My Year in Books 2014

December 31, 2014
I set myself an ambitious goal this year, 30 books (because, where was I going to find the time to read, right?) Apparently I found the time to complete 34 and I am in the middle of 35, but I don't think I will finish Drums of Autumn before midnight tonight. There should be more here, I started a lot of free ones that turned out to be rubbish and a waste of time, but the ones that I did finish, I at least rated so I could go back later and write reviews for. Maybe that should be my resolution for 2015 -- to finish everything I start writing.

As much as I love real books, my tablet is infinitely more portable. I read almost entirely on my Nexus 7 using either the Kindle app, Google Play Books, or Overdrive. At the beginning of the year I used the library a LOT (until I forgot to return some dead tree books ... and, some of you may know how that goes). My goal this year was to actually read more than listen to books, though sometimes audiobooks are the only way I can get through my workday. I think I read and listened to at least four of Jim Butcher's books this way.

Speaking of Butcher, I started the year off with a determination to finish the Alera Codex while I waited for Skin Game to be published. I also thought about getting into True Blood (the HBO Series) and read a few of the books to get an idea of what the hype was about; after the third one the pattern was fairly predictable, so I haven't read any more about Sookie Stackhouse and her adventures. Neither did I start watching the series, I mean, Orphan Black is on!

Next I thought I would try the Sword and Laser Book Club. It was great until Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs Novels) came up. I was vividly reminded why I stopped reading cyberpunk, despite loving noir detective novels. It took me over two months to finish, but I was determined to get through it. By then I was behind schedule and ready for some lighter fare. The Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy fit the bill ... and didn't. I went into it with an open mind, but towards the end, I had to agree with some other reviewers that it was just too long. Some of the stories are incredibly written and I loved them, while others had me scratching my head or trying to hurry through to the next one.

Rather than recap each book here at the end (which I was about to do it seems, but lucky for you my battery is almost dead), I guess I should go back and write my book reviews.

Overall, best new author discovered this year, Patrick Rothfuss. OMG, can we get the third installment of Kvoth's story already? In the meantime, since I didn't get the autographed version of The Slow Regard of Silent Things for Christmas, I'll finish out Drums of Autumn and then switch back to my new favorite world. Best new sci-fi of the year, hands-down, thumbs up, read this book NOW - The Martian. So glad I listened to peer pressure to read this one.

So, what did you read this year?

2014 Completed Books

Neverwhere: BBC Dramatization
Bigfoot Trilogy
The Martian
Dragonfly in Amber
The Wise Man's Fear
The Monarch of the Glen
First Person Peculiar
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Name of the Wind
Skin Game
Doctor Who: Summer Falls and Other Stories
The Bishop Witches
Bones: The Complete Apocalypse Saga
Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy
Altered Carbon
The Long Earth

Annette's favorite books »

Nerdvember Recap

Unlike the smart people who made time to do weekly recaps, I thought it would be easy to do a recap at the end of the month. But you know what? Instagram doesn't exactly make it easy, even with the ability to embed. But, thanks to Google-fu, I found a few nifty tools to help me through the consequences of my procrastination.

Collage created by (thanks for the heads up BonjourBlogger) and LoupeCollage

Now, the fun part (if I dressed up well enough). The collage above is not in order. If you weren't following my antics before, you should be able to hover over and match the photos to the descriptions below.

  1. Tiana as Naveen (Cross-play)
  2. Zoe Washburn t-shirt
  3. T.A.R.D.I.S.
  4. Eeyore
  5. Jedi in training
  6. Cosima (Orphan Black, if you have not watched this show, get on it! New season starts soon!)
  7. Wonder Woman #1
  8. Big Bang Theory
  9. Paternoster Gang/Powerpuff Girls
  10. Mrs. Doubtfire
  11. Steve Rogers (Capt. America in street wear)
  12. River Song
  13. I tried and failed to do John Watson to my satisfaction, so no photo on November 13th.
  14. Wash's Dinosaur (Firefly)
  15. Incredible Hulk (friends on Facebook thought I looked constipated)...
  16. Zoe Washburn
  17. I was feeling a little ... Grumpy
  18. Star Trek
  19. Game of Thrones
  20. Yoda
  21. I can't wait to get back to Disneyland and see the new and improved show
  22. Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man
  23. I wasn't feeling it today ...
  24. Princess Bride
  25. BBC version of Being Human (cosplaying while traveling Day 1)
  26. Wonder Woman #2
  27. Eeyore #2
  28. Muppets
  29. Star Wars - The Dark Side/Vader
  30. Harry Potter
All in all, I wasn't sure that I would have the mental capacity (or the wardrobe) to pull off 30 looks, but I did pretty damn well with 28. I should have done Castiel from Supernatural on one of the other days, I have the trench coat and everything. I was also considering doing Dresden, but didn't have the right boots.

This challenge taught me a lot about creativity, how lacking in geeky accessories my collection is (care to help a girl out? I have a ThinkGeek wishlist) and why some women have so many different purses and shoes! They really do make a difference to the outfit. It also reminded me why I don't own any white shirts on purpose and that, if I'm the subject of a photo, my makeup must be damn close to perfect. You'll find me behind the camera again.

Menu Plan Monday: Cooking for One

December 15, 2014
I hate hate hate hate hate cooking for only myself!

Last week I pretty much refused to, since getting lunch was usually large enough to be two portions. But, by the weekend I was down for the count. No energy, back problems, not completely attributed to the change in weather, but more likely to the increased gluten (bread) intake (yes, I have been emo-eating again. Peppermint brownies, can you blame me?).

So, yesterday I started cooking for myself again and clean eating.
Sunday: Ghetto Fabulous Claim Jumpers Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

Monday: Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders (no breading) with steamed veggies
Tuesday: Tilapia with green beans and grape tomatoes
Wednesday: Cedar Planked Maple Salmon - or leftovers from work holiday party. I'll be making Sweet Potato Pie. No, it does not taste like pumpkin pie, it tastes MUCH better.

Thursday: Curry Shrimp and Spinach
Friday:  Something with steak.
Saturday: Primal Jambalaya

Throwback Thursday: Disneyland 2003

December 11, 2014
 photo Mark_Twain_group.jpg
On the Mark Twain, back when my son was shorter than me and I was skinny.

Movie Review: Interstellar

November 16, 2014
I'll try not to give away any spoilers.

I went into this movie a little skeptical because as much as I adore Matthew McConaughey's accent, I wasn't sure I could take him seriously as a father and the hero of a serious sci-fi movie. I wasn't sure that I could take Interstellar as a serious movie for that part either, but OMG! Did it ever deliver!

Disclaimer up front, I took Physics for Dummies in college. The topic fascinates me, but the math is entirely over my head, so I won't be addressing any of that below.

First off, I was stunned and impressed by the score, and lack of it. The silence was used perfectly. By the way, the IMAX theater I saw it in had no issues with the sound mix. I wasn't taken out of the movie at any point due to sound issues. The score did exactly what it was supposed to and then some.

The Hunk was with me (and he's an A/V nut) was so stunned by the visuals of the gargantuan and I quote "What music?" He did notice the silence and the effectiveness of it during all of the scenes that occurred outside of the ship.

T.A.R.S. and C.A.S.E. are my new favorite robots! Especially T.A.R.S. Love his sense of humor, at all levels.

Anne Hathaway's Dr. Brand came off as smug and supercilious without a real reason to behave so, especially once the twist near the end is revealed. I think they could have done so much more with her character since she was the only female scientist on the team and obviously believed in the success of Plan A.

The other doctors didn't leave as quite a strong impression, except for Matt Damon's Dr. Mann ... but *spoilers*. His whole story arc brings an added tension to the movie and further examination of human motivation and need to survive no matter what.

Throughout the movie I was reminded multiple times of 2001 and 2010 and think a rewatch is needed of those two classics and then watch Interstellar again. It is worth multiple viewings. Some people may complain about the slow pace of the movie, but it's needed just so you have time to absorb everything that's going on; and there's A LOT going on, in multiple timelines. For a nearly three hour movie, it passes quickly enough. You may need a kleenex or two, just in case.

Overall verdict: Must see. Must own.

Geek Out in November!

November 11, 2014
Cosplay everyday? And I have to go to work in corporate wear and can't wear t-shirts? Challenge accepted.

I think I might be nuts. The first few days were easy with Comikaze going on and some easy inspiration:
A photo posted by Annette (@dananner) on
but by the end of the week I was taking polls on G+ (still am, at least every other day) and letting the interwebz help pick my outfits.

So far, I haven't had to buy anything new, but the day may come where I need something shiny and metallic, or red. You can follow along at my Instagram, and sometimes on G+.

 Want to join? Here are the rules and prizes: The Return of #NERDVEMBER « Set to Stunning

Menu Plan Monday: Let's try this again

November 10, 2014
I admit, I fell off the bandwagon, a few times lately it seems. We've been eating in/out a lot (thanks +EAT24), and a lot of rotisserie chicken, and breakfast for dinner, or popcorn for dinner. I just haven't been motivated, you know?

So this morning I gave myself a kick in the ass and went through all of my recipes that could easily be converted to dairy-free, soy-free (the hardest part), and gluten-free. I had no idea how many items have soy in them! We're trying out three different butter alternatives right now. I got some ghee at Trader Joe's for myself (going to try Bulletproof coffee - but with k-cups and coconut oil) and two other brands, one explicitly soy-free, the other has soy lecithin, from Ralphs. I also need to find some coconut aminos (soy sauce alternative), but Joy has been OK with me making any Asian meals with the spices and no sauce (like Beef and Broccoli).

I only made it to the C's in Pepperplate (available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Kindle Fire). And it only took me 10 minutes. I guess I have more paleo-type recipes than I gave myself credit for, not including all of the chocolate desserts I seem to have in there.

Here's what's on deck this week:
Monday: Apple Chicken Sausage and Kale soup. Finally biting the bullet and eating kale instead of spinach.
Tuesday: Turkey Tacos - minus the cheese. That will be interesting.
Wednesday: Orange Chicken - no soy sauce
Thursday: Cajun Salmon - whew! No conversion necessary!
Friday: Caribbean Chicken with Pineapple-Black Bean Sauce (and mango chutney!) (rice for her, not for me).

Wordless Wednesday: Splish Splash

October 9, 2014

Menu Plan Monday: Reset

October 6, 2014
Either my scale has been lying to me, or my emo-eating is out of control. I have managed to regain 3-5 hard lost pounds. This does not please me. Oddly enough, except for the Keebler version of Samoas, it's all been "gluten-free" treats -- double chocolate chip cookies, bread (Cajun Salmon, avocado and romaine on a slice of Trader Joe's brown rice gf bread #mouthgasm or maybe I was just really hungry and getting rid of leftovers), pizza, and other baked goods. I even bought gluten-free brownie mix, but haven't made it yet. My persistent food-baby-belly is calling me on my bullshit.

I also noticed that my Starbuck's consumption is way up. Time to start tracking my food intake again (just for accountability +John Lieske, I have a tendency to eat just about anything put in front of me). No one ever complained about me being a picky eater when I was a kid.  Overall I have a healthy relationship with food. I like it and it likes me, a little too much. I like to cook it too. It's also time to catch up with a few more people on Fitbit, Towards that end, I started a burpee challenge. Basically one burpee per day until I can manage 30 at the end of the month. After that I might try Neila Rey's Burpee Challenge (but after feeling like passing out after 6 this morning, we shall see).

And now, why you really clicked on the link. What am I stuffing our faces with this week?

Monday: Turkey Burgers (with arugula and avocado and probably salsa or grilled pineapple) and homemade jo-jos for the kid
Tuesday: Shrimp Stir-fry for me and chicken fajitas for Joy
Wednesday: White Bean and Sausage Saute
Thursday: Curried Turkey Cutlets with Dried Apricots
Friday: Roast Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

Menu Plan Monday: Adjustments

September 29, 2014
I was going through a downtime and didn't realize it. S.A.D can affect you even if it's sunny and 90+ degrees outside, because you aren't getting outside... because it's to damn hot! I was only getting maybe 15 minutes of sun and had stopped taking my Vitamin D supplements. All the cues were there -- ennui, lack of interest, no motivation, and I just wanted to sleep. I was blaming the heat. I mean, it's draining when you feel like you're melting! The week before I had been in more humidity than I like. You shouldn't feel like you'lre breathing underweater all the time. Thank goodness for AC.

Anyway, I had gotten off track, no menu planning in weeks, and even though my daughter kept asking me to go to store, I kept putting it off, to the point that I ordered in at least twice last week and cooked just the very basics for her. Oh  yeah, I was emo-eating a lot of chocolate, in any form I could get it.

So Joy took matters into her own hands. We're still adjusting to all of her intolerances, but she has a pretty good idea of what she can eat from Trader Joe'ls since her current best friend also has several food allergies. It'ls made the transition to gluten-, dairy-, soy-free easier for her. That, and Lactaid pills.

Monday: Beef and Bean Chile Verde
Tuesday: Cajun Salmon with stirfry veggies (had to take out the soy beans)
Wednesday: Chicken Chili (lasts for days!)
Thursday: Steak Salad (Ceasar, no cheese for her, lactaid so she can eat ranch dressing. Mildly successful, she couldn't eat as much as she wanted).
Friday: Domino's GF pizza with no cheese. And leftovers.

Did I mention that the chili lasts for days?

Sisterlocks Style: Octopus Bun

How do I know it's time for a re-ti*?

I can barely stand my hair and want to chop it all off! Instead, after much Pinterest searching and YouTube hunting, I came up with a bastardized bun for short to medium locks. A large part of the problem is that on installation day, my hair ranged in length from 8-11 inches and there was no way I was going to have them cut three inches off in various places! So my locks are not a uniform length and ... some days are interesting hair days.I wasn't in the mood for a ponytail and wanted to try something a little more elegant. When I was younger I would do braided or twisted chignons for my grandmother. My first attempt this morning was at a sock bun (I wish it would have worked because then my Tiana hair would be set!) However, that was a total fail. The shortest locks just did not want to get tucked. I also needed at least two more hands.

So I parted my hair down the middle into two high pigtails (because of my ridiculous thickness). I took a large jeweled scrunchy and wrapped that around the pigtails. I tried pinning and tucking again, to messy results. Even when I was in high school and college I never did messy buns. I just don't like the way they look on me. I used to gel my hair (with J.A.M. of course!) to within an inch of its life. Straight edges for me thank you very much.

But I digress ... I  undid the bun and before I started ripping my hair out thought "Hey... let's try that chignon idea." I started parting and twisting and pinning and ended up with abut 4 twists per ponytail. Pinned and tucked to resemble a monkey-bread bun, but not a hair out of place. All the while thinking that I have #Tentacthulhu hair now.

*re-ti: re-tightening.

Throwback Thursday: NYC

September 11, 2014
Helping the economy.

The next day, I went by 1 WTC as it was still under construction.

There Was an Old Lady...

I'm not saying that I am old mind you. I'm barely approaching middle-aged these days, but my children, they insist on aging me prematurely. In trying to decide how to describe my current home life,  I couldn't decide between "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly"

or Tom and Jerry.

Why? Because the menagerie now includes a dog, a cat, and two mice. TWO! Because they get depressed and die if there is only one. Or so my daughter informs me. I really don't care as I try to keep each little scream in as she hands tries to get me to pet them. Hmasters and guinea pigs I can deal with. Mice ... are mice. Know what I mean? But at least she isn't allergic to them (yeah, she's allergic to dog and cat dander now too).

I hope no one swallows a fly. I am not buying a bird!

I am NOT a Mac

September 10, 2014
... But, in the last 24 hours I have learned way more about maintenance and repair on a Mac than I ever imagined knowing. Because, they are supposed to just work.

Given all of the time invested, maybe I should have taken +Robert Partridge's suggestion and installed Linux, but I'm sure K12 would pitch a fit at that (see friendly banter below).

They recommend Chrome, but not Chromebooks.

I'm so very grateful for the Mac forums and one friend who completely understood what I was seeing and experiencing from some badly articulated grunts, curses and huffs of frustration. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make me inarticulate???

Now I know about Spotlight and that Disk Utility is just as useful as on a PC and a few more keyboard commands that saved my sanity. Mostly. Three hours to repair permissions. Can you believe it? Oh, and the disk had to be repaired too.

I started composing this when I thought I was practically done and only needed to install Google Drive ... I was wrong. Now the WiFi is acting up. As in timing out even though I have not changed anything with my network in at least 6 months.

It is my express goal to get this Mac mini working again, otherwise, my daughter will end up inheriting my laptop, and we can't have that, at least not until I have my Pixel.

Shakeology Day 1 Refresh

September 7, 2014
Here goes. I'm starting at 171 lbs. Sigh

At least being pear shaped means I am at less risk for all the diseases that have me wanting to lose weight in the first place.

I used SparkPeople to help me get my measurements, because in all honesty, I have never taken them before and I wanted to make sure I was measuring the right areas.

Result:Estimated Health Risk:Estimated Body Shape:
0.80 or belowLowPear

Since storing excessive fat in the abdominal region (known as the "apple" shape) is correlated with an increased disease risk, this test is one way to measure your risk for lifestyle and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and more. Storing fat in your lower half, known as a "Pear" shape, is actually a healthier site for fat accumulation. The less common "avocado" shape is somewhere between an apple and a pear, with health risks higher than a pear-shaped person, but somewhat lower than a true apple-shaped person. 

App Review: Videostream for Google Chromecast™

September 3, 2014
Two nights ago I nearly had a minor mental breakdown/temper tantrum because I just wanted to watch a movie in my room on my Chromecast (instead of passing out on the couch watching the DVR'd version. Redundancy people). But it was in .mkv format and VLC still hasn't released a Chromecast-enabled Android app, and casting the tab from my laptop didn't send the audio either.

For a minute I was baffled. I considered rebooting my Chromecast. Then I decided to use Google. Guess what? It's a well-known issue. I finally stopped looking for a solution, none of which that I felt like implementing since the majority involved some sort of media server like Plex. Making a Plex server is on my to-do list, but not last night. I finally opened Handbrake to convert to mp4 format and then, like the heavens opening up ....

I changed my search parameter one more time and was presented with Videostream for Google Chromecast™ - a Chrome extension that does the conversion for me (and anyone else too lazy or non-technical to do it any other the other ways). Temper tantrum averted (wouldn't have been pretty. I am guessing I was over-tired). The only thing missing was fudge ice cream. There will be much more non-Netflix/Hulu viewing in my room now.

Bonus: There's a remote app available

Menu Plan Monday: Dietary Restrictions and a Picky Eater

September 2, 2014
My daughter is a picky eater. In the last three months she has developed intolerances to wheat, dairy, and soy. Just need nuts and seafood to be complete (knock on wood).

Creating menus each week just got more interesting. Luckily, she can eat just about anything from El Pollo Loco, but we have both gotten tired of that in the last month.

Cooking from scratch in 30 minutes or less (most nights)...

Monday: Beef and Broccoli - minus the soy sauce and water, so I guess it was more of a stir fry, but she had multiple servings.
Tuesday: Avocado Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
Wednesday: Beef & Bean Chile Verde - I make mine with Fresh and Easy Salsa Verde

Thursday: Chicken Avocado Salad Wraps
Friday: Primal Jambalaya - minus the cauliflower rice
Saturday: Paleo Avocado Turkey Burgers - reminds me of the burgers at the District Pub (also much cheaper to make at home).

Menu Plan Monday hosted by:

Throwback Thursday: Aunty

August 7, 2014

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