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    This is my little corner of the world where I can do whatever I some of my favorite (and not so favorite) books, whine about yet another gray sky, or just share a little of what it means to live in the Pacific Northwest after a lifetime of living in the sun.

    Reading As you spend time on my blog, you may notice that my reading tastes are a bit eclectic. I used to be what I call a "book snob". That was before I began work on my master's degree and needed light recreational reading and discovered that while some books might not be "critically acclaimed", they could still be some great fun to read! Now I read a little bit of everything.

    Writing One of my lifelong dreams (besides meeting John Taylor from 80's Duran Duran fame) has been write the next great American novel . I'm sure many of you share this dream (you might even share my dream of meeting John Taylor, who knows). I've always been afraid to start writing. I put "writing" in the sub-title of the blog hoping that it will force me to begin writing something or else I will have to crawl away in shame...

    Living I'll also be sharing stories about my experiences living and parenting in the PNW. If you're expecting great tips on how to organize your schedule or how to prepare gourmet meals on a shoestring budget...sorry, you won't find that here. I am chronically messy, chronically disorganized, and chronically planning gourmet meals that never get prepared. It's just going to be me...sharing my trials and tribulations of not only leaving 365 days of sunshine for 350 days of gray skies but also the oh so fun adventure of parenting two "tweens" who think they know more than me.

Book Review: The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

Title:  The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden
Author:   Karen Newcomb
Genre:   Non-Fiction/Gardening
Source:   Publisher
Rating:  5
Locate It: Amazon

This classic gardening bestseller (over 500,000 copies sold) uses ecologically friendly, intensive biodynamic methods to produce large amounts of vegetables in very tiny spaces. Revised for an all new generation of gardeners, the 40th anniversary edition includes brand new information on the variety of heirloom vegetables available today and how to grow them the postage stamp way.

To accommodate today’s lifestyles, a garden needs to fit easily into a very small plot, take as little time as possible to maintain, require a minimum amount of water, and still produce prolifically. That’s exactly what a postage stamp garden does. Postage stamp gardens are as little as 4 by 4 feet, and, after the initial soil preparation, they require very little extra work to produce a tremendous amount of vegetables–for instance, a 5-by-5-foot bed will produce a minimum of 200 pounds of vegetables.

When first published 40 years ago, the postage stamp techniques, including closely planted beds rather than rows, vines and trailing plants grown vertically to free up space, and intercropping, were groundbreaking. Now, in an ever busier world, the postage stamp intensive gardening method continues to be invaluable for gardeners who wish to weed, water, and work a whole lot less yet produce so much more.

My Thoughts:

I love gardening.  When we “shopping” for a new house last year, one of the critical items on my list was that the house have a sunny location suitable for a vegetable garden.  The backyard and raised garden beds are what truly sold me on the house we ended up purchasing.  Here is a photo of the garden side of our yard that I took a few weeks ago.  It’s still winter here in Portland so there is nothing growing but you’ll get the idea.  There are four beds in staggered length.

I received The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden just in time to start planning this springs garden.   This book is great!  It’s a similar concept as the Square Foot Garden (I actually think that concept may have been based on the original Postage Stamp Garden book) but allows for more freedom in space and planning.

The book has comprehensive sections on soil, types of vegetables (with when to plant, special requirements, when to harvest, and best choices for this type of garden), companion planting, pests, etc.  There is also a section at the beginning of the book about the history and evolution of this type of planting that I found very interesting.

I have many gardening books (almost as many cookbooks as I have) but I find The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden to be a great addition to the collection.  In fact, I foresee it being my go-to guide this spring and summer as I plan and plant my garden.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review of this book. 


Book Review: In Her Kitchen

Title:   In Her Kitchen
Author:   Gabriele Galimberti
Genre:   Non-fiction/Cooking
Source:   Publisher
Rating:  3
Locate It: Amazon


In a gorgeous keepsake volume based on the slideshow that captured the world’s attention, Gabriele Galimberti’s beautiful portraits of grandmothers from all over the world with their signature dishes stunningly illustrates the international language of food and family.

On the eve of a photography trip around the world, Gabriele Galimberti sat down to dinner with his grandmother Marisa. As she had done so many times before, she prepared his favorite ravioli—a gesture of love and an expression of the traditions by which he had come to know her as a child. The care with which she prepared this meal, and the evident pride she took in her dish, led Gabriele to seek out grandmothers and their signature dishes in the sixty countries he visited. The kitchens he photographed illustrate both the diversity of world cuisine and the universal nature of a dish served up with generosity and love. At each woman’s table, Gabriele became a curious and hungry grandson, exploring new ingredients and gathering stories. These vibrant and intimate profiles and photographs pay homage to grandmothers and their cooking everywhere. From a Swedish housewife and her homemade lox and vegetables to a Zambian villager and her Roasted Spiced Chicken, this collection features a global palate: included are hand-stuffed empanadas from Argentina, twice-fried pork and vegetables from China, slow-roasted ratatouille from France, and a decadent toffee trifle from the United States. Taken together or bite by bite, In Her Kitchen taps into our collective affection for these cherished family members and the ways they return that affection.

In Her Kitchen is an evocative, loving portrait of the power of food and family, no matter where in the world you sit down for dinner.

My Thoughts:

As a lover of photography and food, the concept of In Her Kitchen truly appealed to me.  I thought it would be one of those cookbooks that just pulls me into images and the stories each recipe tells.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.

This is a nice book and the images of the “grandmas” in their kitchens are sweet but something was missing.  I think I would have liked a more in depth story on each grandmother rather than one or two paragraphs.  And maybe two or three recipes from each grandmother would have made the cookbook feel more complete (to do this, the editor/author would probably have had to choose fewer grandmothers to represent).

 *I received a copy of In Her Kitchen from the publisher via  This review is my honest opinion.

February 27, 2015 - 9:27 am

Susan (Bloggin' 'bout Books) - I love the concept of this book. Too bad it didn’t live up to its promise. I hate that!

Harry Potter’s Severus Snape

Maybe it’s because I’m sick with a cold but I have to admit to a few tears escaping my eyes at the end of this video.

When I read the Harry Potter series, it was Snape’s death that made me cry the hardest.  This video by “kcawesome13″ brought it all back and focuses on how Severus Snape was such an amazingly complex character (and what a great actor Alan Rickman truly is).

This is a longish video but if you are a Harry Potter fan, it is well with worth the 14 minutes.


Book Review: City in Embers

Title:   City in Embers
Author:   Stacey Marie Brown
Genre:   New Adult/Paranormal/Fantasy
Source:   Netgalley
Rating:   3
Locate It:  Amazon


Zoey Daniels has been tossed from foster home to foster home, where she grows up fast and tough. When she is placed in her “last-chance” home, she finds a reason to stay and turn her life around: her foster sister, Lexie, who is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Zoey will do anything to keep her safe.

After high school, Zoey is hired by a special government agency, the Department of Molecular Genetics (DMG), where she meets the other reason to remain: Daniel, her co-worker. The man she loves.

But there is something unique about Zoey. She can see fae. Because of this, the DMG hires her to work as a Collector: catching, researching, testing, and using the fae to save human lives. The work never registers on her sympathy radar. She was raised to think of fae as beasts that feed on humans and want to destroy them.

When devastation hits Seattle, Zoey’s whole world is turned upside down. The electric storm connects her to a ruthless fae, a Wanderer named Ryker, whose dealings expose them to even more trouble and danger. They embark on a journey, running and hiding from both the government and fae, both of which threaten their lives and those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but I really disliked it in the beginning.  I even put the book down ( well, actually, I closed the kindle) and began reading something else.  But, the storyline pulled me back in and I not only found myself opening City in Embers right back up but I also found myself enjoying it.

I’m not sure I can explain what I liked about this book.  I didn’t enjoy the author’s simplistic style of writing and found the characters a bit unbelievable.  Much of the dialogue seemed either forced or formulaic. The pacing seemed to speed ahead at different times which would have me checking back a few pages to see if I had missed something.  But, with all of this, I can honestly say that I liked reading City in Embers and I’ll be first in line to read the sequel with the hopes that the author will find her stride.

**I received a digital copy of City in Embers in exchange for my honest review.  

Giveaway Hop: Romance is In the Air

Happy Early Valentine’s Day and welcome to my stop on the Romance is in the Air  Giveaway Blog Hop!

I’m giving away a signed copy of Michelle Moran’s newest novel, Rebel Queen to TWO winners!    I loved Michelle’s last book, The Second Empress, and am really looking forward to reading this one.

Enter the giveaway below…(I’ll be choosing two winners to each receive one signed copy of the book and a set of bangles that Michelle picked up in India herself!)

Synopsis:  From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter comes the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi—India’s Joan of Arc—who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.

When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.

Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the unexpected perspective of Sita—Queen Lakshmi’s most favored companion and most trusted soldier in the all-female army—Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction. In the tradition of her bestselling novel, Nefertiti, and through her strong, independent heroines fighting to make their way in a male dominated world, Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

February 4, 2015 - 8:05 am

Romance is in the Air Giveaway Blog Hop | onenightbookstandblog - [...] 101. ~Under a Gray Sky (int) [...]

February 4, 2015 - 9:41 am

Linda Meziere - I love historical fiction!

February 4, 2015 - 10:22 am

Suz Reads - My dream Valentine’s Day date is my cat Buddy because he is such a sweetheart and always makes me smile! Thanks for this amazing giveaway – I would love to win!

February 4, 2015 - 10:36 am

Jen @ Under a Gray Sky - Suz…I have a cat like that!

February 4, 2015 - 10:38 am

beth - My boyfriend is my date for valentine’s though I wouldn’t say no to Mr. Knightley.

February 4, 2015 - 11:46 am

nrlymrtl - Can I choose a book as my dream date? Any Michelle Moran book would do. Or a Jacqueline Carey novel. Maybe something by Guy Gavriel Kay.

February 4, 2015 - 11:49 am

Fiza @ ConfessionsfrRomaholics - Perfect valentine for me is a quiet time with my loved ones :D

February 4, 2015 - 1:10 pm

Lisamarie - Perfect Date… my husband and I at Palisades for dinner on a clear day at sunset. Nothing more beautiful than a PNW Sunset :)

February 4, 2015 - 6:49 pm

Mary G Loki - My dream date would be a guy who bought me a bunch of macaroons! The good kind! Like from Whole Foods. :D

February 4, 2015 - 6:55 pm

We're Jumpin' Books - Patrick Dempsey – he is so dreamy.
I like Matthew McConaughey as well…

February 4, 2015 - 11:31 pm

Moirae the fates - Dinner and a talk about books.

February 5, 2015 - 9:27 am

elena k - my boyfriend is my dream date of course! I would love to visit paris with him!

February 5, 2015 - 8:45 pm

Regina - My dream date/boyfriend would be Damon Salvatore, or course! Second choice would be William Marshal, The greatest knight!

February 6, 2015 - 2:58 pm

Carla C. - Oh my God, Theo James *-*

Thank you for the giveaway!

February 6, 2015 - 4:38 pm

Sierra - Dream date is going horseback riding with my date! That would be awesome!

February 6, 2015 - 5:43 pm

Mary Preston - A quiet evening at home works for me.

February 7, 2015 - 1:25 am

Judy Cox - I know he is getting old, but Robert Redford has always been gorgeous to me.!!

February 7, 2015 - 7:24 am

naila be - Tavi from Codex Alera would be my valentine

February 7, 2015 - 9:14 am

Sharli M - My dream date would be Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss. He’d probably take me somewhere fantastic in Paris and it’d be super romantic haha. Thank you for the giveaway!

February 7, 2015 - 11:06 am

Anonymous - Matt Bomer from White Collar

February 7, 2015 - 2:57 pm

bn100 - the Rock

February 7, 2015 - 4:44 pm

Sarah M - My dream date would be anyone who makes me comfortable enough to be my goofy self right off the bat :)

February 8, 2015 - 7:33 am

Sabrina West - Thor :)

February 9, 2015 - 12:20 am

Kathlyn La - Books and ice cream!

February 9, 2015 - 4:30 am

Oloore - My dream date would probably be Tom Hiddleston:) Thank you for the giveaway!

February 10, 2015 - 3:02 am

Soo Tan - Aragorn.

February 10, 2015 - 3:13 am

miki - definitively Bones from the night huntress series because i’m sure he would be a gentleman and make that date a memorable one

February 10, 2015 - 7:12 am

mhaikhee - Blanket, books and Ice cream.

February 11, 2015 - 3:39 pm

Stacy - I would love to do something crazy and romantic, like a hot air balloon ride at either sunrise or sunset followed by a picnic.

February 12, 2015 - 12:25 pm

Sam Stamp - My dream Valentine’s Day date would be going out to dinner with my family. My mom, my sister, my Gramma and I. Then playing games afterwards! My Gramma had a stroke and will probably never leave the rehab center.

February 13, 2015 - 6:33 pm

Tanya Guthrie - I would love a night out with my man in the cities. Just the 2 of us, no kiddos. Out to a nice Italian restaurant and then out to a professional play. It would make my day!

February 13, 2015 - 10:53 pm

Julia D - Eddie Vedder & his ukelele!!

February 14, 2015 - 5:16 am

Ileana Alvarado - Roarke from the In Death series :)

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