Monday, August 31, 2009
156 pages, @2003
Woo-hoo my 11th President I'm flying through this challenge, only 33 more President's to read about!
So I try to read 2 books about Presidents a year. I read about John Tyler in the 1st half of the year and decided to pick up James K. Polk now so I wasn't struggling to read it during the holidays in the 2nd half of the year.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about James K. Polk. I thought he was kind of one of those forgotten Presidents and let's face it I'm in President no-mans land with all one term peeps leading up to Lincoln.
James Polk, however, really impressed me. He is consistently ranked behind Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln as a President that wielded the power of the office of the chief magistrate effectively. I was surprised by that. In fact, since Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. began periodically surveying experts in the field, he has consistently been ranked among the great and near-great Presidents in the US. Again, surprised by that fact. He achieved great things as President for our country but it appears his personality as an annal, controlling, blah kind of man has tainted all that he accomplished.
The most amazing thing about Polk's story is that he was on his way out when he was elected President. Basically he had lost the governorship of Tennessee (his home state) two elections in a row. The year he was elected President he was aiming for the Vice Presidency and his party wasn't even in support of that! Then at the same time the two candidates that were pretty much going to win the nomination from their parties (Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay) came out and declared that they were not in favor of bringing Texas into the Union. This was not the way the majority of the country felt. Polk, as a known supporter of bringing Texas into the Union, became the lead candidate for the Democrats, won the party nomination and then beat Henry Clary for the Presidency. I mean talk about coming out of nowhere this guy was politically dead when he was elected President. I found that incredibly interesting.
In order to win his party's nomination he guaranteed them that he would only be President for one term and that he would not seek a 2nd term. He went into his Presidency with 4 goals in mind: 1) He would lower the tariff, 2) He would re-create Van Buren's independent treasury, 3) He would acquire Oregon from the British and 4) He would acquire California from Mexico. He accomplished all 4 of his goals during his Presidency of 4 years, which in my book is pretty amazing.
He was succeeded by his enemy Whig President Taylor (who led the charge in the war against Mexico to acquire Texas and then California). He then died 3 months after leaving office. He had no children.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about Polk. I would definitely be interested in reading a larger biography of President Polk...we'll see if that happens one day!!!
Post in Comments:
Who's your favorite President of the first 11? (Washingston, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler or Polk?)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I know, I know this movie came out forever ago. It's been in my infamous Netflix queue (that I swear I'll get down to under 100 before the year is up!) The other day I found it on TV and dvr'd it so I was able to watch it sooner.
While The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was not nearly as good as it's competitors (ie: Harry Potter) I thoroughly enjoyed the story and feel the need to now re-read the books.
Essentially the plot is that during WWI or WWII 4 children are sent to live with a Professor far from London where the bombing is going on. They arrive at this incredibly huge house but are told the Professor is not to be disturbed. They decide to play hide-and-seek and the youngest child Lucy hides in the Wardrobe and discovers the mystical state of Narnia. No one believes her until one day trying to escape getting in trouble they all hide in the wardrobe and all end up in Narnia. The White Queen is looking for them because she wants to end the Prophecy. In the meantime they're looking for the Lion (can't remember his name) who is building an army to fight The White Queen. They each discover their strengths and are tested by loyalty.
In the end I thought it was a very enjoyable movie. I was happy I watched it. The acting wasn't phenomenal and the sword fighting was a little cheesy but I can forgive them that. I was surprised by some of the actors in the movie - James Broadbent, James McEvoy, and Tilda Swinton. They were great but they were all kind of side characters to the children. I loved the cinematography tn brought Narnia and it's inhabitants alive - it was very well done! It seemed a totally magical place. I'll have to check out the 2nd installment Prince Caspian.
Post in comments:
Did you like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I love to travel and I love to run (although I'm not quite the runner I was when I lived in MA). Regardless, when I travel I love to find running routes. I find that it's the best way for me to see a city the way the locals do.
A couple of years ago I found www.runtheplanet.com. When you go to the home page and click on Running Routes you can type in the city, state and country that you are visiting and you'll find running routes (for most places). The routes are written up by runners who have visited the city, who have lived in the city, or who currently live in the city. I used this to find a great running route in San Francisco for Jon and I when we were there and for Portland, Oregan when we were there and for Amy and I when we ran in Puerto Rico. I've printed out running routes for our upcoming vacation for Munich, Salzburg, and Fussen. I'm excited to check them out.
Run the Planet is a great way to get to know a city and even if you're not a runner a lot of these paths are also great walking paths or biking paths so check it out. Also, another great resource for running routes is the concierge at your hotel. That's how we found a great 4 mile loop through the vineyards in Napa. It never hurts to ask the locals.
Post in Comments:
Where have your favorite runs been? For me my favorite runs have been Land's End in San Francisco, Summit Avenue in St. Paul, The Circus Maximus & Appian Way in Rome, running through the vineyards in Napa.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
#9 - Little Caesar is a 1930 movie that tells the story of a man who works his way up the chain of command to be the top dog (isn't that they way with all gangster movies!) Edward G. Robinson plays Little Caesar. Our opinions differed on this movie. Jon liked it more than I did. He loved that the actors talked like old time gangsters (what you might expect from a movie from the 1930's). I do remember that I was surprised by how short it was. It was like 80 minutes or something crazy like that. I just find some of those older movies to go slower because they're not as action packed or the action is not as high-tech as I'm used to seeing (which is a sad statement to make). I did definitely enjoy this movie more than Scarface! Jon rates it 4 stars and I rate it 3 stars.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I have to say that it was the weirdest feeling just running in the middle of Park Avenue. It was awesome though we just did a 3 mile loop - 1.5 miles downtown and then back up the other side of Park Avenue. All along the road as we were running there were bike rental places (although I'm pretty sure they were free rentals), there were mini-tennis courts for kids to begin to learn to tennis, different vendors providing information about their services, and plenty of traffic cops and crossing guards as there are a couple of busy intersections where they were letting the traffic cross Park Avenue when they had the light. The entire 1.5 miles down though we were only stopped 3 times (which in NYC is amazing!) For a full list of activities, click here!
This is definitely a great program. People were biking, running, you could tell that there were marathoners out on a long training run, group runs and families taking a stroll. It was so great to be outside in NYC in a different area (ie: not Central Park or the West Side Highway for a change) and be surrounded by other New Yorkers enjoying a beautiful day in the city by being active!
If you live in NYC and don't have plans this Saturday maybe you should rent bikes on Saturday and ride from Central Park down to the Brooklyn Bridge. I know if we were in town this weekend that's what we would be doing.
Post in Comments:
What is your favorite outdoor space in NYC?
Monday, August 17, 2009
This was our August book group book picked by Nicole. I had never heard of Maile Meloy so I was excited to explore a new author.
Liars & Saints is the story of three generations of the Santerre Family. The story begins with Yvonne & Teddy who get married during WWII. Before Teddy ships off for war Yvonne is pregnant with their oldest daughter Margot. Then comes Clarissa. Then the web of lies begins as Margot and Clarissa begin their teenage years. In the end there are so many family secrets that come to light that all lead back to that very first lie.
Essentially the family are Italian Catholic and there are a lot of underlying themes of religion, guilt, conscience, right vs. wrong, when is OK to lie or rather is it OK to lie, what does family mean, etc, etc.
I really enjoyed this book (even though part of the storyline is pretty messed up). I thought Maile Meloy did a great job writing it. She was very concise with her words and packed a lot into less than 300 pages. This is definitely a character driven book. The chapters alternate being narrated by all of the different characters so you really understand the story from every perspective, which we all agreed in my book group that we loved.
It definitely provided great fodder for our book group discussion! Overall, I wouldn't classify this as a must read but it was definitely enjoyable.
Post in Comments:
Have you ever read anything by Maile Meloy?
Friday, August 14, 2009
I got there at 7PM and Legends was hopping. They apparently get a great after work crowd for dinner and drinks. It's a nice looking bar, new, clean so I could see why people would want to hang out there. We were upstairs in the lounge area, which I had reserved. The lounge had all of these great chairs & comfy couches. It was a pretty cool layout.
The best part of the night though was that they had a DJ there spinning tunes primarily from the 80's! And when he would play a song he would simultaneously play the video for that song on the screens in the bar. It was awesome!!!! It was a total party atmosphere. It was a little loud but it was a lot of fun. I would definitely return to Legends on a Thursday night for drinks and dinner and I'll be back all fall cheering on the Patriots.
If you're looking for a sports bar with lots of televisions, good food, and a great atmosphere this is definitely a place to check out!
Post in Comments:
What's your favorite sports bar in NYC?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Les Halles, is a french style brasserie. It has a great feel when you walk in, it's bustling, I loved the decor, it just totally fit that Parisian style. Matt informed us that it is known for good steak so even though I was leaning towards getting the scallops (next time) I opted for a steak. I rarely eat steak or red meat, not because I'm a vegetarian, but just because I never think to order it.
We ordered drinks. Jenn and I split a bottle of the House Wine and the boys drank Vodka tonics. I wasn't in the mood for an appetizer but everyone else ordered one and they all enjoyed them. Jon and Jenn both had Croutons De Coulommiers Rotis Au Miel Et Poivre (brie topped with honey & cracked black pepper roasted and served on croutons) and Matt had a Smoked Salmon Sandwich that was one of the specials.
Then for the main course Jon had Steak Au Poivre, Frites (steak coated with cracked black peppercorn); I had Onglet A L’Echalote (hanger steak, shallot sauce); Matt & Jenn shared Côte De Boeuf (prime rib on the bone, for two).
I have to say my meal was delicious!!! The shallot sauce was out of this world. It had a light shallot taste but was also a little smoky perfect for dipping my steak pieces in. Everyone really enjoyed their meal and the people watching was fabulous!
I would definitely visit this restaurant again. If you like steak or all things French then I would recommend it as a restaurant you too should visit.
411 Park Ave S
(Btwn 28th & 29th St)
Post in Comments:
Have you eaten at Les Halles?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
In the meantime, I thought I would write a review of Home Away. We used this service when we went on our girls trip to Puerto Rico in March. For whatever reason we couldn't find a hotel suite in San Juan that would sleep 5 (suites just don't exist there!) and we didn't want to have to pay for 2 hotel rooms because it was just going to be expensive for 4 nights. My friend Rachelle informed me that for her girls trip to Napa (coming up in September) her and her friends had booked a house through Vacation Rentals by Owner. So that got me thinking, maybe we could rent an apartment for our trip!
Both sites are great resources for the savvy traveler. Renting an apartment or a house is much cheaper then getting a hotel room during your vacation, especially if you're going to be staying in one place. Of course this depends on how many people are traveling, if it's just 2 it's probably not that much different, but for a group of 5 of us it made a huge difference.
We got a great apartment downtown in the Old Historic District of San Juan. If you want to check out the place we stayed click here! For 4 nights and 2 days car rental we each only had to chip in $180! There is no way it would have been that cheap if we were staying at a hotel. I had no reservations booking through Home Away because the reviews I had seen were top notch. It was very easy to work with them. They sent me a contract and I had to put down 1/2 up front and then the other 1/2 right before we left. I also had to put down a security deposit that was returned to me once they saw that the apartment was returned to the way we found it. The woman met us at the apartment when we arrived and showed us in, gave us a tour, told us where things were in the city, gave us the keys and we were on our own. She gave us her cell phone in the event we had any problems and needed to reach her.
The other great thing about renting an apartment as opposed to staying in a hotel is that we were able to go to the grocery store and purchase food for breakfast, lunch and we ate 1 dinner in. We all chipped in about $20-$30 and that covered breakfast for 4 meals, lunch for 4 meals, 1 dinner and alcohol for the weekend. You can't beat that. We also commented that we ate a lot healthier because we were eating "at home."
Now don't get me wrong I love staying in hotels! They're awesome, but if you're looking for a more affordable way to travel with a family or with a big group of friends apartment/house rentals are the way to go!
Post in Comments:
Have you ever rented an apartment/house when traveling?
Monday, August 10, 2009
322 pages, @ 2009
I have been an avid Mary Higgins Clark fan since I was 13 and on vacation with my parents in Cape Cod. One rainy day I declared I was bored and my mother gave me While My Pretty One Sleeps and I was hooked.
I went on to read every book she'd ever written. My mother obviously is also a huge MHC fan and so every year for Mother's Day part of her gift is that I get her the latest MHC book. Luckily, once she's finished she always passes them on to me!
I realized not too long ago that I had never gotten this year's book, Just Take My Heart, so when we stopped by my parents this weekend to drop off the car I picked it up and promptly started it on the train ride back to NYC.
Just Take My Heart centers around the Bergen County assistant prosecuter, Emily Wallace, who is assigned her biggest case yet, the murder of actress Natalie Raines. The obvious suspect in this murder is Natalie's soon to be ex-husband Gregg Aldrich. Emily's, put-away witness, is an ex-con Jimmy Easton, who claims that Aldrich hired him to murder his wife. While all of this is going on, Emily, unbeknownst to her, has a larger problem on her hands, that of her creepy neighbor, Zach Lanning. Will she realize in time that he isn't who he says he is?
Of course in typical MHC fashion this book flew, I finished it in about two days! I did however, disappointingly, figure out "who done it" about half way through the book. I wouldn't say that MHC mysteries are usually the most difficult to figure out, but she usually narrows it down to two men, one who will end up wooing the main female character, and one who is the murderer and therefore trying to stop the main female character from putting all the pieces together...who can she trust?
In this book however, MHC took the approach of introducing a totally different storyline that had nothing to do with the main part of the mystery. This story line instead of adding to the mystery was just a distraction from the main plot. Therefore, I found it easier to figure out the mystery.
While I didn't think this was MHC's best effort, I did thoroughly enjoy it!
Post in Comments:
What is your favorite Mary Higgins Clark book? Mine is definitely Stillwatch!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Jon got me this book for Easter 2008. He found it at Borders and thought it looked right up my alley. In my quest to read the books Jon buys me instead of saving them I decided to pick it up.
The book takes place in the late 19th Century in England. They classify it as a psychological thriller which I'm not sure I agree with. Essentially "something" is occuring in the home of the Barton's. The Barton family includes: Joseph Barton, the father; Constance Barton, the mother; Angelica Barton, their 4 year old daughter and Nora the Irish live in maid. Constance believes that she sees a ghost haunting Angelica and becomes very over protective of the girl, calling in a spiritual advisor. Joseph, sees how distraught his wife is but does not understand the reason for her bizarre behaviour. Angelica sees the division between her parents and is unsure what to do so she plays into both of their weaknesses.
Angelica is a well written book and what I loved most about it was that there were 4 parts. The first part was the story told from Cosntance's point of view, Part 2 was told from Anne Montague's point of view (the spiritual advisor brought in by Constance to assess the situation, Part 3 was told from Joseph's point of view and the final part was told from Angelica's point of view. I thought this was a clever way to tell the story. The reader was able to understand everyone's point of view.
As a psychological thriller I would say it fell short. I knew there was going to be a twist and I was turning the pages waiting and waiting for it to come and when the twist came it was a little rushed and just fell short of my expecations. However, waiting for that twist definitely kept me engaged and turning the pages.
Overall Rating - 3 stars
Post in Comments:
Do you like psycholgoical thrillers?