Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Club Monday: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison


Browsing the shelves of my local book shop, I likely would not have given Jan Ellison's A Small Indiscretion a second look, to be honest. It was not my usual read, but I really, really enjoyed it. For a taste, here is the back jacket description:
At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking and abandon. Some two decades later, in San Francisco, she is a successful lighting designer married to a good man, and the mother of three children. Then, one June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that threaten to overturn her family's hard-won happiness. When Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and she must piece together the mystery of her past - the fateful collision of liberation and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.
What I found, though, was a great surprise. A Small Indiscretion was a fun read, with twists and turns so sharp that it can't fit into just one genre. It flew from a mystery to a drama in just the flip of a page, and I really loved the flow and fit of the story into each of its' different settings.

The story follows Annie Black, a lighting designer and the owner of a light shop called the Salvaged Light in San Francisco. She has what seems like the perfect life, with her husband, doctor Jonathan, and three children; Polly, Clara, and Robbie, the oldest. Everything seemed to be going well, until she received a mysterious photo in the mail, a photo from a past in London long ago.

Split into parts, the first portion of the story steadily creeps along in a multitude of different times, from the present day in the voice of a mother to her injured son, to the past in London. In London, Annie was a different girl - 19 years old, in search of an education. What she did find was an education and a job, working for a man much older than she, named Malcolm. A Christmas in London with Malcolm and his family set the stage for a photograph that would haunt her and wound her family, even many years later. Coincidentally, she also met her husband on that trip, but the two lives intertwined to create Annie's history, whether or not she wanted to face it.

With well-developed characters working together to create an entertaining story,  A Small Indiscretion is a wonderful debut novel from Jan Ellison, and was a real surprise to this reader. I would definitely recommend it make your to-read list. And since it releases tomorrow, January 20, 2015, you will be able to read for yourselves.

Disclaimer: This review was part of a paid blog book tour, courtesy of Random House and 20 Something Bloggers. I received an advance copy of the novel from Random House free of charge.

As a bonus, I am giving everyone the chance to win their own copy of A Small Indiscretion! Please enter below for your chance to win! Follow the directions below for multiple chances to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dem Cats: A Review of Blue Wilderness Dry Cat Food

As promised, I am planning to roll out some reviews of the pet items I use here in my home with my two cats - and in case you missed my introductory post to them, here it is!

Like many others, I try to do the best I can for my pets - I think it's just human nature to be that way. With the advent of new, grain-free diets, I was interested, but I wasn't entirely sold on the idea. That was, until I lost a five year old cat, who had a lot of life left to live, to kidney failure. At the time, I was doing a dry diet, free-fed, with canned food once in a great while. What I found out in my research after the fact was a bit astonishing.

I had never bothered to look at the ingredients of the food I was using - that being regular blue bag Cat Chow. And when I did? I don't know exactly how I felt - maybe just bummed? Bummed to find out that I was feeding my cats a mixture of chicken heads and who knows what else. I had just purchased a new bag of food, and for whatever reason, flipped it over and read the ingredients. After I did that, I grabbed the receipt, got in my car, and drove back to the store where I'd purchased it, returning it immediately. This was in the beginning of my research, of course, and I had earmarked a few different foods I wanted to try instead.

Through research, and talking to my vet, I figured out that cats cannot thrive on just a dry diet. While it works, for the most part, a combination dry/canned, or just a canned diet is much better for cats in the long run. Why? Because they don't naturally drink a whole lot of water, and they get a lot of water from canned food. I attempted to combat the water problem by supplementing with canned food, as well as getting a water fountain (which I will review next), to generate interest. And it worked, all around!

My "natural" pet food journey started with a variety of Wellness-brand foods. Eventually, something didn't sit right with Vegas, and he started having some issues with vomiting and all else. So, I made the switch to Blue Wilderness. Initially, I was just using their Chicken recipe, and then this stuff came out - Blue Wilderness Chicken Recipe Indoor Hairball Control. My pet food savior!

Having two long-haired cats can be a bit of a challenge anyway, but with one who stress eats on occasion, as well as (in the past) yacked up at least one hairball a day, I couldn't not try it. And to be totally honest, it has changed my cats for the better in a multitude of ways. First and foremost, no more hairballs! On the rarest of occasions they still happen, but nowhere near the frequency as in the past. And not so much just this formula, but the Blue Wilderness brand as a whole, has changed everything from their energy levels to how soft their fur is! It is truly, truly a godsend.

While it may be more expensive than the old blue bag Cat Chow (a five pound bag will cost you around $13), it is definitely worth every penny. At this point, I feed a split diet, between this and a variety of canned foods (which I will cover in another post), and am so, so glad that I found this product, and will continue to pay the higher price tag in order to know that I am doing the best I can for my critters - and that's enough for me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Green Seed Stitch Scarf

Wednesday isn't quite over yet (at least not here in Wisconsin), so I figured I should share my progress on the green scarf! 

As you can see, I have gotten quite a bit done and will be finished very soon! The plan was to do a cowl with this, originally, but it wound up being a bit wider than I originally anticipated. What I'm going to do in order to remedy that is sew it in half and still go with the cowl - that way, it will be doubly warm, and doubly soft! I am really excited about the project, and hope that it winds up as good as I hope it will. 

One of the things I love about knitting, or just making things in general, is that you never know what can happen with the simplest of ideas! 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Tale of Two Kitties: Meet Vegas and Reno

Since I am planning to roll out some pet product reviews coming up, the thought occurred to me that I hadn't yet formally introduced my cats to the blogosphere! And, since they're the ones who are going to be doing the reviews, I figured it was only right!

One of my favorite pictures of Vegas of all time.
First things first. Let me tell you about my old friend Vegas. I met Vegas when I was 19, and I worked at the local animal shelter. He came in as a stray, and I just so happened to be working in admission that day. Since part of my job was to name the animals, I forewent the weird Pokemon and other theme names, and settled on Vegas. He just looked like one, to me. He was beautiful - after a bath and a brush, he was fluffy and happy - all ten pounds of him, a little skinny after too much time outside. He has had such a great attitude since day one, and I noticed that, and the 'thumbs' on his front paws due to polydactyly, right away. Policy was to hold pets for ten days when they came in as a stray, and then they would be put out onto the adoption floor to find a new home. Unfortunately, he wound up with a pretty gnarly upper respiratory infection, that left him in the isolation area for several weeks. From the first time I saw him, I think I loved him. Every day, I would make it a point to visit him if I wasn't working in that area, and I think he knew all of it, too. Have you ever heard the phrase that pets pick you? I really and truly feel like he did. I let him go out for adoption, and he sat out in a cage for around a month. It was summer, and we didn't have the space. Even then, I went in every day, got him out, and let him run around the room and played with him. Until the day that I got the unfortunate news that if I didn't foster him, he would be put down. So, of course, being 19 years old and living with my parents, but knowing damn well I wasn't going to let them put him down, I called home and told my dad I was bringing a cat home. His response was, "Like hell you are!" But within about twenty minutes of being at the house, it was my dad who brought him into the living room first. From there, I fostered him - even taught him to walk on a leash so I could bring him to adoption days at local pet stores like Petco. I had had one foster cat in the past, who I did the same thing with - his name was Monster Paws as his polydactyly gave him two extra digits in front and one in back - but who found a home with two people who worked at the store. I thought this would be the same situation - eventually, Vegas would find another home, and I could rest easy knowing that I saved another one. I made a flyer with pictures of him, and his story, and had it on the counter of the shelter (it was risky to bring him back and forth every day, since I didn't want him to get sick again). Three separate people made appointments with me to visit with him at our home. Three separate people stood me up. That was the only sign I needed, that this was meant to be, and that this little dude was meant to hang out with me forever. This April, it has been ten years (I use their adoption dates as their "birthdays"). And boy, has the time flown! I really and truly don't know what I would have done without him, in some of my darker times. He has always been around to hang out near me, and all around just make my life better. I am thankful, every day, that we found each other.

Reno, the day I rescued her from that cage.
On April 18, 2012, I lost one of my kitties, TK, to kidney failure. I have always had two, and couldn't see Vegas without having a buddy to hang out with. I went to the animal shelter on the 19th, just because I was sad and wanted to take my mind off of it, never imagining I would meet the newest member of the family just then. I walked through the rows of cages of cats and kittens, laughing at a fat old gray cat they named Gus, only because he seemed super ornery. In one of the cages, though, I found this ridiculous looking black and white cat, with her whole body shaved minus her paws, head, and tail. I found out then that her previous owners did not know what a brush was, and that was the reasoning. When I went to see her, she had a nice attitude, and meowed at me a couple of times - TK had been a talker, so it was something I was looking for - but when I walked away from the cage, that's when I knew. She got up on her hind legs, and pawed on the door of the cage, and meowed at me a couple of times. When I walked back over, and stuck my fingers into the cage, she brushed herself back and forth on the door, and I was set. The shelter did free adoptions for pets over a year old, and I figured I had nothing to lose, so I jumped. I have never lost one pet and adopted another so fast before, but it has been great. I decided to name her Reno, and have theme names for my cats - I figured it would be cuter that way.

Besides the first couple of days, Vegas and Reno became fast friends. They aren't typically the kind of cats who snuggle together, but I think they do it when I'm not home.

Vegas is all "Yo, who the F are you?"
Without the two of them, my life wouldn't be nearly as exciting, and you know what? I love them both, dearly, for it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Green Seed Stitch Scarf


In case you aren't familiar, WIP stands for Work-In-Progress. Since it is the middle of my prime knitting season, I have been working on a handful of projects, and have gone from one to another relatively quickly! 

I finished a black and gray striped scarf on Saturday, and started a new one right away. This one is a bit wider than what I usually make, but I thought it would be great to make a cowl that could be folded in half and wrapped a couple of times, and with how soft this new yarn is, no matter what I do with it, it should be great! 

I used the seed stitch, and am using two different colorways of the Lion Brand Heartland yarn, in Kings Canyon (dark) and Joshua Tree (light).  As someone who likes natural fibers a great deal, this is a wonderful yarn for being 100% acrylic. It is very soft, and very easy to work with. It seems like it would be very wearable without being too itchy.

Stop back next week to see how far I get!

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