Thoughts on Martha Live...

Ok Martha is so tall...and super poised (duh). Her shoes are to. die. for. Her hair is ah-mazing! She looked me right in the eye and said hello to me first. Squeeeeee!!!

Blogging from Martha Stewart's BLOGGING show today!

What what! I'm front row at Martha Stewart's show in NYC with my BF Heather of The Penny Pinching Mama!!!! Whoo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!


The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.


I don't often read of-the-moment fiction unless it comes highly recommended or the cover catches my eye. This was an Oprah read, apparently (?), and a movie, so I figured it must be good to have such national fervour. (And please, who doesn't love Rachel McAdams? Anytime she's in a movie I pay attention. I didn't go as far as to SEE it, but the commercial reached me out of all the impressions that are made on me per day through ads, etc.)

I got this as book on disk to listen to while commuting -- it was my second such experience with audio books. I really got into this one while I was "reading." But in the end I look back with a measured level of shame at having been so invested.

The concept is really interesting. The book was a fun look into lives -- into an interesting situation. However I felt that it was a great idea fleshed out into a novel that just didn't need to be. The author made up a reason for the book to have been written to frame an interesting idea, via the challenges the main couple faced -- I guess because you can't just write about happy lives punctuated by time travel. There has to be some arc to the plot, some conflict, problem, eventual resolution -- or else you'd have a boring story or no story at all. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I found the non-conflict related matters of the story much more interesting than the points where I was supposed to be biting my nails and holding my breath.

Clare's relationship with her family, friends, even the relationships of her family to one another and Henry's own family dramas...these things were well developed, interesting, textured. Their relationship with each other was sweet...a little weird (age difference in past) but sweet. (Note: there was a lot of the "C" male part word in the book...ok in print but when you're commuting and here that in your car, it's a bit surprising) Could have done without the forced sex details, which almost seemed an afterthought to me, but that's just me. I was with them the whole time, trying to conceive, I was there and I was feeling it for them (I won't ruin anything here, don't worry).

Gomez emerged to be a "sleeper" character -- you didn't see your attachment and investment in him coming, but all of the sudden, there it was. I empathized with him and was disappointed that he wasn't given more resolution, whether for good or for bad, when the novel ended.

The ending, however...just didn't sit well. I felt like it was a strangely upsetting culmination, a hasty end to a long, detailed novel. I felt that a few things were left up in the air. And as a result, I felt that my time had been wasted.

Anyone else feel this way? Or was it just me?

This is a great read, btw. Highly recommend although I object to some of the entries, as I'm sure many would. If you're a bibliophile like me, it's a good time :) Happy Friday!


Product I Swear By: Natural Ice Lip Balm

Mentholatum, are you trying to pull a cruel joke on me?

My favorite lip balm, Natural Ice spf 15 menthol/mint lip balm, once purchased by the case at my local Acme, is no longer on the shelves. If you haven't tried, I recommend. They are the makers of Soft Lips and a few other household name type products. I fear that they are discontinuing my chap stick! What's a girl to do? (Stock up on Amazon.com and PRAY!)

Seen it? Know something I don't? Fill a sista in.

"Belong to Me" and "Love Walked In" by Marisa de los Santos

*** Precursory note -- I picked this book because I liked the boots on the cover. I wasn't familiar with the author, with the characters...in fact, it wasn't until I had finished the book (delightful choice) that I found out there was another de los Santos book that predated this dealing with the same characters. See that review below.

I really enjoyed this book. Beautifully written with endearing characters, I found it really enjoyable. As mentioned in my note above, I sort of goofed by not reading de los Santos' books in the proper order, but that really didn't damper my enjoyment. I still felt close to the characters almost right away, figured out their relationships to one another and most importantly, cared what happened to them. That's key for me.
Marisa de los Santos is a poet, I found after reading up post-BTM. I subliminally inferred as much from her book. Her words are carefully chosen and paint a really lovely picture. Probably why I enjoyed reading it so much.

What I liked: character and relationship development, beautiful "scenery," everything wraps up with a pretty bow

What I didn't like: some of the animosity or conflict seemed a bit contrived at times...forced? something like that...Piper in particular; she vacillates between vicious and one inspiring empathy too quickly and you end the book a big fan -- hardly believing she's the same Piper that kicked off the book. Her budding romance at the end of the book is...well, it just felt weird to me. And I'm never a huge fan of needing a couple mysteries to make a book come to life; I think the book could have been just as interesting without all the "dun dun dun" cliffhangers.

That's another thing -- de los Santos switched POV like I change my VS panties. So be prepared for that. It's almost like reading a lot of simultaneously occurring short stories. Which I dig. But I can imagine someone might find it irritating? And the overlap is sometimes a little bit of a stretch for my liking.

Final thought: Fun chick read with lots of relationships and pretty affluent scenery written around them :)

I enjoyed it so much so, I went out and got the novel I missed in her series of two (so far) about this crew. "Love Walked In" was, in my opinion, the weaker of the two books. Good news for de los Santos, who appears to be getting stronger in her foray into fiction. But bad news for me, looking to get the same heart out of "Love Walked In" as "Belong to Me." No dice.

LWI was sort of a throw away for me. What I found charming about the main character in BTM now seemed a little more obnoxious. More of the cliff hanger moments and contrived unrequited love popped up here and by this point, I was sort of over it. Maybe because I read BTM first? Not sure. LWI was a NYT bestseller, when in my opinion its follow up was much stronger.
Any-who...I guess if you're going to read one you should read this one first so you get the background down pat before you launch into the meat -- this is the appetizer, so to speak. Bon appetite!

What the Dog Did by Emily Yoffe

" What the Dog Did" was a thoroughly enjoyable read by one of my favored journalists, Emily Yoffe (of Dear Prudence fame). I follow her column Dear Prudence religiously and I enjoy her immersive journalism pieces on Slate.com very much. This was a lovely peek into her home life, something I find intriguing about anyone, let alone someone I read regularly.

"What the Dog Did" chronicles the Yoffe family journey from begging to get a dog, through the trials and tribulations of ownership straight on through to love and integration of said pup. As a dog lover (duh) this was a no-brainer feel good book. Yoffe's research into the history of dog ownership was really interesting and supported by the frame of her narrative. I read this quickly over a long weekend of here and there attention. I laughed a lot. I recommend.

A few notes/potential spoilers -- her tales of Boston Terrier antics were a bit dismaying as BT loyalist and mother of two American Gentleman. I did find most of her reports on the breed amusing, but her run in with a nasty little guy made me think one bad apple may have spoiled the bunch for her. Just my two cents.

Further, there is an undercurrent of a story through the book of Yoffe's interaction with "Todd," her dog trainer. She addresses him regularly through the book and devotes an entire chapter toward the end to a rather shocking and upsetting turn of events in the course of Todd's life. This sideline is sort of like a thread hanging from a sweater. It's dangling there almost within reach for a good yank but the book ends without any such satisfaction. For a journalist like Yoffe, I was a little disappointed that a more decisive conclusion wasn't reached as to his fate. I was left scratching my head and wondering "what gives?"

Overall, I highly recommend for dog lovers or those considering a dog. It's a really great recap of what it's like to bring a dog into your life and bonus, a nice piece of Yoffe's writing, if you enjoy her work, as I do.


Triumphant Return

As some of you may know (or not), I have reemerged into the working world.

I’ll start with a little background. I was the kick-ass super force, the git-r-done wonder woman, of a very small ad agency in the suburbs until early 2009. The agency was not recognized by the larger Philadelphia agency community and was mostly in existence due to the long standing relationships of its proprietor, an emotionally imbalanced but occasionally delightful man that may or may not have had a substance abuse problem that led him to be extremely erratic and sometimes verbally abusive. But an ad agency it was, nonetheless. After three years by his side, I’d grown a necessary thicker skin and become intimately familiar with all things regional real estate related (as that was our niche market). {You see where this is going, right?}

The decline in the market, however, can’t be held responsible for the agency’s untimely death. Well, at least not solely. CEO’s penchant for private Stickley auctions, new German automobiles, three week trips abroad and other such luxury items, I feel, is a main contributor to our closure. When the real estate market corrected itself, his eccentricities and desires did not also adjust. Spending continued while profit ebbed. The result was a 2009 bankruptcy and closure of my beloved agency. I was out on the street. Or, more appropriately, my couch. He took a highly paid position with a client and, after I snipped at him because he woke me on my first “sleep in” of unemployment, summarily dismissed me from his life. I was, in my defense, a little offended that he asked me to write my own recommendation letter for him to sign. I had, you see, offered to do just that two months before our closure but he told me I meant so much to him he just had to write it himself…after two months, no letter and now no job AND no restful sleep, this request was poorly received.

I took a glorious six month hiatus, during which I did worry about money on more than one occasion, but thanks to the unemployment check I received regularly, it was not catastrophic, and for that, I am grateful. I have been working as much as I legally could since I legally could work, contributing to the unemployment fund, so I didn’t feel a stitch of guilt having to rely on it now, after over fifteen years of steady contribution. However, despite my affinity for freelance writing and the flexibility it affords – and my deep love of being able to simultaneously work and snuggle my two Boston Terriers – I did want to return to the work force at some point. I edited myself just then – I had initially typed ‘need’ but changed it to ‘want.’ I can’t say I have ever wanted to work, though, so maybe that is the wrong word too. Regardless, I neither need nor want to work but I guess it’s just more a situation of enjoying being paid. And if I can swing that paycheck on several instances of writing and editing over the course of a week, so much the better. I’ll take the good with the bad if I can.

So here I am, returning to work. My new position is not at an agency but rather a company. A large one to my mind, as it houses over 300 employees. A large agency in Philadelphia is somewhere around 30 employees. This is a whole new ballgame!

Some early thoughts on working for a company – I’m surprised at how many people hold positions based solely on things I did as a PART of my last job, albeit this is a bigger company and there are more transactions taking place…. However I have felt a certain sense of shock at seeing the sheer numbers that occupy positions in IT, HR, A/R, and indeed, on each account team. I think it’s quite lovely that no one person is so put upon, but I also find it sort of shocking. Companion to that revelation is this: there is down time. There are times when I simply have finished my assigned writing/editing and I just don’t have anything else to do until that next meeting or email gives me a bead on something assigned to me, something I can assist on, or something I can take initiative to try and impress. I’m sure there are things there I’m not thinking of…and possibly in four months or eight months I’ll look back and think I was crazy because I’m so swamped, but at the moment, these are my thoughts. Overall, the environment seems very pleasant, with a lot of people coming and going, not flinching at the sound of their bosses voice and not afraid to step away to the restroom for fear of missing a client call. It’s also nice knowing that provided I get my work done, no one is brow beaten over the hours they keep. Which is quite important as my new commute is in excess of an hour and fifteen minutes. I guess the pace is different, and that’s a welcome change.

There is less direct supervision than my past agency positions, so I have a general lack of understanding what the expectations are and how to exceed them. Usually my first order of business in any position. Has me a little uneasy.

But I keep waiting, frankly – when will I run afoul of someone? Make a critical error? Get “yelled” at (which in my mind is being criticized really in any fashion that I find embarrassing)? I know the shoe will drop and I hate not knowing where and when. Until then…


Moving Target

Saturday was an interesting day.

Scene: Friday in DC, we're briskly walking to find a sushi joint; I muse at how surprising it always is to be involved in a car accident. And how people that get hit by cars (in cars or as pedestrians) usually don't see it coming, and it's almost always a shock.

Saturday, I get hit by a car. Not in DC. But in Deptford.

Walking out of the Deptford Target, which I don't even LIKE but we were searching for Halloween costumes and necessity dictated a visit, I was creamed by an old guy in a compact. I looked both ways like a good girl, and reassured (stupidly) by the stop sign, crosswalk AND the other pedestrians all around me, I began to cross the crosswalk.

Imagine my surprise when I heard the revving of an engine to my left. The man stopped on my left? Yes, accelerating into a turn he was going to complete, human speed bump not withstanding. Ouch.

I was taken out at the knee (my left one got it the worst but both were affected - what a delight because I have prior issues in both my knees) and thrown up the hood of the car. I distinctly remember the feeling of my jean pocket buttons scraping against the hood of the car. My husband had been walking to my right, and my first thought was that he was also hit -- maybe run over, probably hurt. Luckily, this was not the case, but it was my first thought. Maybe I'll get a shot at heaven for that? Here's hoping. Anyway, back to the deets: I flung up onto the hood, then windshield, getting thrown like, well, a doll. He only then hit his breaks, which provided momentum enough for me to be flung to the concrete, where I was lucky enough to break my fall with both my ass and my right wrist. I don't need that to write or anything, right? My husband tells me that the only thing I said was an angry "HEEEEEY!" as I'm being tossed around the parking lot. For whatever reason, the driver begins to roll forward again. I feel a bumper in my back and it occurs to me that I'm going to go under the car. Now I get scared. My husband yells at the driver and hauls me out from under the bumper. He tells driver to pull over.

I stand, disoriented. A large crowd of about 35 people, all gasping and gaping, have gathered around to stare in disbelief. One yells out that I should call the police. I tell her, clearly confused, "But I don't know the number! I'm not from here." I still didn't realize what had happened and what it meant. This woman was an absolute angel -- she and her mom both. Seeing I was in shock, they came over, sat me in a safe place, and called 911. They stayed with me until I was loaded into the back of an ambulance.

Now as I'm sitting on that curb, the mortification begins to kick in. "Did I seriously just get hit by a car?" People are staring, it's super embarrassing. Oh boy. John directs the driver, who is still idling and just sitting there without apology or expression of any kind, to park his car until the police come to the scene. He pulls into a handicapped spot and sits in his car, apparently unmoved. After an inappropriately long time, he springs from the car yelling "WHO DID I HIT?" My husband replies, "If you don't know who you hit, you shouldn't be driving!" He wanders over and tells me that he's sick and left work early to go home. No apology, just an excuse -- and a bad one at that.

"Are you hurt?" Such a simple question but when you're in shock...all I could say was "I don't really know." Because I didn't really know at the time. All I knew was that my hands and wrists hurt, my butt hurt, my neck and back hurt, and my knees hurt. I was boarded and brought to Cooper Hospital for XRays and a review, but mostly a lot of waiting around. Boy was I glad I had peed in Target's bathroom!

After a six hour odyssey I was released from Cooper with instructions to follow up with my primary care physician. Who, of course, won't see me because there was a car involved. And did I mention that I have to use my car insurance (with deductible paid by me) to cover the injuries I sustained due to NJ's No Fault laws? Makes sense, right? So it's Friday and I've been trying for five days to find a doctor who will see me. I haven't gotten a lawyer but now I feel like I may need to...I'm in more pain almost a week later and I'm far more frustrated with the system that is turning its back.


Trip Summary Part Duex: Washington DC 9.30 - 10.2

So where did I leave off? Hmmm...

Last night, we hit the reception for a quick show of face, terrible glass of Pinot and a few conversations and then we snuck out again to venture into Alexandria.

I. Am. In. Love. OMG. Alexandria is one of the most charming places I've ever visited. Everyone in Old Town lives in a townhome but I could totally see myself there (even though I'd miss my yard!). Brick and cobblestone, gas lamps, shoppes and cafes, structures dating back to colonial times...that special smell you get with wet brick and stone and ivy...I was in my glory.

We walked the streets for a half hour or so at dusk, then joined our walking ghost tour, complete with artsy guide who carried a lantern and spoke with a flourish just a little too over the top, but not so much as to be obnoxious. We walked the streets as she told us tidbits about farming, the colonies, architecture of the times (yay) and of course, about a few untimely deaths and the haunting that has been reported since.

After an hour and a half of that, she "abandoned" us in a graveyard. We took our leave of the crowd and searched for a restaurant where we could have a late dinner. Highlight of my night: searching the boutiques, I happened upon some Boston Terrier art and snapped up two pop art Marc Tetro prints featuring my favorite breed. I'm not a huge pop art person and don't usually do primary colors but these prints are so eye catching and capture so much spirit, I had to own them. http://www.marctetro.com/

Anyway, back to food! We eyeballed a few menus before selecting Geranio. Good choice! I can link you to Trip Advisor for more info on that meal, but suffice to say we were very pleased and full when we left at 11 p.m. (Yes, it was a late night for us -- we are usually asleep by then!). I must say that the streets of Alexandria were so nice and safe, I didn't feel my characteristic sense of dread walking on deserted streets at night.

I came away knowing there is yet another place in the world where I could see myself living. And isn't that a good feeling? For me it is comforting.

Today I'm packing things up here at the hotel and drooling over the thought of all the doggie kisses I'll be receiving when I get home. Cannot wait.


Trip Summary: Washington DC 9.30 - 10.2

Greetings from our nation's capital!

We drove down here on Wednesday morning. As we entered the city limits, I turned to Hubby and said "I am happy we were here together in our nation's capital," in complete Forrest Gump voice and all. After listening to me chatter for three hours, he finally cracked a real smile.

We stayed at the West End Washington Marriott, blocks from Georgetown and Dupont Circle. Nice area. The city is cleaner and friendlier than my last visit. Upon arrival, we were given a smaller room than we reserved for the conference...with two small double beds. A call to the desk and some polite Missus P talking later, we were bumped into our requested king room, which is very nice.

Hubby had some sessions to attend so I spent the first three hours here desperately looking to find the best restaurant in walking distance. I was too hungry to walk anywhere far, but I wanted to be sure we were eating somewhere noteworthy. We are into that sort of thing. Also, as I had no category guidelines, we were up for pretty much anything...with over 1200 restaurants listed on TripAdvisor in the city alone, it was a real research project. I selected an Italian restaurant and it didn't pan out well; while the food was good, the ambiance was amateur but the bill considerable. Enough on that, if you want the full review, I'll link you to Trip Advisor.

After dinner, we walked the mile or so to Georgetown to walk the main thoroughfare, M Street. It was a lovely walk past lots of shops and restaurants; we quite enjoyed it. Hubby saw two large rats, though, and that was less than enjoyable. I was surprised, never having seen a rat, that they'd be so close to people without cause for concern. How little I know! Highlight of the evening was meeting Ricky, a 13 week old Boston Terrier whose mom was a complete doll and let me love up her pup while blathering about my own two bad boys and how much their momma misses them. Poor Ricky's little foot got trampled by a woman walking past -- she was mortified but poor Ricky was okay. It was awful and I kept hearing his little cry all night; it made my stomach turn. I know it was an accident but I just love animals so much.

Today, Hubby had a big presentation to give, so after snacking on some Fig Newtons and in room coffee, I joined his group to hear it. (He did very well!) After his presentation I slipped out and wandered the streets for about, oh, three hours or so. Mostly because I only have a basic grasp of the layout of the city, and mostly because try as I might, I couldn't get near the White House. Turns out they are giving out some Congressional Medals today and everyone is being rerouted. So after hours of wandering, I ducked in to another highly rated restaurant, hoping for better. I was delighted with that choice! Again, more specifics on Trip Advisor. My travel Bible.

Now I'm waiting on the Mister to return once again so that we can head over to a little reception, then jump in the car and head to Alexandria for a walking ghost tour and possible dinner, shopping. I'll update as we go. Missing my pooches!