It by Stephen King

This great book has all the elements of a classic Stephen King novel: 1) good vs. evil; 2) something supernatural; and 3) both weird and oddly believable.  Stephen King who is one of my favorite authors began this book in 1981, and finished it in 1985. It is over 1,000 pages long (on audio book it is about 44 hours of listening)! It took me about a month to read, but it is well worth the time!

It

The first time I read this book was in 1998, when I was 15 years old.  Actually, I believe that this book was my introduction to the world of Stephen King — and I can honestly say, that I have loved everything I have read from this story weaving genius.  I have not had the opportunity to read all of his books (there are so many!), but It stands out there on a golden limb, together with other classic Stephen King books like Carrie and the Shining.

Continue reading “It by Stephen King”

The Cat Alarm

In February, 2016, I was temporarily living in Texas for work.  I was having a particularly hard day.  My boyfriend was living in Austria at the time, and my jerk of an ex-husband had custody of our cats, who I had raised since kittens (its a long story). I was feeling very lonely.

I was coming back from a run, when I spotted a little black and white cat walking around and crying piteously. I walked up to her, she rolled on her back, and the rest, as they say, is history. I wasn’t ever lonely again after that.

Almost three years later, she is living with my boyfriend and I in Austria, and she is loving every moment of it.

The hungry cat alarm woke me up today at 5:30 a.m. (because, well, she knows I will always get up for her).  She is now fast asleep on “her” chair (I told my boyfriend he needs to find a new one), and I am blogging.  I guess waking up at 5:30 a.m. tired her out.

Happy Caturday!

The life of a pampered house cat

Kombucha Honey Mustard: Part 2

How to make delicious kombucha honey mustard:

  1. Brew kombucha like normal, and wait until it becomes vinegar.
  2. Place 1/2 cup of yellow mustard seeds in a jar, and cover them with the kombucha vinegar.  It is possible that the seeds will plump up slightly as they soak.  If the mustard seeds start popping over the top of the kombucha vinegar, cover them with more kombucha vinegar.
  3. Let the seeds soak for at least 3 days (I waited 6 days).
  4. After waiting the sufficient amount of time, pour the whole jar into the blender
  5. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons tumeric and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  I added 1/2 a clove of garlic, but at the end of the day I didn’t like the taste of it in the mustard, so I would say to not use it.
  6. Add 5 teaspoons of honey
  7. Blend.  If the consistency is too grainy, keep adding more kombucha vinegar until smooth.

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The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

When their friend commits suicide, a trio of friends from law school, smothering under the weight of large student loans, decide to quit law school in their last semester and go into practice without a license.  In the process, they take on the machine behind the law school loan racquet, fraudulently joining a class action (more than 1,000 times under fake names) against the bank backing the predatory lending, to exact revenge against the unfair practice of enticing impressionable young people to enroll in a low tier law school.

This book really resonated with me, as I was once myself a law school student in at a law school that was definetely not an ivy league school.  Upon leaving law school, I was crushed under a debt of around $150,000, and was expected, without a job, to pay back nearly $1,700 a month in principal + interest, at varying interest rates, some as high as 8%.  I suffered under this debt for nearly 10 years and paid well over $150,000, only to move to Austria, where students go to school (even University and law school) virtually for free — paying only nominal expenses.

This book not only gets it right about the predatory lending scheme of law school, and university in general in the United States, but tells a fun story of 3 students who weren’t going to take it anymore and who decided to do something about it.  While reading this book, I couldn’t help but to relate to the characters and their plight.

I have read other books by John Grisham, but this one is by far my favorite.

 

Barnegat Bay, New Jersey

View from Mantoloking Bridge, in Mantoloking New Jersey.

Mantoloking / Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, down to Pt. Pleasant Beach is a great place to run.  There is a small park before the bridge where the ReClam the Bay, a local non-profit organization is “reclamming” the Bay, or in other words, is trying to regrow the population of shellfish.  According to the signs located in the Park, there used to be millions of clams and oysters in the Bay.  However, due to various reasons (runoff (i.e., fertilizer) from the watershed (i.e., an area of land that drains to a common body of water), lack of management, and reduced habitat), there are only a fraction of them left.

Barnegat Bay Shellfish Restoration Program. There are clams growing inside the tank.

As also mentioned on the board standing next to the clam grow tank, the organization starts in July with baby seed clams, about 100,000 per upweller. Each is only about 2.5mm. By the end of the season, the clams have grown up to 20mm. In the fall, the clams are then planted in the Bay under protective screens to keep them safe from predators. They stay there for a full season, where they are then transferred into the Bay.

Statue provided by Brick High School Art Club

If you are ever at the Jersery shore, this little park is a great place to visit.  Not only does it have the cool clam box, but it also has a playground for children and a runner’s track. Currently living in the landlocked country of Austria, it is always great to run around the water front.

 

Kombucha Honey Mustard: Part 1

I remember the exact moment when I first tried kombucha. I was in the passenger seat of the car in the parking lot of a Whole Foods in Long Island New York.  My ex-husband had bought a rather expensive (something like $3) green carbonated drink, which he said was supposed to be really healthy.

I took a sip and was like, “uck, that’s disgusting!”

It was super sour and the base flavor was not that great. It would be my first taste of G.T.’s, one of the the biggest kombucha brewers in the US.

Since it was supposed to be good for me, when we went back to Whole Foods the next weekend, I tried it again, this time the Passionberry Bliss flavor.  My second try went much better, and I was soon hooked!

Since I was on a limited budget (damn law school loans), spending $3 a bottle a day on kombucha (x2 people), was just not in the budget.  I was seriously bummed out. However, after doing some research online, I was delighted to discover that I could brew ‘buch at home for a fraction of the price!

mustard seeds from Sonnentor soaking in kombucha vinegar

Since I have some extra kombucha vinegar laying around, I decided to get creative.  Eric and Jessica Childs (founders of Kombucha Brooklyn in New York City) in their book Kombucha! had a really interesting recipe for kombucha mustard.  I like mustard, so I decided to give it a shot.

Stay tuned for the results!

The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial Killer

Rodney Alcala, born in 1943 in San Antonio, Texas, is believed to have raped and murdered around 130 people. Alcala committed his first known crime (rape of an 8 year old girl) in 1968, at the age of 25 while a student at UCLA.  Due to the unavailability of the witness (she had moved back to Mexico with her family), Alcala was given a sentance of only 1 year to life, and released on parole after 34 months.

That was just the beginning of the horrific crimes of torture, rape, and murder that Alcala would commit during his lifetime.

I am giving the book 3 stars out of 5, as I neither really liked, nor really disliked it.

While I usually enjoy a true crime story, I found that this book while being extremely detailed and obviously well researched, lacked the human element — both in the telling of the background story of the killer himself, and also in the telling of the story of the victims.  I felt like I was reading some legal document, which was spelling out the facts of the case to a judge, rather than a novel.

Check out this book on Goodreads: The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial kIller http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36610960-the-killing-game

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Top 10 at the Jersey Shore

1. Kohr’s Frozen Custard. If you like icecream, you will love Kohr’s. It is so thick and creamy. The best flavor by far is the orange / vanilla twist. You can find it at the Pt. Pleasant Beach boardwalk, down by Jenkinsons.

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Left: Pumpkin / vanilla twist. Right: Orange / vanilla twist

2. Mueller’s Bakery. Around since the late 1800’s, this place is great for baked goods. It used to have much better coffee (when it was brewed fresh). I guess due to supply and demand issues, the coffee is brewed and put into “self-service” pots against the back wall of the bakery. If you don’t come just when it was brewed, you could be disappointed.

Mueller’s Bakery

3. Martell’s Tiki Bar. This place is super fun during the summer months. On the weekends they usually have live bands. There is a bar conveniently located at the end of the pier, so you can enjoy a drink and watch the waves crash against the shore.

Tiki Bar Pier

4. Jenkinson’s Sweet Shop. This sweet shop is open year round, and is a great place to get homemade fudge and New Jersey saltwater taffy.

Ask for a taste test of the homemade fudge. My favorite is the peanut butter chocolate.

Homemade Fudge

Taffy comes in all sorts of flavors and makes a great gift!

Salt water taffy

5. Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Located at the end of the commercial portion of the boardwalk, this place is really fun for kids (and even if you are an adult). The animals are really nice to see, and there are shows (like feeding the Penguins) that you can watch. We would always take my niece and nephew here on the weekends–especially if it was a rainy day.

Aquarium

6. Running on the Boardwalk. The boardwalk is about 1 mile long, and is a great place to run (in the off season). Since it is super croweded during the on-season, I cannot recommend this as a good place to run, unless you come either really early in the morning or really late.

The View from the End of the Boardwalk

7. Bayhead. Bayhead is a cute little town near to Pt. Pleasant Beach. It has quaint little shops (e.g. Coffee at Noon) and is an overall good place just to walk around and see the sights.

Walking Around Bayhead

8. Sushi. Living in Austria, American style sushi is hard to come by, so whenever I am in town I love to go out for sushi. My favorite place is a small restaurant in Normandy Beach called Blue Sushi. The food is fresh and tasty. The restaurant is BYOB. Price for Amazing Roll was $17, and 3 pieces of sashimi was $6. A normal roll like Spicy Tuna was about $7. If sushi is not your thing, they also had typical Japanese restaurant food, like Udon noodle soup and teryaki.

Amazing Roll and White Tuna Sashimi

9. Spikes: My family and I have been going to spikes for decades. It is a small fish market and restaurant with wooden tables and benches.  The food is always fresh and consistently good.  If you go in the summer time, expect to wait up to an hour for an available table as they do not take reservations.

10. Local Urban Kitchen. This little restaurant has great food (vegan and gluten free options available), great coffee, and homebrewed teas. I meant to take a picture of the blackbean burger on gluten free bread, with raw kale chips, but I was so hungry and it looked so good that I totally forgot.  After lunch, I had a non-fat latte. My tastebuds thanked me.  Being a kombucha homebrewer and general kombucha enthusiast, I had to try the kombucha on tap.  It was lavender-mint flavored, and was very crisp and refreshing. Kulture Kombucha is a local NJ brewery.

 

 

 

Haunted: Horror of Haverfordwest

This book is actually 2 books in one, including the author’s previously published book A Most Haunted House.

Told in the interview style, this book was very well written and was very entertaining–if you like scaring yourself like me, the best time to read this book is right before turning out the lights.

Claiming to be non-fiction (of this I have no reason to doubt or confirm), the story starts in Wales, 1989, when Dai and Anne, a married couple get a good deal on the purchase of a house.  As is always the catch in these matters, the house is very, very haunted. At the beginning, the entities manifest themselves as shadowy figures, and over time move on to violations of both mind, body, and spirit–the entities terrorize the couple, so much so, that they are eventually forced to move out.

Decades later, an unsuspecting couple, “John” (who is in fact the author) and “Sarah” his now ex-girlfriend, move into the house.  Again, almost immediately they begin to experience strange occurrences in the house. The couple is so affected by the haunting, that they break up and move away.

The author ends the book with a recitation and summary of the varying theories of what could cause paranormal occurrences, or rather, people’s perception that these occurrences are happening to them.  While these theories are intriguing, I feel that they detract from the overall story of the individuals living in the haunted house.  In fact, I considered skipping it all together.  I would have rather liked to see these theories more fleshed out and investigated in a separate book.

Nevertheless, I really liked this book not only because of the overall story, but because of the realness of the characters. These people were just normal, average people who found themselves in an unspeakable situation. I could see myself a little in John, because at the beginning I also would have been excited to have a real haunting in the house, and can totally understand how this excitement could in fact turn to horror, fear, and despair.

If you love movies including Amnityville Horror, the Conjuring 2, Stranger Things (the series), and Insidious, (or if you are looking for a good scare) then I would definitely recommend this book.

Check out this book on Goodreads: Haunted: Horror of Haverfordwest http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38247056-haunted

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Local Urban Kitchen, Pt. Pleasant NJ

My mom and I had just finished our 5k run / walk at the boardwalk, and we decided to go for lunch. Local Urban Kitchen opened at the Pt. Pleasant location in 2014.  In the last four years, I think that I have only been here a couple of times — this was definetely my huge loss!

Everything in the restaurant is locally sourced and is just absolutely fresh and delicious. There are tons of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, which for me is a huge PLUS! Their website also mentions that the tables and benches are handbuilt and “upcycled” by a local contractor, and the plates are made by a local potter.

Craving good coffee? This place hits the spot.  If you are feeling adventurous, you could even try fall inspired flavors like vanilla maple or pumpkin.

What can I say about kombucha that isn’t positive?  As a homebrewer and general kombucha lover, I have tried many different flavors and breweries. On tap at the Local Urban Kitchen is Kulture Kombucha‘s lavender mint. They also sell a variety of flavors in bottles. Definetely worth a try!