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!

I'm a few days late on this: Glamour

Wow. Just...wow. I have a new girlcrush, and I'm def buying the November Glamour. I haven't read it before but I think I may have to start, if this is a trend.

They featured a small inset of a regular sized woman. It was met with such applause, they are doing a November feature on regular women. Check out the image on the article:

These chicks are smokin' hot. And I will admit I teared up at seeing girls my size, unairbrushed into oblivion and beautiful. This is what the rest of us look like naked. And it can be beautiful.
It all apparently started with this photo:

This is Lizzie Miller, a 20-something model who they used in the inset shot. She's amazing.

I really hope it's a trend and not just a one-and-done for the magazine. Show all types of bodies, please, not just airbrushed size 0s...it looks and feels so good.


"One Lovely Blog" Award

Today I received this One Lovely Blog Award from one of my favorite blogs: http://thepennypinchingmama.blogspot.com/

The rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award" are:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are my 15 lovely blog picks:


That's all I can do because that's all I follow at this time!

ETA: I mistyped the award title as One LONELY blog the first post around. I laughed out loud for 3 minutes over this.

Challenge of a Liberal Faith

The challenge here is to actually get through this book. 165 pages of reading has never been so daunting.

I picked up this scholarly tome in an attempt to learn more about Unitarianism - Unitarian Universalism, to be specific. I'll be honest, my interest derives from a possibly ridiculous internet quiz that told me this was my "matching faith." I'm pretty interested in world religions anyway, and I've been thinking a lot about my own personal faith (hence the quiz), so this really got me interested to learn more. I know almost nothing about this faith so I was starting from scratch in my research. After laboring through the first 30 pages, which took me days, I might add, it became clear that this book isn't the one to acquaint me with the faith.

As many of you who know me can attest, I have a firm commitment to finishing the book I've started, even if I can't stand the characters, find the plot impractical -- or the writer pretentious. I try and give it the benefit and finish it off, let it marinate in my mind and see if hindsight is kinder to it. Hell, at least I can say I've read it and gave it a fair shake.

I didn't finish this book. I couldn't. It's the first time I can say that in almost a decade. Snoozer full of abstracts and lofty ideals I just couldn't get in to. I'm no more knowledgeable about the faith now than I was when I started. So I haven't answered any of my burning questions of what I'm doing here and how to live the most fulfilled life possible - at least not with this read. The highlight of the book was the FAQ section, but even that seems so fence straddling, I can't tell you what a UU does or does not believe. I wonder if it's a reflection of the faith or just the author's ability?

The dearth of books on this religion was sort of a weird to me. I mean, I can't be the only one thinking about what religious affiliation I might be, right? Why is it so hard to find a book that can help you choose? Or is the notion of having a religious affiliation antiquated? Is "practicing" being phased out? Truthfully, I have a hard time coming up with friends that actually go to church. Do you? I'd love to hear from you, if you do.


What I Loved

What I Loved
by Siri Husvedt

I chose this book because of the title, as I often do. I was looking for suggested reading, browsing some list online of the "must read before you die" varieties and this title struck me...so that's how I came to have it in my hands just a few days later.

I enjoyed this book. It wasn't my favorite, and in truth, just a few weeks later, I can barely remember what it was about. But while I was reading it, I enjoyed it. I really felt the depths of the relationships between the characters, two couples, as they live 25 years of their lives in close proximity -- both physical and emotional -- in Soho, NYC. Despite the fact that I truly have very little knowledge of art, I did enjoy the vivid imaginings of one of the central characters works of art, particularly his paintings -- admittedly, they are my preferred form of art in my actual life. I found the historical backdrop of the novel to be interesting, artistic New York from the 70s through to the 90s -- it was cool to see it evolve. More than anything, I found the relationships conveyed here to be honest and touching. I cried when they experienced loss. I lived it with them, due mostly to the spell Husvedt cast with her writing. I loved the way sight and perspective were used throughout the book, from the narrator's use of sight in his career, to his hindsight at the conclusion of the book, and his eventual loss of sight. Seeing was so important in this book, to the narrator and to the reader - perception was the key here. Perspective. And perhaps this is only gained through time - - as the novel is told looking back, as the narrator is in the process of losing his own sight, but yet has gained insight on the past he didn't enjoy as he was living it as his present.

What I Didn't Love: the whole mystery game and freaky artist scene that turned the book from a story of love, loss and relationships into a Where's Waldo puzzle, graphic and puzzling experimental art pieces where described in so much detail it was boring in parts, at least for me, lack of true communication in the latter half of the book between important characters was puzzling, given how connected they were in the beginning of the book

Favorite Quote: "My first impressions of people are often clouded by what I come to know about them later..."
Reminded me of: The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr

Great Quote

God doesn't give you the people you want, He gives you the people you NEED. To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you and to make you into the person you were meant to be.

Food Photography

I feel the need to mention: sorry that my food photos aren't polished like the cookbooks. I'm shooting the dishes on my plates under my kitchen lights with my old Canon that I carry with me everywhere. It may not put them in the best light (hardy har) but I want you to get the gist of the end product that I'm getting, even though it might be slightly different than yours, and that's (as Martha would say) A Good Thing.

Apple Cheese Mini Crepe

These were inspired but a super yummy but calorific appetizer at a good friend's wedding reception on Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. We loved them so much we recreated them the next morning using light ingredients found right in our kitchen. I've used an Empire apple (my absolute favorite) and that worked nicely; the Granny Smith I used turned out a bit tarter, so be mindful to taste your filling before you roll and bake.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Take an apple, core and peel it. Dice the remains into tiny bits. Add a tbsp of margarine over low heat, then saute the apple and margarine lightly for about 15 minutes, being careful to stir and not let it brown. Stir in one packet of Splenda or other sweetener. Stir in 2.5 tablespoon scoops of Weight Watchers whipped cream cheese. Stir all carefully until cream cheese has melted and you have a cheesy fruit filling. Now would be a good time to do a taste test and be sure you like it! (But it'll be hot.)

Take about 12 egg roll wrappers (can be bought prepared at your local supermarket, usually near refrigerated cultural foods or organics), lay them out on the counter. Add equal teaspoon scoop of filling to each wrapper. Fold according to package directions -- use the cheesy backside of your spoon to dab the wrapper just before closing for an extra seal.

Put your 12 mini crepes on a foiled baking pan, sprayed with non stick cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until the crepes look golden. Serve warm as a finger food for appetizer course or even for dessert, maybe with some vanilla ice cream? Mmmmm.

What you need to fix it:
Small pot
Apple corer
Baking sheet
Aluminum foil

What you need from the fridge:
An apple, any variety you like, cored, peeled and diced
1 tbsp margarine
One packet Splenda or other low cal sweetener
12 egg roll wrappers, found in refrigerated ethnic or organic section
2-3 tbsp Weight Watchers or other light whipped cream cheese
Cooking spray

Find: Rimmel Mascara

I tell everyone of my girlfriends how happy I am with this mascara -- not only is it relatively inexpensive as far as drug store makeup is concerned, but it is also super effective and lengthening and curling my lashes and holding all day.

Extra Super Lash is my favorite. It's around $4 and I really can't say enough about it. Unlike the unrealistic commercials the makeup industry puts on air showing eyelashes magically tripling (yet somehow you can always see they are falsies), this mascara really does increase the thickness, curl and drama of my eyelashes.

I have also used (am currently using) Eye Magnifier. This one does much the same but with a funny rubbery nubbed brush that sort of pricks at your eye lid during application. At first it bothered me, now it sort of feels good. Weird, right? If your eyes are sensitive, this may not be the one for you. But if you have itchy eyelids due to allergies like I do...this may hit the spot! :)

I am unsure if the above are animal tested but find it's likely that they are in part or as a finished product since I can find refutation of that fact. :(

PS Speaking of makeup...as anyone noticed Drew Barrymore's face in her Maybelline commercial? I mean, seriously? She's ORANGE. Is it supposed to be funny? Take a pretty girl and make her look like she's wearing clown makeup so she can shill for tasteful beauty? Yeah. I doubt anyone is born with the skin tone she's rockin' in that commercial.

Library Tip

If you are a resident of Gloucester or Burlington County, NJ (and possibly elsewhere, I just know first hand from where I've lived), there is a government grant funded program called MaiLit (Gloucester) and Library in a Bag (Burlington), whereby you can order materials from your local library to be mailed to your home, free of charge to you. I use this for materials that are spread across the county that I cannot readily get my hands on at my local branch. It is very convenient and like I said, free. Why buy a book or rent a movie when you can get it for free? And mailed to you? It's super convenient, you'll save on gas and lessen your impact on the environment by skipping a car trip. I highly recommend.

Here are the sites with more information:



The Myth of You & Me

The Myth of You & Me
By Leah Stewart

Ok. There were several things about this book that weirded me out. However there were several things that I really enjoyed that offset that weirdness.

This book was so interesting I could barely put it down, despite the above "flaws," which could just be my preferences. As far as 'chick' fiction goes, this was a fortuitous stumble -- I liked the cover, and the gamble panned out. This book was really well written, nicely detailed and allowed you to really get lost in her picture and enjoy her turn of the written word -- and an interesting plot, too boot. I delved right in, downing the whole book in about a day and a half of on and off reading. I truly enjoyed it for what it was. But then again, I guess I have a reason why this one hit home for me. Lost friendship is a subject I come back to again and again. This book deals with relationships with insight (in most instances), shows some interesting "tug of war" situations within the female relationship that I think most women can really understand. But also something that is seldom addressed -- something that I dwell on personally that brings me shame and uncertainty because of my preoccupation.

Weird: touchy relationship with elderly man, wrapped up with a bow romantic tie in and ending, sucker punch dog rescue to make leading man dashing, lack of family resolution

I recommend this book for the beach, a nice curl up and relax, bubble bath. It was fun to get lost in for a while.

Favorite quotes: "...that all you know of a life are the places where it touches your own."

Butternut Squash Soup September 2009

This is a filling, fiber friendly and healthy fall/winter belly warmer. I make enough for a few dinners, or a dinner and some lunches. I haven't frozen any yet because it gets eaten much too quickly but would love to try. This soup is also great because you dirty a minimum dish quotient, which is a big plus in my kitchen.


  1. Prechop your veggies first, as this is most time consuming, separating the potatoes, turnips, carrots and squash from the other items.*

  2. Put the butter or margarine in the soup pot, begin heating to melt and coat the pan bottom. Add garlic, onions, green onions and celery.

  3. Warm all over medium heat -- stirring and watching your garlic (if you go too hot or leave unattended it will burn) -- look for softness, a nice aroma and some translucence in the onions. Add some salt and fresh cracked pepper to your preference (you can always add more later!)

  4. Add your chopped veggie medley to the soup pot: potatoes, turnips, carrots, butternut squash. Saute, stirring often. I like to let it really simmer for about 20-25 minutes to soften the turnips and potatoes. Around 15 minutes in, you can add a half cup of white wine to the pot, continue stirring periodically, if you like the white wine taste....if not you can skip it, I have made it both ways.

  5. After around 25 minutes, I like to pre-mash this mixture with a potato masher. This is not necessary but makes pureeing later easier. Use care with the hot mixture.

  6. Add chicken or vegetable broth to cover the vegetables, 32 to 42 oz or so. Stir and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring periodically, for 15 - 25 minutes or so. Your looking for it to begin looking like a thicker soup.

  7. Now, using care, transfer the soup in batches into a blender. Liquefy and transfer into another container until you've finished pureeing the entire pot.

Garnish with a sprinkle of garlic salt for a little spicy/salty/crunchy kick with your first bite. Great served with a crusty loaf of bread -- I like the "take and bake" variety so it's nice and warm.
Serves: 6 - 8

What you need to fix it:
Cutting Board
Sharp chopping knife
Spoon (or ice cream spoon)
Soup Pot
Mixing Bowl for reserved root veggies
Potato Masher
Wooden Soup Spoon
Another soup container (post puree serving bowl)
What you need from the fridge:
2 tbsp margarine or butter
About a half bulb of Garlic, shelled and sliced -- I use a half bulb, crushed or sliced longways
2 Onions, chopped
1/2 c chopped Scallions (optional)
1/2 c chopped Celery
1/2 c White wine (optional)

1 c chopped Carrots
3 Potatoes, chopped and with skin
2 Turnips, chopped
1 medium to large Butternut Squash, deseeded, peeled and chopped

32 - 42 oz. Chicken Broth

* Butternut Pointer: Half the squash. Gut the seeds with an ice cream scooper or tablespoon. Use a sharp knife to remove skin, moving from top to bottom, watching your fingers, of course. Trim the bottom skin separately around the curves, where it's tricky. Dry the seeds to plant next summer, if you feel like it. I throw mine out for the squirrels if I don't dry them ;)


On Writing and My Ego

I am so critical of my writing that for years, I've just put off doing it. Every word I put down is subject to such harsh criticism in my own mind that I never take it to the next step. I've put off starting a blog for this very reason, thrown my fiction into a journal never to see the light of day. I have so much to say that it actually pains me to read other authors, as minor and contained as they may be. Why do they have courage that I don't?

Life is about forcing yourself to do things. Successful people force themselves to do things every day...like work. It's not fun. You know how married couples force themselves to have sex? Admit it, you know what I mean if you are married. Like, once you get started it's so great, you remember why you loved it, and why don't we do this all the time? But getting started and cleaning up after is just such a pain in the ass that sometimes you just shrug and say, eh, another time, I'm tired and Chelsea Handler is on. That's sort of my deal with writing. I have to force myself to show my writing, sometimes to write, period. Not because I don't like writing -- in fact, I love it. I'm just so self critical, I'm so bruised and battered by even helpful criticism, I just can't stand doing it anymore. But nothing can change that underneath that I'm still a writer. I write all day long in my head. Damned if I don't sit down to do it on paper though, and I cringe. But I'm taking a different approach now. Here's what I've got to say, and if you don't like it, sorry to hear that.


What's the point?

I have been meaning to start writing a blog since...well, since forever...more specifically, since my little bout of unemployment began six months ago. Try as I might, though, I just couldn't force myself to put my thoughts on paper -- they are so personal I can barely stand the thought of people (friends, strangers...family ) reading them, disagreeing with them, criticizing them...criticizing ME. So I came up with a compromise. I'll start slow. I passionately love a few things in life, and reading and cooking are two of those things. So here's what I'll do: I'm going to start blogging about those things, and I'll try and warm to the idea of including some personal insights, stories, etc. as I go. Bear with me, and thanks for reading.


Summer Pasta

I sort of eyeball it so bear with me -- and your quantities will really depend on how much you want to make - but they work together well no matter what.


Boil pasta in salted water in pot.

In a skillet:

I saute some white onions chopped how you like them in a pan with a little healthy oil (I use canola). I salt the onions slightly. I then add some scallions. You can throw in chives if you like them, too. Or Basil. Let that simmer because the onions take the longest to soften -- you don't want to brown them, just soften a little - look for translucence and a nice aroma.

Then I add chopped green peppers to the mix (as many as you like, really). Let that soften up to your liking. Last but not least, throw in some tomatoes and let them warm up.

Remove from the heat, toss with drained pasta. Add crumbles of feta or Gorgonzola to taste -- or add shaved or grated Parmesan, those work very well also.

Any or all things are optional, it really works no matter because of the onions and the oil and the cheese at the end. I rarely measure with this recipe -- it's just a light oil and some cheese and all the veggies you really want (I like a lot!). I make it a little different every time but so far have yet to make a bad one! Don't be afraid to experiment...and enjoy. It's a nice light summer meal you can make from things that store well and are staple items in your summer fridge.

What you'll need to fix it:
Pasta pot
Saute Pan
Pasta Stir

What you'll need from the fridge:
Oil - canola, olive, whatever
Green Onion
Peppers - green, red, whatever
Feta or Gorgonzola Cheese