December 28, 2016

Monthly Book Review: Dec 2016

I did not do a lot of reading this month. Rather, I spent most non-working waking hours listening to Christmas music (duh) and watching two series on Netflix - The Gilmore Girls (all seven seasons plus new episodes) and Parenthood (the last two seasons not seen on cable Mondays since September). I still can't believe I didn't watch Parenthood when it was on - this is the best of the 90s Thirtysomething and the new series This Is Us.

Even with a full month of musical and television festivities I managed to read two books:

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - soooo long (20 hrs!), but soooo worth it as there's always a twist near the end of Morton's books that you would never have thought of

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan - not sure how I got this in my queue; I would have not only stopped reading but returned it had I not found the author's writing and reading engaging. This is a true story of the author's (New York Post writer) experience with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis (initially misdiagnosed as schizophrenia).

In addition, I did a bible study on the recommendation of another blogger for Advent and enjoyed it more and more as the month went on.

Next up:
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Relly
You by Caroline Kepnes
Hidden Bodies by by Caroline Kepnes


 

December 21, 2016

Sea Bag

This is a long overdue post about my trip to Maine in June where has the time gone?!

My mother summers in Kennebunkport I felt so pretentious typing that and bought me an airline ticket for my birthday. I flew in/out of Portland the other one which provided the perfect opportunity to visit The Standard Baking Company. I've wanted to go ever since I saw it on PBS' 'Best Bakeries in America'. I had a hard time choosing only a couple of treats and settled on lemon polenta cookies and a fruit tart. They were both amazing - definitely lived up to the hype! I may have visited again before my return flight :) I also may have purchased their cookbook from Amazon as soon as I arrived home.
 

I love most seafood and was super excited to try the famed lobster roll. Who knew there were so many versions?! With mayo, without, butter only, with or without specific seasonings, super spicy, etc. I had four from different places and each was delightful in its own unique way. 

We went to a wonderful farm to table restaurant one night. It was tucked away in the woods on the site of an upscale resort that looked like a TV neighborhood complete with bicycles in front of each vacation "cottage". Yes please!

Of course visiting lighthouses was on the agenda - Nubble-Cape Neddick on on the left and Cape Elizabeth-Portland Head Light on the right.


I fell in love with a place called Sea Bags. They recycle sail cloths into purposeful and decorative bags! It was so hard to pick only one. I bought this bucket bag to use as my workday lunch tote, but have my eye on a large tote in the Coral Reef pattern for the future;)

Can't wait to go back!

December 20, 2016

December 17, 2016

Seasonal Flicks

Sassy recently posted on FB that she was watching her favorite Christmas movie, The Santa Clause. It is good - family friendly with nuances that make it relatable for adults, good elf representation, and Tim Allen at the height of his career (it came out the year Sassy was born).

I have a few of my own faves:
  • Miracle on 34th Street (only the original 1947 version with Natale Wood and Edmund Gwenn) I love the mom - independent and principled
  • The Family Man I'm a sucker for Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni is one of my favorite actresses - they have great chemistry here; a modern day Dickens/Capra redemption tale; one of the best lines is "welcome to earth"
  • The Family Stone Genius casting - multi-layered authentic family dynamics 
  • Love Actually Quirky, multi-layered with mostly happy endings all around; again, genius casting (Andrew Lincoln!); bonus points for use of one of the best Christmas songs ever (Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You)
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Two words - Clark Griswald; this is why Chevy Chase is an icon
I know a lot of people would add Die Hard and Elf here, but they don't quite make my favorites cut. This year I'll likely be on my own Christmas Eve so I'm going to watch a classic that I've actually never seen (shocking!) - Meet Me in St. Louis.

December 1, 2016

Royal History

This is a very concise and entertaining history lesson on the British monarchy.

November 17, 2016

Monthly Book Review: Oct/Nov 2016

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – Story of Cameroonian immigrants trying to make their dreams come true in America. The descriptions of life in Africa and what they were willing to do here to make a better one made me appreciate my good fortune. I felt disappointed by the ending at first; however, came to realize all the characters had dreams – some realized, some not. Loved the narration.

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory – Ms. Gregory seems to have a cult following so I thought I’d check her out and what could be better for me than a book mixing royalty with history?! I really liked this story of Henry VIII’s first wife and two sisters from the perspective of his older sister, Queen Margaret of Scotland. Women had power but had to wield it behind a man lest they be branded crazy. Sadly things haven’t changed much in 400+ years have they?!

The Girls by Emma Cline – A thinly veiled fictionalization of the Manson cult. A recommendation from a fellow Audible lover, I found it “meh”. Too many metaphors for me – felt the author was trying too hard; however, I could relate to the descriptions of the main character’s sense of longing and awkward adolescence.

Girl at War by Sara Novic – Very good. A young Yugoslavian girl discovers by blunt force that ethnicity (Serbian vs. Croatian or Bosnian) makes a big difference in a small world and that there are many facets to being strong.

Next Up:
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
You by Caroline Kepnes
The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Relly

October 13, 2016

Monthly Book Review: Sept 2016

Better late than never, right?! :)

I didn't read as much last month - lots going on and I've been enjoying the beautiful Fall weather with friends and family.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - I've been racking my brain for how to describe this one and all I come up with is "weird". I liked the first half and then ... it got weird. I stuck with it thinking there had to be something I was missing that would be revealed. Sadly there wasn't. I don't get it - maybe it's over my head - so two thumbs down.

Elizabeth II: Life of a Monarch - a good biography with excellent narration. The most interesting tidbits were about Princess Margaret, Elizabeth's sister.

The Lake House - Kate Morton may be my new (to me) favorite author. I really liked last month's The House at Riverton so chose this one and it did not disappoint. After reading two of Kate's books, I detect common themes of being careful how you judge as you don't know what goes on behind closed doors and the truth has different perspectives. I agree with both. I love a good period drama and the author likes to keep readers on their toes by adding some curveballs that delight until the very end. Win!

Night Road - This is by the same author as The Nightingale so I was expecting WWII theme. I was completely and pleasantly caught off guard. It gets a little too conveniently all sewn up with a tidy bow at the end but I really liked the story. I will definitely be looking to see if there are other Kristin Hannah books.

Secrets of a Charmed Life - I'm 2/3 through this one and it reads like a Kate Morton book so I like it (author is Susan Meissner and majority of the story is set in WWII).

Bonus:
I saw The Girl on the Train with a girlfriend last weekend because I just had to see how Hollywood handled it. I liked it - very true to the book and I would likely think it even better had I not read the book (the books are almost always better than the movie!).

September 6, 2016

Ink

The kids, particularly Sassy, have been on me for quite some time about getting a tattoo. As I am not into voluntary pain that's a tall order for me. It also freaks me out to think how a tattoo would look on old, crepey skin. And where would it go?

I told Sassy once many years ago that I'd get a fleur-de-lis tattoo with her. She has yet to dial it in that sometimes parents lie to their children to get them of their back.
So tonight at dinner Sassy brought up the three of us getting a tattoo. Something symbolic. I may be able to get on board with that. Thus began my search for the appropriate symbol. 
First I submitted this -

Then I sent this -


Then this -
Sassy's response was "In the search bar are you typing elf fantasy?"
I replied "LOTR" for Lord of the Rings.
I got "Lol mom lol".

My last attempt was this -
Evidently I'm getting "warmer" :)

September 1, 2016

Better Out Than In

I recently saw this on Facebook -
If you avoid conflict to keep the peace you start a war inside yourself.

Amen.

August 31, 2016

Monthly Book Review: Aug 2016 **updated**

Since I've become so bookish I'm going to attempt to do a monthly book review. Attempt is the operative word here.

This month's reads included:

**The Paris Architect - I cannot believe I forgot this one, it was the best of the entire month
A WWII book (surprise!) about an architect that reluctantly designs hiding places for Jews; another unique perspective and a wonderful reminder that the best life is not always the one we initially designed.

The House at Riverton (aka Shifting Fog) - Very good! Bittersweet Downton Abbey style period drama about secrets; while the level of detail seemed a bit much at times while I listened, in retrospect it made the story richer; the main secrets are held to the very last

Code Name Verity - another WWII book (shock!) ; I loved the first half, the last half not as much which was disappointing as there was a big reveal at the end that seemed to land more like a thud than a welcome a-ha; excruciating detail about aircraft that I found tedious at the time but all was revealed in the end

Among the Ten Thousand Things - hard to relate to and vulgar language that I found off-putting for some reason (I'm not a prude as there's plenty of it in other books I like); I just didn't get where it was going, like at all; an event and the fallout for characters was described in great detail and then it flashed forward decades; this is the first book I didn't listen to all the way and actually returned (another reason I'm super impressed with Audible)

Truly Madly Guilty - just released book from the author of Big Little Lies; not as good as I expected but still enjoyed it; it is l-o-o-o-n-n-g - the author likes to describe in intricate detail every thought, feeling and bias each character has which I find interesting, but I can see where others might find it overkill
Next Up -
The Ocean at the End of the Lane (my mom's recommendation)
This is Not my Beautiful Life (my BFF's recommendation)
The Lake House
The Secret Keeper
Elizabeth II: Life of a Monarch

July 4, 2016

#murica

I recently visited Maine - more on that in a future post - and fell in love with the charming patriotism displayed almost everywhere I went. I just had to have this vintage looking bunting and I knew exactly where it would go. I think it looks awesome. Not sure if it will stay up until after Labor Day or come down in a couple of weeks ... must research protocol on that.

My Audible progress - not a bad one in the bunch:

The Children Act by Ian McEwan – I didn't know what this was about when I started (I make a point of not reading too much after I select so I start off as unbiased as possible), but it had been on my list for close to two years. It was definitely worth the wait ... how a British judge considers a family court case while also considering her own marriage. Very thought provoking and real - sometimes we should deliberate and sometimes we should act.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens – a college student from a highly dysfunctional family has to find an elderly person to fulfill a writing assignment. He gets a lot more than he bargained for! A little tough towards the finish as the author piles on a lot of events for dramatic effect, but it all works in the end. It was fun to hear some local references as the story takes place in the arctic.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows – I am sort of on a roll with WWII era books and this was a light change of pace for that genre. Love that the story is told only through letters/telegrams to and from the main character. Who wants to go to Guernsey with me ?!

10% Happier by Dan Harris – I am deeply intrigued by meditation and this was a great first person account of how a quasi-celebrity turned from atheist to "Jewbu" after a lifetime of self doubt and a professional crisis.

The Widow by Fiona Barton – a bit drawn out but an interesting story that keeps you guessing

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – LOVE!!! Another WWII novel told from a female perspective - deeply layered story of love, loss, hope and the depths of the human spirit. I cried multiple times and the ending is fantastic

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – a wickedly fun whodunit set in Australia about the little lies we tell ourselves to survive. This is being made into an HBO  show with Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd (Tarzan, True Blood) for later this year. Yes please!!!

Next up are:

The House at Riverton (aka The Shifting Fog)
Code Name Verity
Among the Ten Thousand Things
Elizabeth II: Life of a Monarch
The Ocean at the End of the Lane

April 26, 2016

Dear Diary

I figure no one reads this unless they’ve rolled the dice following a search for “Christmas Music”, “Olympics” or “Royals”. So this is pretty much my personal diary at this point. I figure it’s less annoying than Facebook status updates.

It’s getting mighty green here in the arctic thanks to all the April showers. Green makes me happy. I get itchy to plant every year about this time but there’s that voice in the back of my head cautioning me about the potential for freeze in these here parts. The voice sounds like a weather anchor by the way. I’m simplifying from last year – no growing flowers from seed (I did this once successfully 20 years ago and it’s time to pull the plug – better late than never). I spent waaaay too much time at the garden center pondering what flowers go well with pansies, fit my small planters and will have some longevity. That’s done and I also planted one bin of herbs (rosemary, basil and thyme) with room for a small tomato plant. The big projects are now the mailbox (aka twilight zone) and reconfiguring the front garden which was planted as a shade perennial garden years ago when we had a beautiful 20+ foot shade tree that has since gone the way of Merle Haggard. Needless to say the area gets a lot more sun now and the plants are having an identity crisis.

Speaking of projects, I am turning inward as well. Not me personally (though I am researching religions), rather inside the house. I had a contractor look at the downstairs bathroom (kids’) and am anxious to see the options he comes up with in another week or so. The pink floor tile, dingy tub/shower and Hollywood lights need to go the way of Merle Haggard. I also need a new wall oven/microwave, cooktop and countertop in the kitchen. I really want to paint the cabinets but everyone tells me not to. Though that sort of makes me want to do it even more. I have so much free time now that I’m not in grad school that I’m thinking of resurrecting scrapbooking or significantly decluttering the house. Any bets on if either is accomplished?

I continue to be thrilled with Audible. Since the first of the year I’ve “read”:

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin – campy, fictional account of Truman Capote and his “swans” (aka Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness)

The Traitor' s Wife by Alison Pataki – fictional account of Benedict Arnold’s wife told from a servant’s point of view; I will read anything Alison writes

The Book of Joan by Melissa Rivers - meh

The Sexy Years by Suzanne Somers – there is something about her that just draws me in - love her voice so she should read other books if looking for work; bioidentical hormones is controversial and this is a bit promotional

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende – LOVE!!! Great story, stupendous writing, wonderful character development. Read / listen now!

Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me by Mindy Kaling – light and quirky as I expected, a good break from heavy stuff

The Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – dark and gritty; another “Gone Girl” type; dying to know if that is the author’s real last name;)

Next up are:

The Children Act
The Life We Bury
The Widow
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
10% Happier

Finally, why am I always on the cutting edge of a consumer beauty/fashion trend?! The struggle is real. Last year I was on the hunt for the ultimate contour palette (aka highlight and conceal, or HAC). I went to the drug store and figured my biggest dilemma would be slim choices for fair skin. Alas, nothing. Not even the department store beauty counters. I ended up buying one from a beauty bloggerthat I’ve been happy with, but I’m ready to experiment a bit and there are suddenly hundreds of choices everywhere. My current obsession is the handle clutch. It is elusive to anyone not shopping high-end designer (read $1000+ price tag). I am in marketing people – call me because when I think something is going to be a trend and hot seller, it is and we should hop on it tout suite for the little people like me. We will ignore my prediction on the salad mist – that was an outlier.

April 21, 2016

Purple Reign

Today is a momentous day for two reasons:

It's QEII's 90th birthday - bonus tiara link here
RIP hometown icon Prince 

March 30, 2016

International Flavor

I recently returned from my first week long trip in over five years. It was heaven! My friend Mrs M and I stayed with my MIL who rents a condo in Puerto Vallarta every year for a couple of months. The weather was absolutely perfect, the scenery was breathtaking, the food was delicious (PV is a foodie's delight) and the shopping (from trinkets to extravagance) was super. The condo was spacious - Mrs M and I shared a large double bed corner room with floor to ceiling sliding doors on two side for wonderful night breezes and we each had our own bathroom for privacy (we used the third bedroom for storage/dressing - so decadent!). The condo grounds were beautifully manicured with infinity lounge areas, swimming pools, hot tub (though at 80+ degrees why?) and a restaurant for table or poolside service. It was like an all-inclusive for access without the wristbands.

Sunday
Arrival
Dinner at Grand Venetian (hotel district - a few miles north of downtown PV)

Monday
Marina
Breakfast with a view
Shopping at Andrea’s jewelry shop
Thrifty ice cream
Shopping
Dinner at Barcelona Tapas *everything was good, but the Paella was amazing and the view was as good as the food!

Tuesday
Beach walk
Downtown Boardwalk El Malecon – Los Arcos, Our Lady of Guadalupe funeral
Shopping (jewelry)
Dinner at Gabby’s *tamarindo con chile margarita; old time Mexican movies on the adjacent building wall after sunset!

Wednesday
Sayulita by cab - laid back surfing community north of PV by about an hour, beautiful driveLunch at Mary’s *Sayulita taco was worth the trip alone!
Shopping (glass)
Dinner at El Palomar de los Gonzalez - former home with amazing outdoor spaces including waterfall

Thursday
Lounging poolside
Shopping (purses/jewelry)
Lunch at Oscar’s by the river 
Dinner at PiPi’s

Friday
90 min. massage - the BEST I've ever had ... and for only $36! Wish we could have gone every day!
Pina Coladas and guacamole poolside
Dinner at No Way Jose Flan was best I've ever tasted

Saturday
Downtown market (like a State Fair, Craft Fair and Farmer's Market all in one!)
Shopping & Starbucks at Marina
Dinner at Grand Venetian

To continue my international mood I made Irish Soda Bread, Irish Potato Pie, Irish Stew, and my first corned beef and cabbage the week of St. Patrick's Day. I can hardly wait for Cinco de Mayo!
 

February 25, 2016

This much

Chunky is employing a new tactic in peruasion. How much do you love me? I heard it last night at the drive-thru when denied his request for ice cream in addition to the overly-processed-but-oh-so-quick-in-a-pinch meal he ordered. I had just spent 90 minutes at the Dr with hubby which was supposed to be an in and out appt so in no mood to do any cooking whatsoever. I heard it at the phone store when the salesperson asked if *he* wanted additional accessories for his new phone. She who pays decides. I hear it constantly when he wants me to make his beloved mac & cheese, because clearly I make it with love which makes it so much better. Barf!

I put forth the following considerations to substantiate my love:
  • He was just under 10 lbs at birth - pushing a watermelon through a cheerio in 10 minutes is indisputable proof of love
  • I read to him constantly, painstakinly selecting books that would stimulate and let him know he was loved and wanted
  • He walked at 10 months - I quit trying to keep up with him and just did my best to keep him out of harms way which was no easy feat
  • I endured daily reports of errant behavior for 6 months from the the montessori he attended before we came to mutual agreement that it wasn't the best environment for him, which then meant my figuring out what was the best environment (God bless home daycares)
  • He was diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction at two and prescribed weekly occupational therapy visits for an entire year - which I took him to faithfully every Friday morning, working extra the other four days to compensate; it also involved an abundance of paperwork that would deter anyone from parenting
  • I poured over every available schooling option to determine what would be best for him in the long run even if it meant driving great distances and higher out-of-pocket cost; in the end our local parochial school was deemed the best option and was most convenient for everyone
  • I spent every parent-teacher conference asking teachers to focus on the positive; there wasn't anything new to tell me in the behavior/focus department that I didn't already know and experience firsthand on a daily basis since he was one year old Ah, the joy of parenting a spirited child
  • He was diagnosed with ADD at eleven - scores more paperwork and coordinating with teachers, as well as agreeing to be observed and evaluated for parenting issues; semiannual Dr visits for med evaluation and picking up meds monthly because it cannot be mailed or dispensed for more than a 30 day supply
  • I routinely endure being picked up into the air from behind for bear hugs without notice or provocation This may or may not be a hazard to my bladder - see 10 lb reference above
Love cannot be measured objectively and parenting is not for sissies. I've decided though that next time he asks how much I love him I will simply reply "to the moon and back".

February 23, 2016

Golden State of Mind

I am checking things off my packing list for an upcoming vacation so thought I'd better post about my last one before I get too ahead of myself. I am very fortunate to travel as much as I have this past year - the logistics for filling in my care duties at home aren't too troublesome thanks to great kids and I know people in fabulous places who extend invites. I have three planned getaways this year - Coronado, California; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Kennebunkport, Maine.

Following is my itinerary for three sun and fun filled days in Southern California:

Day One
Point Loma - ocean side
Lunch at Mr A's - view of city and airplanes landing (http://www.asrestaurant.com/)
Beach walk
Dinner at home
Mexican Train game

Day Two
Meditation Gardens in Encinitas
       http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2011/may/08/check-it-out-meditation-gardens/
       http://hiddensandiego.net/self-realization-gardens.php
 

La Jolla seals

Delicious lunch at La Valencia on balcony with spectacular view (http://www.lavalencia.com/)

       This seems like a lovely hotel - I love the architecture and it's celebrating it's 90th year
Beach walk

Imperial Beach pier at sunset

Day Three
Beach walk
Lunch at Miguel's - best Mexican shrimp cocktail ever!
Orange Ave window shopping
SS Monte Carlo shipwreck (only visible every few years at lowtide)

The Nerd at Lamb's Theatre (http://www.lambsplayers.org/)
Dinner & dancing at home

February 14, 2016

Sunday Surf



  • I was asked to speak and meet with a group of prospective grad students at my alma mater yesterday. I was really honored that they asked and appreciated the opportunity to remember myself in their shoes 7 years ago.
  • I made this baked oatmeal again ... it's so, so good!
  • RIP Antonin Scalia. This article is a good read and reinforces my belief that meaning and richness come from having those with deeply different perspectives within our inner circle.
  • If I were going to the Oscars, I would wear this (with two pair of Spanx). If I were getting remarried and money was no object (and I had a lithe figure), I would wear this. Everything by Paolo Sebastian is a.maze.ing.
  • I bought this swimsuit for an upcoming vacation and actually felt really good in it. Now if I could only remove those darn spider veins on my legs!
  • Dominque Sachse is a Houston TV newscaster and I'm addicted to her YouTube channel. Not sure I can justify $55 for foundation, but I am going to check it out the next time I'm at Sephora.
  • Finally, I may have found the absolute perfect red lipstick for me - Rimmel Lasting Finish Matte 107 by Kate Moss. It's a deep berry blue-red that's great for fairer skin tones and teeth that aren't perfectly white. I can only find it on Amazon but at $10ish, it's worth stocking up on.

February 6, 2016

Breakfast for Dinner

I was looking for a recipe to use up a couple of apples that will only last another day or two. A video for fried apple rings on Facebook caught my eye, but I was looking for something more virtuous. Pinterest did not disappoint. Choices were narrowed to hasselback baked apples or apple cinnamon baked oatmeal. I decided to go for the latter using craisins instead of raisins.

It's a winner! Great texture and delicious. The recipe made enough for two healthy portions of workday breakfasts (jars) as well as a treat (bowl). It would go further with smaller portion sizes. Go make some now and serve it up warm with ice cream and maple syrup. You won't be disappointed!

January 31, 2016

Where is my super suit?!?!

Name that movie!

How is it the last day of January?! Slow down already. I'm going to chalk up the fact that I don't remember much of the last five months of my life to grad school, holidays and family (dys)fun(ction).

I dreamed of cleaning night before last. Me! You'd think it would have been a nightmare, but for some reason I woke up with an excitement to get sh!t done. I did at least three loads of heavy laundry, vacuumed including baseboards and ceiling beams as well as nooks and crannies, made granola, polished the floors, polished the baseboards under the cabinets as well as the cabinets themselves, broke down boxes and steam cleaned the beds. I feel so accomplished (and tired, therefore I took a three hour nap this morning after my regular duties). Today I've already started two more loads of laundry, made potato salad for dinner (sloppy joes) and blogged. I still have more vacuuming and polishing to do. Tonight is good TV - Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Downton Abbey and Mercy Street - so I've got to get it all done by 7pm. I'm thinking about even walking on the treadmill during Madam Secretary. I'm on fire people!!!