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Yes I said Gleeky!

I’m absolutely in love with the TV show “Glee”! Of course, I have to admit that I’m a fan of musicals, always have been, but Glee is fresh, fun and brand new!

I’m very impressed with the talent and skill evident in the production and cast of this show. The cast couldn’t be better, there is real chemistry – promoting real concern for and interest in the characters in each episode. This isn’t the first TV show to be set in a High School, nor is it the first to address teen pregnancy, drugs, identity or any of the other challenges today’s teens face. But the Glee Club’s musical twist makes it all seem fresh – and keeps me coming back for more!

Ok….Gleek warning! Here comes my inner fangirl:

I have to say I’m a fan of Raechel. Yes, she’s got big dreams and isn’t afraid to go after them…sometimes appearing abrupt and self-centered, but she’s strong too, and always comes through in the end. I’d love to see her with Finn once things settle down for him a little bit.

I also love Kurt. He’s got big challenges in his life, but he’s loyal and smart – I’m cheering for him! It takes a lot of guts to pull off all that he’s done this season, I can’t wait to see more! I’d like to see him and Raechel get past their differences too, they could be friends next season with the right writing.

The rest of the characters are wonderful, and there really isn’t one that I dislike right now. Each have had their moments, and I’m hoping to learn more about them as the show progresses, but for now Raechel and Kurt have won my heart.

The best part of the show? The music of course! Throughout this season the music has been awesome, I look forward to it and find myself singing along whenever I know the song they are singing. The second to last episode with the Glee version of “Imagine” with the deaf singers was totally amazing! I cried! The released version from iTunes doesn’t have the deaf singers, and I can understand it might not come through as well without the visual…but I was kind of disappointed. I just know it will be one of the episodes I watch several more times, just for that song!

Tonight I finally broke down and put both albums on my iphone…now I can have Glee all week! In fact…I’m listening right now, as I write this post 🙂

See the show, fall in love, and come be Gleeky with me!

Twenty Wishes is another Blossom Street novel by Debbie Macomber. Anne Marie Roche owns the bookstore just down the street from “A Good Yarn” the knitting shop that was our first look at Blossom Street. Anne is a young widow who feels alone and empty, her dreams of true happiness and a child of her own seemingly shattered and impossible.

Rather than spend Valentine’s day alone and sad, Anne and several of her widowed friends get together and have a party of their own. The topic turns to hopes, dreams and wishes for the future, and the women decide to each make a list of 20 wishes. No shopping or to do lists, only wishes – wishes from the heart, things each woman secretly wants to do.

Each list has some some eyebrow raising entries, like buying cowboy boots – but they also reveal hopes long buried, and the pursuit of these wishes leads each woman towards happiness and fulfillment.

Anne’s list takes her down an unexpected path, leading to a life she never expected and a relationship she never thought possible.

I would recommend this book.

The Sims 3
is out for PC!

The latest version of the popular game already has me hooked. I’ve loved the sims since they first came out, and have way more expansions and stuff packs for the sims 2 than is healthy. Now that the new version is out, I’m happily exploring all the new content and the graphics/AI updates.

So far, it’s great. The town is newer, bigger and seamless. I love being able to send my sim somewhere and not have to wait through the loading screen. The sim creator has had a complete overhaul. The possibilities seem endless for customizing the sim just the way you want them. Even the alien look is included with this game.

The sim AI seems to be greatly improved. No longer do my sims go into a panic because they can’t decide if they should pee or fix dinner. They seem to interact better with each other now too. The only odd thing I’ve seen so far is when they first arrive home after being out for any period of time. They stand facing a wall for a second or two…as if the AI needs to load household actions. Not a big deal, but odd for sure. I love the new wish system, and the ability to choose which ones to accept and work on at any given time. I like this a lot better than having to constantly worry about fears, and then having wants randomized each morning if they weren’t locked.

The relationship meter displayed for every interaction with other sims is great. It’s so much easier to tell if they are hitting it off, or just irritating each other – long before they start screaming at each other! It shows the progression from first interest to friendship and on to deeper connections too, which is great. You still have the relationship window in the UI that shows where you are with each person you know, but the real time meter is very useful.

And now for my very favorite aspect of the Sims. Houses. Building them, decorating them and forcing my sims to live in them. I’ve always loved the build/buy modes the best. I can honestly say I’ve probably spent at least twice as much time in those modes than actually playing in live mode with the sims themselves. In the sims3 everything has been greatly improved. I’m still not quite used to the new item menus, but the increased inventory is great! I absolutely love the ability to customize colors for everything, and the angled, and even off grid placement ability. Placement was a big irritation for me with sims2, I was forever looking for work arounds and giving my poor sims fits because items weren’t placed the way they wanted them…but it looked better that way! Now I can have both.

Even when I set out to build something simple – I seem to end up with large houses, the most expensive items and a generally “similar” look. Now with the ability to customize colors and patterns, that problem is fixed. Well, the look part anyway, I still can’t seem to build a small house.

There are a couple things I miss from the expansions for sims2. I miss pets. And surprisingly, gardens and seasons. I wasn’t expecting that to be such a big deal, but I’m really hoping those are in the works to be expansions for sims3. Vacations were fun, as was owning a business. But there seems to be an option to buy into a business in sims3 – I’ll need to explore that and figure out how that works. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

The only con I have so far is that you still can’t watch your sim work, and have to either busy yourself with decorating, or just wait for time to pass while they are at work. I personally would like to watch them I think – it shouldn’t be that different from the business expansion where everyone went about their jobs. The challenges and activities too should be visible. Especially things like tours through the museum – I’d like to see the inside of those buildings too!

Overall I’m happy with the latest addition to the Sims family of games from EA. I look forward to many hours of building and playing with this latest addiction. Maybe I’ll use the time my sim is at work to do my laundry or blog…

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Another book in the Virgin River series, Paradise Valley is another success by Robyn Carr. Picking up right where the last book left off, the characters that I have come to know and love in Virgin River now face a drastic life change in one of their nearest and dearest, Ricky.

Ricky has been part of the story from the start of the series, we met him when he was just a young teen, being raised by his grandmother, and watched over by Jack and Preacher. Throughout the series we’ve watched his ups and downs, growing pains, and witnessed his jump into adulthood when he held his stillborn son. Now he’s a young marine, and Jack gets the phone call that all parents (even surrogate ones) have nightmares about.

I find myself caught up in the drama, holding my breath to see what will happen next, and completely in love with the close knit town and the way they rally around their own offering as much help and support as they can, no matter what.

This book also continues that romance between retired general Walt and his movie star lady – and it brings back Dan, the mysterious man who has appeared several times over the series. Cheryl too comes back, though not to stay, at least for now. And we are given a glimpse of who she is becoming.

If you’re reading the series, don’t stop now, get this book and keep reading. If you haven’t started yet, I encourage you to pick up the first book and let yourself become part of this wonderful town.

Link: Paradise Valley (Virgin River, Book 7)

Link: Virgin River (Virgin River, Book 1)

Also try the Grace Valley series, also by Robyn Carr.
Link: Deep in the Valley (Grace Valley Trilogy, Book 1)

I’ve been reading like crazy this week – must be all the rain.

Little Bitty Lies: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews.
Personal Rating: 4/5 Stars. Fiction
At first glance I thought this book was going to be just another romance novel, but I was wrong. Sure, there’s a hint of romance in it, but the story is about a woman struggling to survive after being abandoned and left penniless by her husband. The characters come to life very quickly, and I found myself shocked and enraged right along with the main character Mary Bliss McGowan as she discovers her husband’s betrayal. I cheered her on as she planned a way out of the nightmare and was on the edge of my seat with anticipation when one little lie spiraled out of control into a wild adventure with unexpected consequences. This book is about best friends, secrets, mothers and daughters and Little Bitty Lies.

Hissy Fit: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews
Personal Rating: 4/5 Fiction
Another book by Mary Kay Andrews, I found Hissy Fit quite entertaining. Set in the South, this book tells the story of a interior decorator named Keeley Murdock who thinks she has her life all figured out, until she opens a door at her wedding rehearsal that is, and finds her life turned upside down. Cue the Hissy Fit! Humiliated and needing work to both stay in business and keep her mind busy, Keeley takes on a client who turns out to be smitten with a woman he’s never even met. And if all that isn’t enough, Keeley’s past stands in the way of her (and her father’s) future and she’s forced to go in search of the truth. This book is well written and fun to read. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in a story full of fun and mystery, romance and Southern charm.

Savannah Breeze: A Novel , by Mary Kay Andrews
Personal Rating: 4/5 Fiction
Sequel to Savannah Blues, this book is another delightful southern tale following the lives of BeBe Loudermilk, and her best friend Weezie. Fooled by a man and left homeless, BeBe must figure out where he’s gone and how to catch him before he strikes again – all while trying to restore an old beach side inn and generate some income to put a roof back over her head. Plus there’s Harry. Harry is a mystery all by himself and BeBe can’t decide if she wants to strangle him or kiss him. I’d recommend this book as great summer reading, even if you can’t get to the beach! Pull up a beach towel, slather on some sunscreen and hang on for this crazy tale of betrayal, revenge and finding love in unexpected places.

And now for a change of pace, I’ll be trying out Emily Griffin’s Something Borrowed

Now that the beta is over, I’m free to talk about my latest online game addiction.

Free Realms is classified as a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) or MMO for short. Two races are available for play, Human and Pixie. Both have male and female options, with customization of hair, eye and skin color, different outfits and hairstyles.

I’ve chosen a human female, and named her “Lyric Rainsong.”

From Free Realms

Free Realms does not have a class system, instead it offers a job system. Each player can choose to do any (or all) of the available jobs, switching from job to job depending on what they are working on at the moment with just a simple change of outfit.

From Free Realms

So far I’m impressed with the graphic quality of the game, everything is clear and bright, just right for a world full of pixies, adorable goblins and cartoony humans. The user interface is simple to use and easy to figure out. I’m convinced that the developers have done their homework and incorporated some of the best elements of other available games (such as World of Warcraft) to make this game fun and easy to learn.

The job system, quests and minigames are well developed. I am looking forward to the addition of other features like player housing and clubs (guilds) which have been mentioned as “on the list” by the devs.

As the name suggests, Free Realms IS free to play. It also allows quite a bit of freedom in game play – which the devs insist is the true meaning of the name. Membership is available for a small monthly fee, and buying “Station Cash” allows players to purchase exclusive items such as pets and select accessories. A few of the jobs are limited to members only as well, but from what I can tell playing for free still offers quite a variety of fun and games to young and casual players.

I’ve started a web gallery for my screenshots, and I’m sure I’ll be posting more as I explore each of the various jobs and games.

Gallery: My Free Realms Pics
Link: Free Realms

Ok now I’m totally sold on those microwave steamer packs. I tried the rice the other day myself, but today I fixed some up for the kids. They LOVED it!

I mixed a bag of the southwestern style rice with some refried beans, cheese and for the kids, a bit of ketchup (on bean? well…they like it) I tossed in a few chips and they ate!

When I say they ate, I mean…they ate like they’d never had food before. They loved it, the begged for more. I was amazed. Usually my 2yo requires coaxing with something he’s never tried before, but he dug right in. By the end of the meal he was covered in beans, his bowl was practically licked clean and he announced: That was GOOD!

I wasn’t expecting such a good review, but they both liked it, so I’ll be adding it to my grocery list. I would call this a really easy meal. It took less than 5 minutes from freezer to plate.

For those that wanted to know, the brand was “Bird’s Eye Steamfresh” I found it next to the other types of microwave steamers at Walmart.

I love home cooked meals as much as anyone, especially my cheezy enchiladas. But with two little ones underfoot, I don’t always have the time or the energy to prepare a big meal. So, I’ve been trying out the microwave steam veggie bags that our local walmart carries. I think I’m in love! They are quick, easy and healthy…that’s a win in my book.

Today I experimented with something new, the southwestern style rice. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, I’m not a huge fan of spicy food, but the rice with broccoli and cheese steamer had been good, so I wanted to try another rice dish.

I made what turned out to be really tasty nachos:

1 bag of southwestern style rice “steamfresh”
1 slice of cheddar cheese
ketchup to taste
chips

I cooked the rice as directed on the bag, melted a slice of cheese on top and stirred in some ketchup. I used chips to scoop it up, and it was great! I suppose a tortilla for a quick burrito would also work.

Now I just have to test it on the kids…but since they would eat ketchup straight if I let them, I don’t think it’ll be a tough sell.

I have to admit I was not sure about this book when I first picked it up. But I like knitting, and I loved Debbie Macomber’s Shop on Blossom Street series. I was impressed with the writing style. It was easy and unforced, and made me feel as if I could walk into that knitting shop and know everyone there. I wanted to taste Dakota’s cookies, and walk through the rows of colorful wool imagining my next project.

I found the story line believable. A single mom raising a daughter in New York, with the real challenges that come with impending teen-hood, owning a small business, and renewed contact with people from your past. The dynamic between the women was great to “watch.” Each unique and viewing knitting from a different perspective, they became more than businesswoman and customers, they became friends, family.

I was caught off guard by the ending. It was unexpected, yet believable at the same time. It was gut wrenching, terrible and sad. I normally hate sad endings, but I couldn’t give up on this one. I had to see it through. And though it was sad, I’m glad I finished. Even in it’s sad ending, the story was rich and beautiful. I’m now looking forward to the sequel, which takes place 10 years later, and hope to be reunited with some old friends, see the life after tragedy, and meet the young girl turned woman and find out if she’s still baking mouth watering treats and charming all she meets.

I give this book a 4/5 rating and would recommend it anyone  who has faced the challenges of life and was grateful for the support and understanding of the women around her.

Link: Kate Jacobs: The Friday Night Knitting Club – Shelfari

Yes Man

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m a Jim Carrey fan. I don’t love ALL of his movies, but when he makes one like “Yes Man” I’m thrilled. He’s done some weird stuff, but this isn’t it. The plot of “Yes Man” is easy to follow and believable. Carrey plays Carl Allen, a man that is afraid to take risks. He’s been left by the woman he loved, is passed over for promotion and avoids his friends for fear of running into his ex. All of that changes when an old friend shows up and challenges him to just say “yes.”

Carl’s first yes sets off a chain of events that turns his life upside down and introduces him to Allison (played by Zooey Deschanel) a free spirit who charms him with her adventurous lifestyle. How long can he keep saying yes? Longer than you might think!

This movie will make you grin, giggle and even laugh if goofy humor is your thing. Charming and fun, I give this movie 4/5 stars and a great big “would watch again!”

Link: Yes Man, on Amazon

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