Thursday, December 29, 2011

New year's resolutions... for other people

Forget making resolutions for yourself -- when it's so much easier to tell other people what they should resolve to do!

Herewith, presented in no particular order, six resolutions we wish other people would make -- and keep -- and why there's a snowball's chance in Hell they'll keep them. (FWIW, I am totally guilty of making and breaking some of these resolutions.)

For the woman who needs to shed a few pounds...

Resolution: I will go on a diet -- and stop bitching about needing to lose [insert number] pounds.

Reality check: Who am I kidding? We all know it's much more fun to bitch about being overweight and be mean to skinny people (especially those who had the willpower to go on a diet and keep the weight off) than go on a diet. But maybe if I keep saying "I'm going on a diet" the pounds will magically come off.

For those 40 and over, especially those whose doctor (and spouse) has been nagging them to take better care of themselves...

Resolution: I will exercise [regularly/more].

Reality check: Right, like that's going to happen. Last year I joined a gym -- and only went there to use the showers when we lost power. Let's face it, exercise isn't fun. And who wants to work out at a gym where everyone can see your flabby arms and muffin top and you have to pay money for the privilege? No thank you. Sure, I could walk or run, but that's soooo boring. My idea of exercise? Shopping/Watching sports.

For proud (i.e., annoying) parents...

Resolution: I will stop bragging about my kids.

Reality check: Phhhht. Of course I'm going to brag, when I know my kids truly are the cutest/smartest/most talented ones, which is totally a reflection of my great parenting. Also, they are always doing the most precious/unbelievable/adorable thing that I am sure everyone would want to know about. And they get straight As (or would if they didn't have such mean teachers), and are amazing at [insert sport and/or musical instrument and/or singing, acting, or art], and are always winning some award, making them fabulous role models. But I don't want to make other parents feel worse than they already must feel, so I will stop constantly bragging about my kids. Yeah right.

For the unhappily employed...

Resolution: I will look for a new job -- and stop bitching about my current one.

Reality check: Even though I hate my job, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know, right? And what if I hate my new job or they fire me? Where will I be then? And looking for a new job is so exhausting -- what with having to update my resume, and write cover letters, and network. Nope. I'm just going to stay at my current hell hole, and continue to whine, and wait for some fabulous new, great-paying gig to magically find me.

For children...

Resolution: I will clean my room.

Reality check: Hahahaha. Like that's ever going to happen. What are you going to do, mom, kick me out if I don't? As if. It's my room. Why do you care if it's messy?

For Facebook users...

Resolution: I will stop posting my every thought/my whereabouts/hundreds of pictures/my Farmville [or insert name of game] scores on Facebook.

Reality check: But how else can I convince myself and you that my life is way better than yours? Isn't that what Facebook is for? You don't like what I write? Don't read it, or hide my feed. I'm just expressing myself. Freedom of speech. Btw, hundreds of people think I am fascinating.

Want to add to the list? Go for it -- via the Comments.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

This is what happens when you ask Santa for a reindeer

Twas the night before Christmas,
When all through the Keller's house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Except for a five-foot buck (which sure looked like a reindeer)....

See, kids, this is how legends -- and famous poems -- get started.



Despite questioning by reporters, the Kellers remain mum on the scrap of furry red suit and the ash foot prints found around their chimney -- and where they got all the extra presents.

Hope you all had a very merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The JibJab guys say "Buh-Bye" to 2011

Buh-bye, 2011 -- and good riddance.



Amazing the JibJab guys could fit everything in in just over two minutes. (And is it just me or does the whole Charlie Sheen meltdown seem like ages ago?)

Here's to a bright, shiny, blizzard- and power-outage-free 2012! (I'd include "without celebrity hijinks, more GOP debates, political rankling, or financial debacles," but we all know that ain't happening.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What a load of crap

No, I'm not talking about the latest dust-up in Congress, or the GOP presidential field.

I am, rather, referring to Manure Manager magazine. (Proof that there is a magazine for everything. And yes, it's for real.) It's mission: to help those who deal with manure issues day in and day out make critical decisions.

On second thought, maybe I should send our elected officials a lifetime subscription to Manure Manager, cause the U.S. Congress -- and the President -- could sure benefit from some good manure management advice. Or at least some help cutting all the crap.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Me-ommm

Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position....

Good, good....

Center your head, eyes looking at the floor....

Excellent....

As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees underneath you, letting your head gently hang toward the floor....

Inhale, coming back to a neutral "tabletop" position on your hands and knees....

And try to ignore the cat sitting on your butt....



Excellent.

You have now achieved Cat Pose.

Me-ommmm....

Friday, December 9, 2011

Out, out, damn uterus!

I'm pretty sure "emergency hysterectomy" was not on my Amazon wish list, but SURPRISE! I'm getting one anyway. On Monday.

Supposedly with this new-fangled laparoscopic surgery, I should be okay in a week or two. But if I don't post anything for a while, you'll know why.

Think good healing thoughts for me!

UPDATED 12/17/11: Got through the surgery and am in recovery mode. Been a looong 10 days (since I was gripped with agonizing pain), but the doctor says I should be feeling MUCH better by Christmas. Thanks for the good wishes!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A sugar cereal by any other name...

Still has a shitload of sugar. So reports the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which just published its analysis of 84 children's breakfast cereals.

Per the EWG report, "a one-cup serving of [Kellogg's Honey Smacks -- known as Sugar Smacks back in my day] packs more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie, and one cup of any of the 44 other children’s cereals has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies." To which I say, does this really come as a big surprise, people?! Just because Kellogg's changed the name from Sugar Smacks to Honey Smacks, that makes it health food? I think not, but bravo to Kellogg's marketing team! Well done!

FWIW, my three favorite breakfast cereals as a kid, Sugar Smacks, Apple Jacks, and Froot Loops, which were plentiful in my house growing up (though not Cocoa Puffs, which had -- shudder -- chocolate and was thus banned), all made the 10 Worst Children's Cereals list (while Cocoa Puffs did not -- ahem).

Quick aside: I would like to take this opportunity to posthumously apologize to my father, who always said it was healthier to have a couple of Pepperidge Farm oatmeal raisin cookies than a big bowl of cereal in the morning. You were right, dad!

So, what were some of your favorite cereals as a kid -- and what do you feed your children now? (I had a bowl of Puffins Peanut Butter & Chocolate cereal with a little Fiber One this morning, while the kid had Cheerios with banana.) Did any of those cereals make the Environmental Working Group's 10 Worst Cereals list? Let me know via the comments.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The best little chocolate shops in Paris

So many chocolate shops -- and patisseries -- in Paris, so little time. (Seriously, there must be a chocolate shop and/or pastry shop on every block.) That's why I highly recommend doing a Chocolate Walk and/or Taste of Paris walking tour next time you find yourself in the City of Lights and Chocolate.

We did a Chocolate Walk (with Paris Walks) on our last trip to Paris, in November 2009. So this time we did a Taste of Paris walking tour (again with Paris Walks) -- and made sure to visit a few chocolatiers and patisseries we didn't get to our last visit. My insulin is still recovering. But in the words of Edith Piaf, je ne regrette rien.

Following are some of my favorite sweet destinations in Paris.

With a name like La Maison du Chocolat, it's gotta be good, oui? Oui. And as per usual the truffles, and the chocolate eclairs, did not disappoint. (Bonus: La Maison du Chocolat has three shops in New York City!)














Another must-sample chocolate/pastry shop, Patisserie Stohrer, the oldest patisserie in Paris.


















However, my now favorite chocolate shop in Paris is L'Atelier du Chocolat, whose Feuillants d'or (dark chocolate covered in crushed pralines... shudder)... I have no words for (but my mother is seriously going to score major mom points if she brings me back a bag).


















And if you like your fine chocolates paired with a fine wine, look no farther (or further) than Saint-Honoré Paris Chocolats & Vins at 37-39 rue Saint-Honoré, the first chocolate and wine bar in Paris. (Quick, someone, get this business a website!) It was only because we had been gorging ourselves for two hours on fine cheese, fois gras, and chocolates that I could not choke down more than a couple of pieces of their delicious-looking chocolates and wash them down with a bit of red wine.














Finally, what can I say about the macarons and pastries of Ladurée (without sighing)? They are simply... heavenly. Sigh. (I lovingly carried back a box of two dozen assorted macarons on the airplane, which lasted but a few days.)














Honorable mentions: Jean-Paul Hévin (see my previous Paris chocolate post) and Pierre Hermé (though we prefer Ladurée's macarons).

[Amazingly, despite gorging myself on rich food and pastries and chocolates for eight days, I managed to lose a pound. Must be something about France.]

Friday, December 2, 2011

Isn't Justin Bieber a bit tall to be Santa's elf?

I don't want a lot for Christmas
There's just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber to stop making Christmas videos
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is...
Not this



Most (all?) of you know how I feel about annoying Christmas music, but this new version of "All I Want for Christmas Is You," performed by Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, gives Wham! a run for the money. (Also, while I think Mariah Carey looks better than she has in years, Carey trying to seduce the Bieb in a skimpy Santa costume is more than a bit disturbing.)

Please make it stop.

[Consider this an Open Thread to voice your opinion about the best and worst Christmas songs.]

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bah humbug

It's not even December 1, and already I'm wishing for Christmas -- and New Year's Eve -- to be over and done with.

And it's not because I'm Jewish. (Like many New York City Jews, I grew up celebrating and loving Christmas -- trimming the tree, singing Handel's Messiah, opening gifts.) Or that I am in a rush to get to 2012 (far from it). No. It's because if I see one more Christmas ad (I'm talking to you, Walmart, and you, Target, and you, "every kiss begins with Kay"), or Christmas deal email from some online retailer, or another ad for the movie New Year's Eve (from the people who brought you Valentine's Day! another loathsome holiday) -- and don't get me started about those Christmas music mixes every store seems to have on an endless loop this time of year -- I'm going to start screaming... out loud.

Also, is it just me or does it seem there is more pressure than ever to buy stuff, lots of stuff, this holiday season? (And what's with the pepper-spray attacks?! I'm pretty sure Jesus Christ would not approve.) Shouldn't we give because we want to, not because we have to -- or some retailer plays on our emotions?

And what's with showing all those Rankin/Bass animated Christmas specials in November?! Last time I checked, Christmas was still on December 25. Frosty the Snowman will have melted by then.

You know the real reason bears hibernate? So they don't have to deal with Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Monday, November 28, 2011

...I love Paris in the fall

Every time I look down on this timeless town
whether blue or gray be her skies...















Whether loud be her cheers or soft be her tears,






















more and more do I realize:






















I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.















I love Paris every moment,
every moment of the year.

















I love Paris.
Why, oh why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mar-cat-ing 101

Madison Avenue has seen the future. And it is cats. Specifically catvertising.



Fellow cat lovers will agree, cats make everything better, especially ads.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Forever Lazy

No good can come from a product called "Forever Lazy," which is basically a Snuggie in footie pajama form.

Seriously, Forever Lazy?! Like we need help being lazy?! (I have a hard enough time getting out of my pajamas most days. Now you people want me to just stay in them... forever?!)

If this product winds up being as big as the Snuggie*, you can kiss our GDP goodbye -- and start teaching our kids Chinese, that is if they are not too lazy to get dressed and go to school.

Also, Dr. Denton just called. He wants his blanket sleeper back.


*Fortunately, based on the fact that donning a Forever Lazy instantly turns the wearer into an oompa loompa, I don't think this product will really catch on. Though I said the same thing about Crocs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great sex or a great night's sleep?

Which would you choose? And no, "Great sex then a great night's sleep!" is not an option -- unless you are a man.

Why do I ask? Because the topic of insomnia, especially insomnia in women aged 35-55 who work and have kids, has been much in the news of late. And as a (mostly) working mom between 35 and 55 who wakes up in the middle of the night just about every single night and has problems going back to sleep or doesn't, there is little I would not do to have at least eight hours of peaceful, uninterrupted, non-anxiety-dream-filled sleep. Even give up sex (for a little while, not forever). And apparently I am not alone. Far from it, according to a recent iVillage survey. Though I think the 41 percent figure is way low.

Btw, it's not just women who would prefer a great night's sleep to a roll in the hay. According to a recent Westin Hotels & Resorts survey, 51 percent of respondents said they preferred a perfect night's sleep to great sex. And the majority of those respondents were men.

So what sayest all of you? Would you rather have a great night's sleep every night for a month or great sex (and insomnia) every night for a month? To answer, please take the totally anonymous, informal survey below.

Which would you prefer?



Thursday, November 10, 2011

GOP presidential campaign theme songs?

Every presidential candidate needs a theme song. And after watching (clips from) the Republican presidential debates and reading up on the GOP frontrunners in the news, I would like to suggest the following.

For Mitt Romney, I propose "Stuck in the Middle with You" from Stealers Wheel:



[For those unfamiliar with "Stuck in the Middle with You," here is a link to the lyrics.]

For Texas Governor Rick Perry, I suggest the Britney Spears' classic "Oops! ...I Did It Again."



Oh Perry, Perry.

For the godfather of pizza, Herman Cain, I'm thinking the Atlanta Rhythm Section's "So into You":



And for Michele Bachmann (is she still even in the race?), "Crazy":



Well, those are my GOP presidential candidate theme songs suggestions. What are yours? Let me know via the Comments section.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jets, Giants, and Zombies

If you are a Jets and/or Giants fan, yesterday was HUGE. I still can't quite believe the Jets beat the Bills, pretty decisively (27-11) -- and are now tied for first place in the AFC East with the Patriots and the Bills.

And the second half of the Giants-Patriots game at Foxborough.... You needed heart medication to have survived that fourth quarter. That may have been the most exciting second half and/or fourth quarter of a football game I have ever seen. (Shades of Super Bowl XLII? Giants' tight end Jake Ballard even wears David Tyree's number, 85.)

While there were a number of great moments in both games, the Santonio Holmes (wide receiver, New York Jets) - Rex Ryan (coach, New York Jets) body bump, after Holmes scored a touchdown in the third quarter of the Jets-Bills game was particularly memorable (and humorous):



Fat white guys can jump!

And what can I say about the second half, particularly the last seconds of the fourth quarter, of yesterday's Giants-Patriots game that this highlight reel doesn't better illustrate? You ROCK (or CATCH), Jake Ballard -- and Eli Manning and Brandon Jacobs! Final score: Giants 24-Patriots 20. Amazing.

Finally, zombies -- which you could pretty much classify me as after spending all day watching football yesterday, and after not having electricity, or running water, or school for my daughter, all last week.

My daughter had planned on dressing up for Halloween -- which our town moved to November 5 -- as a zombie prom queen long before the power outage. However, in light of recent events, her costume seemed particularly appropriate. (I certainly felt my brains had been sucked out.)






















Here's to the Jets, the Giants, and to keeping the zombies at bay.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mmm... Velveeta...

After six days without power -- or heat, or running water, or school -- my brain is about the consistency of melted Velveeta. Which is no doubt why I find this cheesy commercial for Velveeta Cheesy Skillets so hysterical. Or it could be I've been reading too many romance novels (the spouse's theory).



Anyone else find they have a strange craving for Velveeta... or a hunky blacksmith?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

It's Christmas in October!

Been snowing here since around 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time -- and the flakes they keep coming down (as will probably a few trees and power lines, bleh).

It's like Christmas... in October.



Talk about the ultimate trick or treat.

Happy Halloween!

UPDATED 2 P.M.: Just took this picture of a tree in our yard. Say goodbye to your leaves, tree!

















[NOTE: The original soundtrack was 10,000 Maniacs' "Like the Weather," but YouTube said I didn't have permission to use it, bastards, even though I bought it on iTunes, so I swapped in "Winter" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.]

UPDATED 10/30/11: We lost power yesterday at 2:45 p.m. ET and have been informed by the power company that we could be out for a week. Again. (See Irene, Hurricane.) We're tempted to move out West, but knowing our luck, as soon as we moved, there'd be earthquakes, wildfires, and mudslides.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Say it ain't snow!

In this house, s-n-o-w is one of those four-letter words not to be uttered. Especially in October. Especially after the hellacious winter we just had earlier this year. Yet all around me, on the TV, on the radio, on the streets, and in stores, that is all people are talking about.
















Looking at this map -- 3-5 inches of snow in Philadelphia, in October?! -- makes me want to weep, or hibernate. So much for tomorrow's big soccer Jamboree.

This is what October is supposed to look like:















Not this:















But apparently Winter -- or Mother Nature -- did not get my memo.

Not looking forward to the rest of this year, people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ay Chihuahua! (Dog Halloween costumes)

I've seen some pretty out there dog (and cat) Halloween costumes, but this one takes the cake -- or the tank.



And for those of you dog owners looking for matching mother- (or father)-and-dog Halloween outfits, check out this "Doggie Halloween Costumes" segment from the Wendy Williams Show -- featuring matching Katy Perry costumes and Prince William and that bitch Kate Middleton.



Oh. My. God.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Remember when you knew what ads were advertising?

So one of my current favorite ads is the Volkswagen ad with the two guys going on a road trip where one of the guys decides it would be fun to learn Spanish, instead of listening to music.



[This ad cracks me up every time -- probably because I've been brushing up on my French and wish all it took was a long car ride to sound fluent.]

The problem is that despite seeing the ad several times, I had no idea which car Volkswagen was advertising (turns out, the Passat). And I was more inspired to buy a language-learning CD than I was a car. Which, if the purpose of the ad was to sell me a car, means the ad failed. (Though, to borrow a phrase from my daughter, it was not an "epic fail.")

Now not that I buy stuff based on ads, but back in the day, at least ya knew what was being advertised. Today? Not so much. While there are lots of witty/clever ads out there, how many of you when you see a commercial remember what was being advertised a few hours -- heck, a few minutes -- later?

Call me an old fart, but I still remember Star-Kist and Charlie the Tuna.



["Sorry Charlie. Star-Kist doesn't want tunas with good taste. Star-Kist wants tunas that tastes good!"]

And I can still sing "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us," the old Burger King song. (Though I preferred McDonald's burgers and fries.)



Also, all anyone has to do is sing "meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow," and I immediately think Meow Mix!



And I have a sneaking feeling these ads for Dr. Pepper, featuring David Naughton, may have been partially responsible for my Dr. Pepper addiction.



Anyone else a Pepper?

I could go on and on, but I'd like to open the floor to all of you. Which classic ads do you miss? And do you think advertisers do a better job today of selling stuff on TV or not so much? Leave me a comment.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dog day afternoon

Been trying for weeks to get some decent pictures of my daughter's soccer team. Finally gave up (sort of) and started taking pictures of soccer dogs instead.

(The field we played at yesterday is very dog friendly. And it was a perfect fall day. Only wish I could have gotten a picture of the opposing coach's bulldog. Love bulldogs. Though these pooches are pretty darn cute -- and would make decent strikers.)









Saturday, October 22, 2011

Your Caturday videos

You may think Al Gore invented the Internets for military purposes, but we know the truth, don't we people? The Internet was invented so people could share cat videos!



And today I am here to share with you two of the latest, hottest kitty videos from the Interwebs.

First up, from Russia with love, "Cat goes to home after shopping." Or as one YouTube commenter described it, "In Soviet Russia, cats go shopping" (which I realize may only be funny to me, my daughter, and some of her friends).



Next up, "Funny Cat Playing Basketball." (Seriously, how do these people come up with such witty titles?)



Kitty got game! (And could also have been a big help to my daughter's rec basketball team last year.)

Wishing one and all a purr-fectly lovely Caturday...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yet another '80s music blog post

Some people have comfort food. I have comfort music.

And what could be a nicer way to end the week than some classic 1980s alternative/new wave music? (That would be a rhetorical question, by the way.)

First up: "Make a circuit with me," from the Polecats, which has been playing on the mental jukebox ever since Steve Jobs died.



That led me to the (English) Beat's "Mirror in the bathroom" (technically from 1979 but I didn't hear it until the 1980s).



Which led me to "Save it for later" and pretty much the whole General Public oeuvre. (God, I miss WLIR.) Sadly, I could not find a video for "Hot you're cool." Bummer.

Then I got into this whole Talking Heads thing.


Talking Heads Girlfriend is Better by Celtiemama

(Loved Stop Making Sense. Great concert movie.)

Which led me to the Tom Tom Club and "Wordy rappinghood":



What are words worth? Also, that Tina Weymouth is lookin' good!

I don't know about all of you, but I feel ready for the weekend now.

[For more great '80s music, click on the "1980s" tag, below.]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Things that no longer shock me

Back in the day, I used to think life was fair, that nice guys finished first, and bad deeds (and bad people) would be punished. Now? Not so much. Indeed, few things I read in the news or watch on TV surprise or shock me anymore. Which is kind of sad.

How jaded have I become? (Just remember, you can't spell jaded without J!) To find out I compiled the following list of those things that used to shock or surprise me but now barely raise an eyebrow.

* Politicians cheating on their wives

* Athletes cheating on their wives

* Celebrities cheating on their wives

* Anyone with a penis cheating on his wife

* Priests abusing children

* Priests (and bishops and cardinals) covering up priests abusing children

* Politicians acting in their own self interest, screw their constituents (and wives; see "Politicians cheating on their wives")

* CEOs and top executives who make hundreds of times more than their non-executive employees, even when the company is losing money

* CEOs and top executives who layoff hundreds of employees right before Christmas and then give themselves lavish Christmas bonuses

* How many people in this country are obese

* Teenage girls dressing (and/or acting) like hookers

* Reality TV (see "obese people," "teenage girls dressing/acting like hookers," above)

* Shock jocks

* Bears shopping in supermarkets



So what no longer shocks or surprises you? Leave a comment.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street explained in 60 seconds

Today marks the one month anniversary of protesters occupying Wall Street (even though most of the investment banking houses whose leaders and practices they are protesting against moved out of the Wall Street area to midtown Manhattan years ago). Yet even as the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow, and spawn similar protests around the globe, many (most?) people, including many politicians, are unsure what specifically the protesters are protesting -- or simply don't get it.

Though not former Florida Representative Alan Grayson, who provided this succinct explanation of the Occupy Wall Street movement on a recent Real Time with Bill Maher.



Get that man a bongo drum -- and a seat in Congress!

Btw, is it just me, or does Alan Grayson remind you just a wee bit of Howard Beale in Network -- and his famous "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" speech, which is just as if not more relevant today than it was 35 years ago.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

7 more great reads

I've been on a bit of a reading tear the past month and read so many great books I could not wait until December to share them!

As per usual, books are listed in the order I read them and linked to their page on Amazon.com. (Amazon should really give me a cut.)

Concierge Confidential: The Gloves Come Off--and the Secrets Come Out! Tales from the Man Who Serves Millionaires, Moguls, and Madmen by Michael Fazio with Michael Malice. If you are look for a quick, fun, gossipy read about the lifestyles of the rich and famous when they visit New York City, check out Concierge Confidential. While the writing (or editing) isn't the best, the stories more than make up for it.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià's elBulli by Lisa Abend. After Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, this is my favorite book about being a chef/what goes on in restaurant kitchens. Expertly written, Abend makes the reader feel like she is behind the scenes at elBulli, the recently closed award-winning, three-Michelin-star restaurant located on Spain's Costa Brava-- and gives you a real appreciation for what it takes to be a world-class chef and restaurant owner.

Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil. The humorous sequel to The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, which I also adored. Parents of young boys will particularly appreciate this funny and touching book, the continuing story of a late-thirty-something single mum who moves to a small village in Kent, England, with her two young boys and takes over her grandmother's knitting shop after her husband, who had just announced he was leaving her for another woman, crashes his car into a tree and dies. While that sounds like a gloomy premise, both books kept me smiling and turning their pages for hours thanks to the author's humor and easygoing writing style.

It's All About the Dress by Vicky Tiel. Another wildly fun, gossipy read. If you follow(ed) fashion and still miss Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, you will love designer Vicky Tiel's new memoir about her wild fashions, life, and time in Paris and London in the swinging 1960s and early 1970s. Heck, I barely follow fashion and am not into celebrity gossip and I loved this book, which made me wish I had a time machine and could sew.

Lord Langley Is Back in Town by Elizabeth Boyle. Finally, a good bad romance novel*! Woohoo! Stumbled across this one in the New Arrivals section of my local library. (Hard to avoid those six-pack abs staring out at me -- though did early 19th-century lords really have six-pack abs? I find it a bit hard to believe. But anyway....) A great bit of froth set in early 19th century London. (Is it just me or do the majority of historical romance novels take place in early 19th century London and the English countryside?) If you are looking for a fun, romantic read -- that is not too chaste and decently written with good characters -- I highly recommend Elizabeth Boyle.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. "I can't believe you're reading that," said the spouse when he saw me with Tina Fey's memoir. (I have a total sour grapes/roll the eyes thing about successful working mothers who write memoirs about how you too can have it all, completely ignoring the fact that they have parents and staffs of people taking care of their children and cooking and cleaning and driving so they can have these wonderful careers.) But I gotta admit, I really liked it -- at least the first two thirds, before she started quoting scenes from 30 Rock and discussing her guilt about not breast feeding, having a "babysitter" (i.e., nanny), and whether or not to have a second kid.

Dolci di Love by Sarah-Kate Lynch (author of House of Daughters, another favorite of mine). A forty-something couple who have lost their way. A bunch of old, well-meaning Italian busy-bodies/matchmakers. A magical Tuscan village. Heavenly sounding biscotti and gelato. And a romance rekindled. What's not to like? I smiled, I cried, I could not put this book down. (Seriously, I could not put it down. Read it in practically one sitting, which says a lot.)

To see more/former book recommendations, click here (or on the BOOK NOOK tag, below).

*I read some Georgette Heyer, at the suggestion of reader MaryRC, but was not a fan. Sorry Mary!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Her bulldog is smarter than your honor student

Meet Gabe, the wonder bulldog.



Pretty impressive, no?

No way you'd catch one of our cats fetching milk (or anything, for that matter).

More about Gabe the bulldog here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And now a word about romance novels

Or as I like to call them, fairy tales for big girls.

For some reason, ever since we lost power for six days, thanks to Hurricane Irene, I have been craving romance novels, specifically historical romance novels -- the kind set in Regency England. And, I am only somewhat embarrassed to say, I have now read around a half dozen such novels, by several authors (though not the two books whose covers I have featured here).

Now I know one shouldn't take these things (i.e., romance novels) too seriously, but I was shocked -- shocked, I say! -- to discover how incredibly fantastic (as in remote from reality -- though of extraordinary size would also be an accurate description, at least of some things, ahem) some of these tales were.

Herewith my shocking findings about historical romance novels (and, no doubt, more contemporary ones, too).

Fact 1: There are no flat-chested or plain-looking heroines (i.e., people like me getting swept off their feet) in most historical romance novels. While I may have thick, wavy hair the color of chestnuts and lovely green eyes fringed with dark lashes, my otherwise average countenance, diminutive breasts (which I have yet to hear described as "full, round, and luscious, ready to spill out of her gown") and sagging derriere, or buttocks (which likewise has yet to be described as "enticingly plump yet firm," at least anywhere I've heard about), I fear, pretty much disqualify me from being the heroine of, object of affection in, or cover model for any romance novel. (I am now throwing myself onto my settee, heaving tears of regret and longing.)

Fact 2: Apparently aristocrats had personal trainers back in the day and those dungeons were in actuality fully-equipped workout gyms. For how else could you possibly explain all the male heroes in these novels -- dukes, earls, and lords, almost all of whom are in their late 30s or early 40s -- having such hard, taut chests and fine muscular arms whose solid thighs (and, uh, other things) nicely filled out their breeches? (Unless they were gay. Which, come to think of it....)

Fact 3: There is no such thing as male pattern baldness in historical romance. (See "Women with small breasts and plain faces.") Not only have these forty-something pillars of masculinity been working out with Jack LaLanne, they are all clearly members of the Hair Club for Men, for how else can you explain the head of thick, luxurious hair which complements their chiseled jaws, green eyes the color of a storm-tossed sea, and six-pack abs?

Fact 4: To properly seduce a man, you must be a lady in public and a whore in the boudoir. (Actually, that one rings true, at least today.)

Fact 5: I am pretty sure snuff was the early 19th century term for Cialis or Viagra (at least in romance novels). For how else can you explain the ability of a forty- (or fifty-) something gentleman (who, more often than not, is no gentleman) to pleasure his lady, repeatedly, all night? Also, I find it amusing that in all of these novels, the "hero" knows exactly how to pleasure his lady, so that she is sighing with delight at the mere touch of his strong, knowing fingers. And, of course, he only takes his pleasure after she has taken hers. Uh huh. (On the plus side, I much prefer the term manhood to penis.)

So, what do you think, people, time for me to pen my first romance novel?

Monday, October 10, 2011

World's geekiest app?

Alternate titles: "Apps that go BOOM!" "An app only a physicist could love?"

"Want to find out how to Hunt the Higgs Boson using your phone? Ever wondered how the Large Hadron Collider experiments work, and what the collisions look like?"

If you answered "yes" to either or both questions, then have I got an app for you!

Introducing LHSee for the Android (click on the link to read the, to me, hysterical user reviews) -- a new free app for those of you who, like me, are obsessed with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the giant particle accelerator (or as Gail Collins and I like to refer to it, the Life-Extinguishing Black-Hole Maker) located under the border of France and Switzerland*.

Not only is the new LHSee app educational, but, and I quote, "the application allows you to interact with the collision events in full 3D graphics." (I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds kind of painful.) You can also test your knowledge of physics by playing the Hunt the Higgs game!

Btw, the app is categorized under "E," for Entertainment -- or End of days, depending on your point of view. And you can find out more about how it was created here.

*For those non-physicists in the audience, I have included this helpful video which explains what the Large Hadron Collider does in rap form. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The trouble with kittens

Nothing like introducing the new kitten to the resident cat.

This latest "Simon's Cat," titled "Double Trouble," brings back memories, it does.



Wishing one and all a happy Caturday.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Boys will be boys

All of you who have a little brother -- or whose younger child is a boy* -- will relate to this video, titled "Smack that -- Little brother video bombs sister."



Little bro got some moves (and a sore behind, methinks)!

Smack that, indeed.

*Don't share this video with Bryan, Dave S.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Does your guy think he's a Mr. Fixit?

There is a reason (actually several) why shows like Home Improvement and The Red Green Show were so popular. There is nothing like a handy man.



(We once had a carpenter who used to like to quote Red Green: "If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy" -- or find you a good handy man, as I would add.)

Indeed, there is something incredibly attractive about a guy who knows how to fix stuff -- the right way (and then cleans up after himself). And there is something incredibly hysterical about a guy who thinks he can fix stuff -- and totally screws it up (unless he happens to be your husband and now you have three inches of water on your kitchen floor and can't use the sink). Which is why I find the new Owens Corning EcoTouch commercial so incredibly funny.



Remind you of anyone you know, ladies?

(While the spouse is very handy when it comes to fixing computers, no way am I letting him insulate the house. I don't care how easy Owens Corning claims it is.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

They don't make weekend cartoons like they used to

Remember H.R. Pufnstuf...



(The show was a little too trippy for me, but I know I watched.)

Sigmund and the Sea Monsters...



(Loved Sigmund. Also, is it just me or was Johnny Whitaker the Joe Jonas or Sean Cassidy of the early 1970s? Fun fact: Johnny Whitaker was the original Scotty Baldwin on General Hospital.)

and Josie and the Pussycats?



(I was really into Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. Also, did you know Casey Kasem was the voice of Alexander Cabot III and that Cheryl Ladd was Melody's singing voice?)

Sigh. They don't make cartoons like they used to. (Though I'm not sure that's a bad thing.)

So, what cartoons do you remember watching growing up?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Could someone please silence my rooster?!

Ever wake up in the middle of the night -- and just can't fall back to sleep, like this chick?

[To see the short commercial -- of a woman being awakened in the middle of the night by a rooster, who then follows her to work -- click on where it says "YouTube." You will then be able to watch the clip on YouTube.]



Happens to me all the time, but not usually five days in a row, and it's killing me. (And no amount of meditating or breathing exercises seems to work. As soon as something wakes me -- hi honey! -- my brain clicks into gear and I cannot silence that darn rooster.)

I'd try medication, but after hearing all those disclaimers (which make up most of those ads you hear for Ambien and Lunesta), I'm pretty sure the "cure" is worse than the problem.

So, any ideas, people?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And The Best Use of Coors Light Award goes to...

During Hurricane Irene, we here in the Northeast were hit pretty hard. Indeed, that first Monday, 82 percent of my town didn't have electricity (and running water in most cases) -- and many of us were without power for six days. Fortunately, we were enjoying a bit of a cool spell, and the spouse and I figured if we kept our refrigerator and freezers closed, and added ice, our food would be okay for a couple of days, maybe more.

But after a couple of days, even if you put your perishables in a cooler filled with ice, you begin to wonder, is my food really being kept cold?

Sure, sure, you can check the temperature with a thermometer. But what fun would that be? Also, it's really hard to read a thermometer in the dark.

Fortunately, you don't need a thermometer. That is, you have a bottle or can of Coors Light with Super Cold Activation!

True story: While listening to the local radio station a few days after the storm, a woman called in saying she had a great easy tip for knowing if your food was being kept cold during a power loss. Her tip? Insert a Coors Light with Super Cold Activation into a cooler with ice and periodically check it. If the SUPER COLD and COLD strips are blue, your food is okay. If not, you need to add more ice.



She also recommended having at least a six-pack of Coors Light around, in case you had more than one cooler -- and a six-pack of a beer you would actually want to drink, in the event you got thirsty.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The joy of...

mopping?



I don't care how great the Shark Professional Steam Pocket Mop is. No woman gets that excited about mopping the floor. And I say this as a woman who was genuinely excited when the spouse got me that Eureka Cordless Quick-Up floor sweeper for Valentine's Day.

Equally problematic, at least for those of us who were big fans of the movie Risky Business and still fondly remember the scene where Tom Cruise dances around in his tighty whities (back when we didn't think he was crazy -- just crazy cute), that woman is no Tom Cruise. (Sadly.)



You want women to get excited about mopping, Shark people? Show some really hot guy mopping the floor.






Nicely done, Pine-Sol.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book recommendations for fall

Leafed through a lot of books over the summer, and have included the best of the lot below as my fall reading suggestions. As per usual, I have listed books in the order I read them and linked the titles to the listing on Amazon, where you can find a longer summary, customer reviews, and purchase the book. Starred (*) books are favorites.

Btw, I am still looking for a book that will make me laugh (that is not written by Chelsea Handler, of whom I am not a fan) -- that is also well written with well formed characters. Bonus points if it also contains a little (or a lot) of romance.

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren. Nineteen-year-old aspiring actress (and call girl) from New Jersey takes a gig in Brunei -- and discovers she's part of a modern-day harem. Not your grandmother or mother's harem story. Or maybe it is. (Never been in a harem. Not sure about my mom, though, who was a model back in the day. Hi mom!) Considering the crummy jobs and pay I've had, harem girl didn't seem like a bad way to go. Amusing.

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell. A collection of Gladwell's New Yorker pieces. All thought provoking. Learned a lot from reading this (about dogs and their owners, hair color, ketchup, investing, Ron Popeil, the pill, and more).

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee. A beautifully written novel about two British ex-pats in Hong Kong who wind up having an affair, a wealthy Chinese couple, and life in pre- and post-World War II Hong Kong.

The Reef by Edith Wharton. A book about morality and class and duty, set in England and France -- i.e., pretty typical Edith Wharton.

Still Life by Louise Penny. A well-written mystery that takes place in the fictional village of Three Pines in Quebec. The writing and the detective, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Montreal Surete, reminded me of Agatha Christie (whom I adored). If you enjoy mysteries, check out Still Life -- and its many sequels.

How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed. For Antiques Roadshow fans, flea market goers, and anyone who has ever felt lost and horribly wronged and finally got it right.

*Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad by Jehanne Wake. A fascinating, eloquently-written biography about four extraordinary American sisters -- 19th-century landed heiresses and the granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (Maryland), one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence -- who take London (and Paris) by storm in the early to mid 1800s. Highly recommend (as did the New York Times Book Review).

*The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin. If you enjoy Edith Wharton (and/or Henry James), you will enjoy reading The American Heiress, the fictional story of one Cora Cash, American heiress to a flour fortune, who marries an English duke. The story takes place in Newport, New York, and England in the 1890s, and despite the book's length (around 440 pages), I found it to be a quick and enjoyable read.

I also read several "historical romance" novels -- by candlelight -- during the six days we were without electricity (thanks to Hurricane Irene), none of which I'd recommend, though they helped me pass the time. Just curious: Is there such a thing as a non-formulaic, well-written romance novel or romantic work of historical fiction? 'Cause I have yet to come across one.

In addition, I read the much ballyhooed memoir by chef Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, which I LOATHED. But if you are a fan of Anthony Bourdain and/or grew up in Manhattan during the 1980s and 1990s and did your share of rebelling and drugs you may like it (as the spouse did).

For more book recommendations, click here (which will take you to a list of all my "Book Nook" posts -- just scroll down).

To let me -- and my readers -- know about a book you enjoyed reading, please leave a comment, by clicking on "Post a Comment" at the bottom of this post. If you don't have a Blogger/Blogspot blog, just leave your Name (no URL necessary) or a nickname. You can also click on Anonymous.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You gotta kiss a lot of frogs...

before you find your Prince Charming.

Or you can save yourself the time and trouble and Grow a Prince.

I don't remember who gave me Grow a Prince (part of a series of Collectible Magic Growing Things*), but it is one of my favorite gag gifts -- and I keep it near my side always (just in case the spouse gets out of line).

I particularly love the package copy (click on the photo to get a larger view) -- and the callout: "Grows 600% its size!" (Guys, you wish.)

Like the package says, "It just might be a fairy tale come true (or maybe you'll just kiss a really cute frog)."

And just in case things don't work out with the spouse or my inflatable prince, I've got a backup...















Ribbit.

*I may have to get Grow a Therapist.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Ahoy, mateys, and shiver me timbers, it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day (again)! Argh.

For those of you land lubbers (like I -- or should I say, aye?) whose Pirate is a little rusty, there is a free course on how to speak Pirate. (Who knew?)

I have also included this short instructional video on Pirate speak, titled The Five A's.



And for all ye hearties who have Facebook pages, go to yer Profile page, scroll down to the very end of the page, to where the copyright (c) line is, along with the language. Click on the language (in my case, "English (US)"), and then select (click on) "English (Pirate)."

Finally, for you swashbucklers in search of a wench on this day, might I suggest the following Pirate pickup lines?
  • Have ya ever met a man with a real yardarm?
  • I'd love to drop anchor in your lagoon.
  • Pardon me, but would ya mind if I fired me cannon through your porthole?
  • Well blow me down?
  • Prepare to be boarded.
  • They don’t call me Long John because my head is so big.
  • Wanna shiver me timbers?
  • I’ve sailed the seven seas, and you’re the sleekest schooner I’ve ever sighted.
  • That’s the finest pirate booty I’ve ever laid eyes on.
  • That’s some treasure chest you’ve got there. May I plunge your riches?
Here's to finding buried treasure!

[H/T to Dave S. for reminding me of this important day. Ahoy there, Cap'n Dave!]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kitten Wars

Not such a long time ago, in an office not so far away, there lived two kittens....

No doubt timed to coincide with today's release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray comes "Jedi Kittens Strike Back" (aka "Kitten Wars")...



the sequel to "Jedi Kittens" (aka "Kittens with Lightsabers"):



Clearly, the force is strong with these two kittens. (Hey, they're a lot cuter than those stupid Ewoks.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do chicks dig guys with gray hair?

Contrary to what those Just for Men commercials would have you guys believe, chicks do dig guys with gray hair.

Don't believe me? I've got two words for you: Anderson Cooper (whose new afternoon talk show is creating quite a stir, or maybe it's just Anderson's abs).

Not convinced you say? What about George Clooney, who is clearly not afraid to let his gray hang out -- and has zero problem attracting attractive women.

Granted, not every guy can pull off gray (or is George Clooney), but is gray or graying hair really a problem, ladies? Do you find guys with gray or graying hair really less attractive?

And guys, do you really see gray or graying hair as a problem? (Maybe it's because I watch a lot of baseball and football, and listen to too much sports talk radio, but graying hair -- and baldness -- seems to be right up there with losing one's house, bad credit scores, and possible bankruptcy.)

Let me know your thoughts via the Comments.

Monday, September 12, 2011

You can learn a lot from driving teens

At the risk of divulging a big secret (and drying up a key source of juicy information), it often seems to me that my daughter and her friends think there is some kind of invisible, soundproof barrier between the front seat and back seat that prevents all conversation from being heard in the front seat, and, as a result, often talk about things they probably wouldn't talk about at, say, the dinner table (which is even more amusing, to me, because I drive a Mini Cooper, not a minivan).

Whatever the reason for their (often uncensored) chit chat, I am grateful for the opportunity it has given me, over the years, to learn about aspects of my daughter and her friends' lives that they might not normally share with a parent (even one as hip as I am*) -- even more so now that they are teenagers.

So what exactly can you learn from driving teenage girls?

Without divulging any personal information (concerning my daughter or her friends), following are some samples gleaned not only from my back seat but from the top secret back seats of other Russian chauffeurs (aka soccer and basketball moms who have sworn me to secrecy):
  • What music they like (names of groups, lyrics and which ones have the hottest lead singer);
  • How they are doing in school -- and which teachers they like/don't like;
  • The latest teenage fashion trends and where they like to shop;
  • Who has a potty mouth or is always getting into trouble; and, perhaps the most invaluable...
  • What boys they like, who is dating whom, and what they say to each other (girls will often read aloud texts they receive/send to boys while chatting with their girlfriend(s) in the backseat)
(Note: I dread the day when I hear these girls discussing who is sleeping with -- or performing sexual acts on -- whom, which is hopefully many years down the line, but you never know.)

So what have you learned from schlepping your kids and their friends? Let me know via a comment.

*That would be sarcasm, just one of the many services I offer.