joint called Peace, Love & Little Donuts.  You walk in the door and you can see them making the donuts right in front of you.  It was like the Krispy Kreme Hot Light...BUT EVEN BETTER!!!  They have donut 'flavors of the day' and they make these tiny, cute little cake donuts and they're the tastiest, melt in your mouth donut EVER!

First you get to watch the gal pour this cake donut batter into what Tommy called "The Donut Pooper."  This little contraption holds the batter and then plops it out into the hot oil in the shape of a ring.

Then you get to watch the tiny masterpieces float down the hot river.  The Donut Master stands behind the line and flips them when they stop at the dam halfway down the donut line.  Then they plop out all hot, crispy and AWESOME!!!

Then you get to go up to the counter and tell the hippie dude what flavors of little donuts you want.  We didn't try EVERY flavor...YET!  We went for what WE decided were the top six (we had to leave ourselves with multiple reasons to go back):  Oreo Cookies & Cream, Chocolate & Cookie Dough, Vanilla Sprinkle, The Classic Glazed, Cinnamon and YES FOLKS THAT is a Maple BACON donut.  Honestly, I think the Bacon one was surprisingly my favorite.  I was like eating Pancakes and Bacon but in the form of a donut!  Surprisngly, that was the flavor I wasn't AS jazzed as Tommy about trying, but then I loved it the most.  Tommy says he doesn't have a favorite, that is how devoted he is to loving all donuts equally.  The only donuts he discriminates against are the Maple Cream Filled Logs and anything with Jelly in the middle (I mean who honestly enjoys eating something called a "log"'s like you're eating something that is meant to go into your fireplace or a toilet).

So if you're ever passing through the 'Burgh or if you're a local Yinzer, this is a place you've gotta try at some point in your lifetime.  Check out their website  and don't tell me that DIDN'T make your mouth water, because I KNOW it did...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pittsburgh Places: The Pretzel Shop

When I'm having "one of those days" I always feel like an Auntie Anne's pretzel makes my world a little better of a place.  They're super buttery, salty, crispy, yet soft and OH so delicious.  My mouth is watering right now just thinking about off the thing (IDK!? Do they fry them? So hot out of the dipper?).  Anyways...

We've been in Pittsburgh for about two years now and I noticed this cute little pretzel shop MONTHS ago and thought I MUST TRY!  Now as you Pittsburghers already know, to those of you that don't, PARKING in the BURGH STINKS!  So every time I've been down in this neighborhood with the idea of pretzeling it up I can never find a place to park. I get so discouraged.  

Tommy and I were driving through the Southside on Carson Street the other day and the clouds opened up, and this ray of sunshine shone down on this golden parking spot RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE PRETZEL SHOP!!!  NO BRAINER! Pulling in!!!  It was definitely our best Pittsburgh parking moment yet.  

We pull in and head into this small little shop.  My nose is instantly overwhelmed by what to do.  There were so many things and options going on.  And on top of pretzeling, they BAKE in the Pretzel Shop too??? I wanted to buy the whole store, but I had to control myself.  The little lady that worked there told us if you don't eat them pretty close to when you buy, they get kinda hard and tough after a while.  So, if I'm going to buy a lot, I'm going to eat a lot...pace yourself, Lisa!

So Tommy and I both chose two different options.  Tommy went with the breakfast pretzel sandwich with ham, egg and cheese (which is served all day).  I was on the fence between the veggie pizza pretzel, the pizza pizza pretzel or the chicken salad pretzel.  I think since Tommy was getting hot pretzel, I decided to go cold.  I don't think any of my choices would have left me disappointed.  It was SO good.  The pretzel of course was the best part.  I wished that I had more room in my stomach because I would have LOVED to have tried the pretzel that was covered in some kind of cheese and jalapenos! 

The pretzels were so good.  It's not even comparable to Auntie Anne's at all, but will definitely be one of my new comfort foods.  It's not least I don't think it is.  The dough is so good with a light dusting of that chunky pretzel salt on top. Oh my GOSH!  Now what I WANT TO KNOW is how far they deliver!  They deliver Monday - Friday from 11:00am - 1:00pm.  Can I get a pretzel sandwich delivered to my work for lunch everyday? Cuz that would rule!! A plain soft pretzel was only a $1!!  We doctored ours up.  

One of the best pretzels I've ever had for sure.  Actually, now that I'm thinking about it...I don't think I've had a better pretzel.  Definitely worth a try.  If you're in the neighborhood and you can't find a parking spot...keep circling!  It's worth the wait!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Help

Since college, I've developed an interest in reading for fun!  Yes folks, I've been trying to convince my youngest sister of this for years, but reading is FUN!  I set a goal for myself on my profile this year to finish 25 books.  I know that's not many, but for the amount of free time I have, I thought 25 was an achievable SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Trackable) goal.

Typically, my book flavor leans on the side of mysteries, but been I've trying to expand my flavor pallet.  I'd heard great things about the historical fiction book, The Help, and it sure did satisfy my taste for a change!  

Promise this post won't be a spoiler!  I had enough emotions stirred by this read I don't even need to go into my thoughts on the plot to talk about the book.  The story is about what it was like being a black maid during the civil rights movement.  

Obviously, many of us can't fairly say how we would have lived or responded to that movement since we weren't there.  But I must admit, that I kept hoping that had I been alive during this movement that I would be a Skeeter (not to be confused with Rita Skeeter).  Skeeter was the main character, and had been raised in a society that embraced slavery.  She knew in her heart there was something wrong with this concept and the way these individuals were treated, and she wasn't afraid to stand up publicly for what she felt was right and fair.  

I really enjoyed Stockett's writing style in this book.  Even though this was a fictional book, she did an amazing job of creating realistic historical reenactment, that really gave a clear picture of a day in the life of a black woman during this time.  The novel is about a white woman who is secretly documenting "true accounts" of the trials these black women experience and it really felt real!

Right from the start, you find yourself getting attached to the characters with the vivid picture that Stockett paints for her readers.  I really was most inspired by the fact that Skeeter made a point to stand up for what she believed was right.  How often do you find yourself just keeping your mouth shut or looking the other way when you disagree with something?  This book really spurred me emotionally to make a point to educate myself and have intelligent opinions. I'm not dwelling on any particular issue or instance, and I'm not trying to be pushy with my political stances or offend any readers, but all I'm trying to point out is that it's ok to state your case and stand up for what you are passionate about and what you believe.  There is always going to be a Skeeter close by that agrees with you!  

On a side rant, the one thing that does drive me nuts about boisterous, opinionated people are those that don't respect people who have opinions that differ from theirs, or people who have opinions they've come to with pure whimsical thought and not by learning about the issue and developing their own stance....kinda like Hilly in the book.  So just watch out all you Hilly's cuz you might end up eating poo pie and getting your yard converted to a graveyard for used toilets!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Phelps' Heart of Gold, Lochte's Grill of Mold...

Most of my friends know I'm nuts about the Olympics.  To say I love them is quite the understatement. I've been finding it comical that Pittsburgh still seems to be a little more crazy about the Pirates than they are about this once every four year worldwide event that makes HISTORY everyday for two weeks!  Definitely not discrediting America's favorite pastime, because I love the Pirates AND baseball too...but just sayin!

Anyways, the 2012 London Summer Olympics has certainly had my heart racing more than ever before in the past decade, when it comes to the swim events.  I love Michael Phelps, who doesn't?  Who can say anything bad about Michael Phelps? Sure...he went through his crazy phase where he decided he was going rogue from his athletic destiny and smoked the reefer for a bit, but who hasn't gone through that phase!?

When the summer games first started and we watched the qualifying races, I'm admitting I was nervous.  Phelps wasn't dominating?!  I thought "Is this a foreshadowing of the rest of the week!?", "Is he too old for this?!", "Should he have quit while he was ahead?" AND "What is going on with this crazy Lochte character????!!!"

After watching NBC's first post race interview with Ryan Lochte and hearing him blatantly say he thinks he is world's best swimmer, and Phelps' time is over, I knew this dude was not going to be my NEXT decade's Olympic heartthrob.   But I think his cocky-ness is JUUUUUST what Phelps needed to make his comeback.  He lit a small fire under Phelps' little speedo, and at this moment I was indeed confident that my Phelpsy was going out this year with a great BANG!

I mean, just look at this guy.  I'm all about the U.S.A. and admire his patriotism, but he's a bit much.  And when it comes to tact and humbleness, Lochte surely doesn't win the gold in this department.  Seriously, don't you think it's hard to muster up respect and pride for the person who admits on national television that he pees in the pool every time he hops in?!  Even IF Michael Phelps does this too, I think he finds much more respectable things to discuss with the media - like his favorite breakfast meal, or his love for his mother and sisters, or how honored he is to represent our country!!!! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! LOOOVE HIM! (Evie, If I could arrange your marriage, Phelps would be my first pic for you. Evie Phelps. I like that.)  

I mean, 11 Olympic medals is quite the accomplishment.  Ryan, you are talented and are accomplishing a LOT more in life in these two weeks than I will in a lifetime, in a few months I'm going to remember that YOU pee in the pool...not how many Olympic medals you've won.  Funny how the jokes not gonna be so funny then, eh?

And here we have our noble steed.  Basking in his final moment of winning his last individual Gold Medal (which was also a THREE-PEAT!) representing his country...his 21st Olympic medal and 17th GOLD! He just looks so grateful...and humble....oh I love him.  I love a man who gets teared up with emotion.  I'm an emotional basket case and cry all the time, but a dude that cries when the moment is right, sigh...

Lochte, we know, luck didn't get you to the swam there (I actually really like that commerical, but even AT&T couldn't totally calm down his cocky 'tude.).  You are talented and really nice on the eyes, but take some mental notes on your number one competitor...a little etiquette can go a long way.  So maybe NEXT time, you won't have to swim to Rio, that takes too long.  Just take a plane, so you have some extra time to take some pics of yourself with Phelps and post them online! YUM!