San Francisco Photography Getaway!

A few months ago, I received a surprising e-mail.
It was from a national PR firm, on behalf of Adobe, inviting me to a Girls Photography Getaway in San Francisco.
The all-expense-paid trip includes a day of seeing the sights in SF and a workshop with Julieanne Kost on Adobe Lightroom 3.
After my initial shock at the offer (was this for real!?), I called The Nerd to see what he thought.
We both agreed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I spoke with my boss, and he agreed to let me take the time off to attend.
So next week, I’ll be joining several other women bloggers (including Miz Booshay and Gayle from Mom and Camera) with a passion for photography in the city by the bay.
I’m really excited and more than a little star-struck.
I’ve never been to San Francisco so I’m excited for the chance to see the city.
And I am pumped to learn more about Lightroom 3. I’ve never used Lightroom, but have heard wonderful things about it and have thought about purchasing it several times.
But I think The Nerd is getting tired of me stressing about the trip.
I mean, what’s the weather like there? Should I bring a coat? What am I going to wear? I *have* to look super-cute if I’m going to be around all these amazing bloggers.
We’re going to be walking all day one day, and sitting in the classroom the next. So my wardrobe has to include comfortable walking shoes. Perhaps my black glitter Toms? Or my Ugg boots? Will my feet get too cold if I wear the Toms, or too hot if I wear the Uggs?
And I’m going to have to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. It’s been *years* since I was in a taxi by myself! UPDATE: I just got an e-mail letting me know that a car service will meet me at the airport to take me to at the hotel. How freaking cool is that?
And what if no one likes me? What if no one talks to me? What if all the other bloggers take a look at my measly little site and silently laugh to themselves at my ineptness?
Huh? Huh?
These are just a few of the things running through my brain as I prepare for the trip.
Can you say psychotic? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure that’s what I am at the moment.
Pray for me, please.
I’ll share all the embarrassing wonderful details upon my return.
Until then, you just have to deal with my craziness.

In My Mailbox

It’s been a while since I showed you guys what I got in my mailbox.
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It’s a chance for bloggers to share the books they received for review or purchased from the store. 
This week, I got a few good things!
**Hardcover provided by Harper Collins**
I’ve already read this one and posted my review. It was awesome!
**Provided by author**
I started reading this and I have to say — I love it so far! Priscilla is hilarious and has a great voice! Can’t wait to finish it!
**Advanced Readers Copy provided by Harlequin Teen** 
I just finished The Iron Daughter and can’t wait to see what happens next in The Iron Queen! Oh, Ash, how you make my heart flutter!
Well, that’s it for me.
What did you get in your mailbox this week?

The Worst Word To Teach a 2-Year-Old…

There is one word … one word that you should never, ever, ever teach a two-year-old.
This word causes the most beautiful child’s face to spasm.
It completely takes away her ability to take a “normal” photo.
It makes me shudder.
The word?
River is at that fun age where her vocabulary is growing and her imagination is in full bloom.
She loves looking like a princess and pretends to be a puppy and calls everyone around her by their Sponge Bob names (I’m Squidward, in case you’re wondering. The Nerd is Mr. Crabs.)
She dances around her room, emulating Belle from Beauty and the Beast, singing “This provincial liiiifffeeeeee…”
But put a camera in her face and this beautiful mug goes from this:
To this:
To this:
All the while, she gleefully yells, “CHEESE!”
She still is beautiful, though, right? Even with her squinched up face. 
Thanks for looking!

Beef Enchiladas

It’s been a while since I cooked a good homemade meal.
I wish I could say that I was a good wife who cooked dinner every night. You would think as a food blogger, I would cook a lot more than I have been lately.
Well, folks, it’s the time of year when my job takes over my life. I’ve been working 10-hour days the past several weeks. And putting in extra time on the weekends.
So I have trouble mustering up the energy to cook dinner.
This weekend, though, The Nerd made a special request: Enchiladas. And, being the good decent wife I am, I obliged.
Beef Enchiladas
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 28-oz can red enchilada sauce
2 c chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 whole yellow onion, diced
2 4-oz cans diced green chiles
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
10 whole flour tortillas
3 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 can chopped black olives
1 c chopped green onions
In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the canola oil and flour and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the enchilada sauce, chicken broth, cilantro, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown the meat and onions in a large skillet. Drain off the fat and stir in the green chiles and seasoned salt.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
When the sauce is ready, pour a bit of it into the bottom of a large baking dish, completely covering the bottom.
Now it’s time to assemble the enchiladas. Spoon some of the meat mixture into a tortilla. Add some grated cheese, green onions and olives and roll them up.
Place the enchiladas seam-side down in the prepared baking dish.
Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top of the enchiladas, making sure not to spill out the side of the pan. You may have some sauce left over.
Top with the remaining shredded cheese and bake for 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly.
Garnish with some sliced olives and green onions and enjoy!

Newborn Photoshoot: Baby Eli

This weekend, I made my decision! I bought a Canon 7D with the 17-40mm f/4L lens.
Of course, with my shiny new camera, I needed something to take photos of.
And Baby Eli was a (semi) willing subject!
He’s such a cute little guy.
He slept like a rock through most of the session.
Isn’t his little hat adorable?
But my absolute favorite one was this one.
River is such an amazing big sister. She just sat there and patted Eli on his back, comforting him.
I think I got some pretty great photos. It was fun to get to use my new camera.
I’m still practicing and getting used to it. But practice makes perfect, right?
Thanks for looking!

Vesper by Jeff Sampson

Last week, I got a surprise package from HarperTeen.
It contained this lovely book: Vesper by Jeff Sampson.
To be honest, I had never heard of it. In fact, I wasn’t sure it was even the kind of book I’d enjoy. Until I read the author’s bio — apparently, he used to write Dragonlance books.
I was once a fantasy series nerd. And I devoured the Dragonlance series.
I’m better now.
But my old addiction flared up and I just couldn’t wait to dig into this new story.
“Emily Webb is a geek. And she’s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she’s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she’s not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls’ boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that…the same night one of her classmates—also named Emily—is found mysteriously murdered.
The thing is, Emily doesn’t know why she’s doing any of this. By day, she’s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it’s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she’s not just coming out of her shell…there’s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely— something not human?
As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she’s not the only one this is happening to—some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters—and how many people will they kill to get what they want?”
— Description from GoodReads

As you all know, I’m married to a Nerd. So I *loved* that there were so many great pop culture references in this novel!If I didn’t understand a reference (like who the heck is Ellen Ripley?), I just asked The Nerd. (Apparently, she’s the chick from Alien.)

It was so nice to see the main character of a book embrace her geeky side.This was such a great plot idea — I haven’t read anything similar to it before.

The pacing of the plot was a bit slow…you don’t quite know what’s going on with Emily for a while. But once it gets there the action comes fast!

I really liked how it was told as a flashback. Emily is telling her story during an interrogation with the Vesper Company. It adds another layer of suspense to the book. Who is the Vesper Company? What do they want with Emily?

The one thing I can say I *didn’t* really care for was Megan, Emily’s best friend. She was just *not* a happy person, and those kind of people get on my nerves. Although, it says something about Sampson’s writing that she was a real enough character to seriously annoy me.

There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end, and I’m looking forward to the next Deviant novel.

Vesper by Jeff Sampson hits stores today. Be sure to pick up a copy!

Vesper by Jeff Sampson is available from Amazon. **Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher, Balzer and Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books) for the chance to read and review this book early. It in no way affected my opinion of this novel.**

Across the Universe Winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my Across the Universe giveaway!
There were 151 entrants with a total of 615 entries!
We’ve got two winners to announce…so let’s get to it!
Each winner will receive a hardcover copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis and a signed bookplate. 
Winner #1 is 
Winner #2 is 
I’ve emailed both winners asking for their contact information. They have 48 hours to respond or I will be forced to choose another winner.
Happy Reading! Protection Status