It Was A Good Day

Saturday morning I woke up, watched “GMA” and had a little breakfast. After a bit, I decided to walk my dog; so I got my dog all ready, pushed shuffle on my phone’s music and we set off. The first song put me in the BEST mood and had me dancing down the street, I’m sure I looked like an idiot. Song after song brought me joy and I marveled again at how powerful music is. Each song was from a different decade and, put together, seemed incongruous, but each lit something up in me and always has. I have not listened to much music during these crazy months; I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Here was the soundtrack to my walk on Saturday, click on the song titles if you’d like to take a listen:

Dreams” – Beck

Potential Breakup Song” – Aly & A.J.

All The Time” – Barry Manilow

When Love & Hate Collide” – Def Leppard

Use Somebody” – Kings of Leon

We got home, I laid down on the couch and, sadly, finished the book I had been reading. I LOVED Anxious People by Frederik Backman. Sometimes reading his books, it take a few pages to get into his groove. (If you haven’t read his A Man Called Ove, you must.) For me, this one did not.  I was in from page 1. It’s quirky, it’s moving, it’s insightful, it’s funny, it’s sad and it’s powerful. I rarely give out 5 stars; Anxious People was 5 stars for me.

This is an entertainment blog so I won’t belabor you with minutiae – the rest of the day included having a great lunch with my son and my friend, doing some work, organizing my son’s camp clothes, etc.  

For dinner I made Shredded Chicken Enchilada Casserole (click for recipe if you are interested), which holds no allure for my family, but Jenny & I love it so she came over for dinner. We ate and then watched Nomadland on Hulu. Watching this on my TV, I realized how much I miss going to the movie theatre. I LOVE movies, as you know.  Oscar time is my favorite time. Going to the theatre really allows you to fully escape and immerse yourself into the experience of what you are watching. This movie was so breathtaking cinematically; I knew we were depriving ourselves of the intended experience by watching it on the TV. That being said, it is totally worth it to watch from home.  I really enjoyed it. Living a nomadic lifestyle holds no allure for me, but seeing what it entails and how many people choose to live this way (many in the movie are actual nomads) was fascinating. And, like I said, getting such a close up of the American West and its vast landscape is something to behold.

We ended the night by eating 48 hour brown butter/toffee/chocolate chip cookies (click for recipe) that my daughter and I had made after we watched a video on YouTube. Here is the link so you can watch it, too. I definitely messed up because I didn’t have a candy thermometer (just ordered, thank you Amazon) so the toffee wasn’t exactly right. Also, the cookies are enormous so the cooking times didn’t work with our oven. They were good. I think our next try would be better if we wanted to invest that much time again. But I dare you to watch the video and not want to make them also.

That was my Saturday. It was a good day. I hope yours was, too.

See Ya 2020

I know, it’s been a while.  With everyone home watching everything, I sort of felt like my “guidance” was not really needed.  For example, I really enjoyed “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, but since it’s their most-watched scripted limited series ever, you probably did, too.  

TV

So, with the understanding that you probably watched more than I did, I’m still going to make some recommendations.  I just re-read my last two posts from 2020 and I stand by those recommendations – particularly “Normal People” and “Schitt’s Creek.”  Both fantastic.  

Periodically, I have mentioned “Bridgerton,” beginning with my 2nd ever post when I listed Julia Quinn as one of my favorite authors in the historical romance genre.  I have read all of the books in the series (8 – each focusing on a different sibling) so I am hopeful that this show will continue past season 1.  Although the books are wittier (you will laugh out loud), I thought they did a wonderful job with the adaptation. It was especially lovely to see the era (the production design and costumes are A+) and it was educational (I now know how to properly say the word “viscount!”). If you do decide to read all the books (I hope you do!), you will thoroughly enjoy yourself.  My favorite of them is #6, but I don’t want you to skip ahead to it so I’ll let you figure them all out on your own.  If, after reading, you decide you like this type of book, please go back to my 2nd post where I list other wonderful romance authors.  Don’t discount them just because of the category they fall under. A well written book is a well written book.

Movies

I normally list the movies I gave As to the year before, but I mentioned those in the post that’s 2 back and they are all from last year’s Ocsar’s time so nothing really new to mention.  I had high hopes for a couple recent major releases but they didn’t really do it for me, unfortunately.  

Books

Here are the books I read (in order) in 2020. If I recommend them, there will be an *.  I went through a weird period at the beginning of Covid where I just COULD NOT read so the list is not as long as usual.

  1. *Twice in a Blue Moon – Christina Lauren
  2. *Smooth Talking Stranger (reread) – Lisa Kleypas
  3. *The Secrets We Kept – Lara Prescott
  4. *The Overdue Life of Amy Byler – Kelly Harms
  5. *The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary
  6. *Chasing Cassandra – Lisa Kleypas
  7. The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
  8. One Hundred Reasons – Kelly Collins
  9. *The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
  10. *Beautiful – Christina Lauren
  11. *The Giver of Stars – Jojo Moyes
  12. *Inside Out – Demi Moore
  13. *The Unbreakables – Lisa Barr
  14. *The Dutch House – Ann Patchett
  15. *Well Met – Jen DeLuca
  16. The Regrets – Amy Bonnafons
  17. Midnight Sun – Stephenie Meyer
  18. The Friend Zone – Abby Jimenez
  19. *Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld
  20. *Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
  21. *Beach Read – Emily Henry
  22. *The Two Lives of Lydia Bird – Josie Silver
  23. *The Hating Game – Sally Thorne
  24. *In Five Years – Rebecca Serle
  25. Get A Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert
  26. *Dance Away With Me – Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  27. *Untamed – Glennon Doyle
  28. Well Played – Jen DeLuca
  29. *A Very Punchable Face – Colin Jost
  30. *Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid
  31. 99 Percent Mine – Sally Thorne
  32. Here’s Looking at You – Mhairi McFarlane
  33. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell – Robert Dugoni
  34. *Dear Edward – Ann Napolitano

My favorites from this list are (if no commentary follows, please see previous posts):

  • Untamed – Glennon Doyle I can understand why some people may not like this book.  I am just not one of those people; I loved it.  I would like to underline so much of it and gift it to many people because I think it has a lot of important things to say that a lot of people would benefit from hearing.
  • The Hating Game – Sally Thorne I loved reading this book. It was so fun!  Two co-workers REALLY hate each other.  Or do they??
  • In Five Years – Rebecca Serle A very moving story about life not necessarily going the way the main character, Dannie, thinks it would or had planned for.
  • Dear Edward – Ann Napolitano I’m not going to lie; it’s not the easiest book to read as it’s about a plane crash with one survivor.  Stick with it though.  It moves from past to present which alleviates the terror of the crash, it is not overlong (a common complaint I have with many books) and the end will not disappoint.
  • The Dutch House – Ann Patchett This really is a book about a house (more specifically the siblings who live in it) but it is so beautifully written it is hard to not enjoy reading it. 
  • Beach Read – Emily Henry College nemeses-turned-authors live next door to each other at the beach, both saddled with writer’s block.  Not too hard to guess what happens, but also featured is a quirky local bookstore, which I always love (and dream about owning).
  • The Giver of Stars – Jojo Moyes Very unlike her other books, this one is a Depression-era tale about a group of women who battle just about everything and everyone to keep a traveling library going.
  • The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary
  • The Overdue Life of Amy Byler – Kelly Harms
  • Inside Out – Demi Moore I’m not sure what I thought her life was like, but it wasn’t this.  At one point she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood (I LOVED About Last Night) but she was always weighed down by doubt and insecurity thanks to her very rocky childhood.  I really feel like she laid it all out there and I like her all the more for it.

Side note: I’m sure I’m the last one aboard the train for this, but there are all these reading challenges out there!  I had no idea.  Here is a link to a ton of them, a fun way to pass the time!  You’re welcome :  )

I know we’re all happy 2020 is behind us. So here’s to 2021 – may this year be a healthy and happy one for all of you!

At Home With the (Teenage) Kids

Kids have a lot of entertainment options these days.  My generation was not as fortunate.  I remember when HBO started, it didn’t even come on air til like 5 pm (remember those vertical colored bars that aired until then?) and then it felt like it was the same 5 movies every day. For some reason, all I remember is It’s Alive with the baby carriage ad, yuck.

I’m an only child so, growing up, I was alone a lot.  I did jigsaw puzzles, played hours of wall ball and read many books. I chuckle every time my son tells me he’s bored.  There are so many platforms and so many shows and books geared just for these kids; they have no idea what boredom is.  

My 16-year-old daughter and I share the same entertainment sensibilities, plus she actually enjoys my company, so we watch a lot of shows together and share some of our books.  If you are looking for some suggestions on what to watch with your teenager, try these:

Outer Banks” on Netflix, 1 season

It’s “Dawson’s Creek” meets “The O.C.” meets The Goonies.  A wrong side of the tracks (very good looking) teenager and his gang of fellow outcasts look for buried treasure in North Carolina.  All three of my kids watched this, separately of course, and then re-watched some episodes with me.  It’s very entertaining and twisty.  

Never Have I Ever” on Netflix, 1 season

I really enjoyed this show; it’s clever and often poignant and offers a viewpoint we don’t often see; the trials and tribulations of a first-generation Indian-American teen girl.  Mindy Kaling is behind it so you know it’s going to be funny and smart. Plus John McEnroe is the narrator for all but one episode, but I won’t spoil who the narrator is for that one. : )

The Half of It on Netflix, movie

At the heart of it, this is a story about a smart, quiet girl who helps a jock woo a popular girl. Also included; Chinese family integration in the US, same-sex attraction, small town religious communities, etc.  It’s got heart and integrity and is very well done.

The Last Dance” on ESPN, 10-part docuseries

We watched this with our son, while the girls checked in intermittently.  A film crew followed around the Chicago Bulls and was given an amazing amount of access as they were vying for their 6th NBA title in 8 years.  The focus is clearly on Michael Jordan who is, simply, the GOAT, but you see the team and all the dynamics that played a part in making this one of the most iconic teams of all time.  I didn’t like all of the timeline jumping, but it was great to revisit that era and now is the perfect time to watch if you are craving some sports.

Miss Americana on Netflix, documentary

People love an underdog and they love the new thing.  Once both of those are no longer true, they tend to turn on those people whom they used to love.  Not sure why, but it happens almost always – especially with girls.  I’m not gonna lie, I still love Taylor Swift.  This documentary follows her path from beginning to now.  She was loved and then reviled.  It portrays the scrutiny she is always under and how the self-doubt kicks in, no matter how famous you are.  All you can do is stand up for what you believe in and be the best person you know how to be.

My So-Called Life,” 1 season

I own this so you’re on your own as to how you can watch it.  I LOVED this series when it aired in 1994 (Claire Danes AND Jared Leto?!  Come on!!)  I’ve been making reference to it for years around my sophomore and she finally conceded to watching it with me.  It’s actually perfect timing because Danes’s Angela is a 15-year-old sophomore!  It’s as terrific as I remembered, if not better.  It is incredibly well written and well acted with many compelling arcs.  I used to be so annoyed when the storyline would follow the parents because they were so old and who cared about them?  Um, they’re 40!  With a sophomore and a middle schooler – seriously?!  I’m so old.

“Survivor: Winners at War” 

Did you know this show has been on air for 20 years?  This past season was #40 (!) and it consisted solely of past winners.  I probably haven’t watched since season 4 but my girls wanted to watch so I did.  There is a reason “Survivor” has been around for as long as it has.  It is addictively entertaining.  I think Richard Hatch turned the tide toward the scheming and shifty for this and other reality shows with his season 1 novel hidden alliances, and I wonder what reality TV would’ve been like if he hadn’t started it all off that way. Maybe it would’ve happened anyway?  I don’t know.  I don’t like that part of it but there’s no denying the ingenuity of the games and resilience of the players.  “The Amazing Race” is similarly great – both shows you can dip in and watch random seasons On Demand.

“Normal People” on Hulu, 1 season

Do NOT watch this with your teenager.  This story follows a couple from high school to college but it is heavy and a little graphic.  You may remember my listing this book by Sally Rooney in my top 10 from last year.  It’s definitely not for everyone; in fact I said I easily could have disliked it.  Once I decided to like it, however, I liked it a lot.  This adaptation is fantastic.  It is so true to the book that if you didn’t like the novel, then you probably won’t like this either.  I loved it and the casting is pitch perfect.  The relationship, which reads as a bit stilted with a lot going on in the silences, is much easier to relate to/understand when seen on screen.

Fun suggestion – Drive-In Movie!!  The girls and I and another mother/daughter met at a drive-in a couple Fridays ago.  We parked next to each other, said hello and watched the movie in our own cars.  It was really fun.  I can’t even remember the last time I went to a drive-in.  There were many (mediocre, but that’s beside the point) film choices; we opted for Bad Boys for Life (even though we hadn’t seen either Bad Boys 1 or 2) while the new Trolls and then Valley Girl were playing next to us.  

Side note, in honor of the new VG, I made my 16-year-old watch the original Valley Girl with me.  Let me begin by saying that I have a framed poster of this movie hanging in my basement and its soundtrack is the only vinyl album I still own.  Similar to Xanadu, a movie I looooooved in my youth, it has not really aged that well.  My daughter is a pretty game girl, but even she was like, “You love this movie?”

I hope this finds all of you well. It’s a crazy time but hang in there. Congrats to all the graduates!! Stay well and be safe.

Shelter in Place

This is my 20th blog post! Whoda thunk?! Not exactly the 2020 we were all hoping for, huh?  I’d like to say I never could’ve imagined what is happening now, but I did.  I remember years ago (2014) reading Emily St. John’s Station Eleven about a swine flu pandemic that spread thoroughly and rapidly, thinking, “seems like something like this could happen very easily.”

But that’s not what this post is going to be about.  I’m choosing to feel grateful during this time as we, and our extended family, are, thankfully, healthy.  I have a senior who is not experiencing the ideal second semester of her high school senior year, but she isn’t complaining.  She will be off to college (probably??) soon enough, so what a gift this is that we all get to really enjoy her and each other for these homebound weeks.  We are taking family walks, we are cleaning toilets and doing laundry, we are playing games and doing puzzles and we are watching TV as a family (please don’t judge that our viewing list includes “Tiger King.”)

Zoom and Face Time are wonderful; I still feel connected to my family and friends.  The Internet can be a fantastic thing when used for good.

I’ve been getting many emails and texts asking for recs and I have been feeling the pressure.  This is my forte; this should be my moment!  Unfortunately, the days have gone so quickly, I haven’t been glued to Netflix or to any book in particular.  I felt like I needed to provide substance to be worthy of a read.  Then I thought, “Nah.”  So many lists of what to watch and read are circulating now, y’all don’t really need mine.  But here are a few suggestions, just in case.

TV

“American Idol” – if you gave this up, get it back.  I have watched every season but this one is stellar.  This show is not about the judges; it is about the massive amount of talent out there.  Since it has been on ABC, it has been a kinder, gentler and supportive Idol.  They really do foster these youngsters and try to help them channel their skills.  And these kids can sing!  It is SO impressive.  We watch as a family and I tear up throughout every episode; the stories are touching, the talent is goose bump inducing and the “will they/won’t they make” is compelling.

“The Good Place” – I’ve promoted it before so I won’t go into detail except to say that this is another whole family option and that the series finale is one of the best I have ever seen, a total A.  

“Schitt’s Creek” – Catch up on Netlix and, if you get Pop Network in your cable package, you can watch this season there.  The first season is ok but then it gets great – I especially loved season three.  I’m so sad this will be the last season; I am going to miss the Roses very much.

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” – I want to love this a little more than I do but it is entertaining and I love Jane Levy (big fan of her “Suburgatory”).  Zoey hears “heart songs” from people that no one else can hear and that the singer doesn’t know s/he is singing.  The dance numbers are fantastic and the cast is great.  The reason I am promoting it is because episode 8, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch” had me laughing so hard I was crying.

“Fleabag” – this is not a news flash since it won every award last season but I’m putting it in anyway in case you are holding out for some reason.  We’re talking two seasons; six (30 minute) episodes per season – totally doable.  Again, the first season is just ok but the second season is fantastic.

“Tiger King” – it’s not quality television, in fact, it’s like watching a train wreck.  You just can’t stop once you really get into it.  If you can’t do it, I get it.  But if you can, you should, if for no other reason than to be able to talk about it with everyone else because everyone is watching it.

Please read my past posts if you want to catch up on some shows, there are some great ones  – “New Amsterdam,” “The Good Doctor,” “The Resident,” “Mom,” “Jane, The Virgin,” etc.

Movies

It’s the perfect time to watch those movies that won all those awards.  I don’t always agree with the nominations but this year a lot of them were spot on.  Parasite and Little Women were solid As for me, A- for Jojo Rabbit and Ford v Ferrari.  

We have been watching a lot of old movies.  An American President is just so good, for a thousand reasons. Amélie is as whimsical as I remembered.  We watched Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma (I haven’t seen the new one yet), which led us into Clueless, one of my all-time faves.  Baby Boom is dated but so good. I would make a lousy home school teacher, but in terms of movie “educating,” I would definitely excel!  

It’s also a great time to catch up in preparation for new releases coming up – Top GunBill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureThe Matrix, the James Bond movies, etc.

Books

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms 

A single working mom gets a long vacation in New York City.  It’s a lightish read but also touches on some big topics; parenting, divorce, literacy, finding love, motherhood, wellness, etc.  I enjoyed it.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Another fun one about two people who share a flat but never see each other due to their work schedules, and how they fall in love having never met.

I’m sort of staying away from the heavy stuff for now but if I come across anything great, you know I’ll share it.

Song of the blog

A friend shared this and I just love it.  This is not normally my preferred genre of music but “The Weight” by The Band has always been an exception for me.  I love how music can transcend this enforced distance and can bring everyone together.  Click here to watch.

Thanks for reading and please be well and stay safe.

A Look Back on 2019

Books-

Following are the books I read (in order) in 2019; if I recommend it, it has an asterisk in front of it.

  1. Stripped – Zoey Castile
  2. Wicked and the Wallflower – Sarah MacLean
  3. Bitter Orange – Claire Fuller
  4. *The Other Miss Bridgerton – Julia Quinn
  5. The Dreamers – Karen Walker
  6. *Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating – Christina Lauren
  7. *One Day in December – Josie Silver
  8. *Beautiful Bastard – Christina Lauren
  9. *The Devil’s Daughter – Lisa Kleypas
  10. Roomies – Christina Lauren
  11. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
  12. Beautiful Stranger – Christina Lauren
  13. *Becoming (audio) – Michelle O’Bama
  14. Silent Threat (ebook) – Dana Marton
  15. A Whole New Light – Sandra Brown
  16. Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
  17. *Save Me The Plums – Ruth Reichl
  18. *Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss – Rajeev Balasubramanyam
  19. You Don’t Know Jack – Erin McCarthy
  20. The Peacock Emporium – Jojo Moyes
  21. *Tomorrow There Will Be Sun – Dana Reinhardt
  22. *Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid
  23. *The Bride Test – Helen Hoang
  24. *Favorite Half-Night Stand – Christina Lauren
  25. The Mother-in-Law – Sally Hepworth
  26. Dating You/Hating You – Christina Lauren
  27. *Sweet Filthy Boy – Christina Lauren
  28. *Beautiful Player – Christina Lauren
  29. *I Miss You When I Blink – Mary Laura Philpott
  30. *Dirty Rowdy Thing – Christina Lauren
  31. Educated – Tara Westover
  32. *Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes
  33. Beautiful Secret – Christina Lauren
  34. The Farm – Joanne Ramos
  35. *The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren
  36. *Normal People – Sally Rooney
  37. *”A” is for Alibi – Sue Grafton
  38. *Talk to Me – John Kenney
  39. *Carry On” (reread) – Rainbow Rowell
  40. Wayward Son – Rainbow Rowell
  41. The Little French Bistro – Nina George
  42. Dark Wild Night – Christina Lauren
  43. *Home Work – Julie Andrews
  44. *Waiting for Tom Hanks – Kerry Winfrey
  45. *Matchmaking for Beginners – Maddie Dawson
  46. *Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed – Lori Gottlieb

My top 10 recommendations (not romance) from this list are (please see past blogposts for my thoughts if I don’t describe below):

  1. Talk To Me – Ted Grayson is a beloved (except by his family) network TV anchor until he is caught on camera acting poorly and loses everything. A side story involves a “fake news” outlet that prints whatever it wants to print for sport/traction.  I did not buy this book but, if I had, I would’ve underlined many passages.  Here are a few:

“The nation was angry.  And it had a new and wonderful tool to express its anger.”

“Nuance is dead.  In its place, we have judgment.  Instant judgment.  That’s the world we’re living in.  There’s no truth.  There’s no fact.  There’s only what you can get to trend.”

This book hits the nail right on the head for me; I found it to be very powerful.

  1. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone – Lori Gotlieb is a therapist who is genuinely invested and good at caring for her patients. When a personal crisis shakes her world, she, herself, seeks the help of a therapist.  In this book we delve into her patients’ lives and work through their issues in addition to hers.  It’s funny, sad, personal, intelligent and moving.  It’s nonfiction but reads very easily.  I could not put it down.
  2. Save Me the Plums
  3. Matchmaking for Beginners – I found this book utterly charming. It’s a little kooky but it is lovely.  I passed it along to my niece and mother-in-law and they enjoyed it too. Bonus – I got a new mantra out of it!  I loved this book.
  4. Evvie Drake Starts Over
  5. I Miss You When I Blink
  6. Daisy Jones & the Six
  7. Becoming
  8. Normal People – I feel like I could have hated this book, but I didn’t. I really kind of liked it. It follows the relationship between two people from high school to early adulthood.  At times, it is angsty, depressing, endearing, awkward and frustrating.  But it’s very real in regard to how hard it is to form connections.
  9. Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss – Professor Chandrasekhar is an expert in economics, but that’s it. He is succeeding in almost no other way, and really not even in his career, in the way that matters most to him anyway.  His family ties are in shambles and his body can no longer take the stress of his job, so his doctor orders him to follow his bliss.  He doesn’t know how or what that even is.  Here is the story of how he finds it.

In lieu of a romance list, I’m going to shout out the authors Christina Lauren.  The plural there is not a typo.  Christina Lauren is actually 2 friends who write together – how cute is that?!  They have written 24 books, most of which I read in 2019 (see above).  They are (almost) all very good but some are really great.  Click on the titles below to see synopses.  My favorites are:

  1. Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
  2. My Favorite Half-Night Stand
  3. The Unhoneymooners
  4. Beautiful Player (book 3 in the Beautiful series)
  5. Sweet Filthy Boy (book 1 in the Wild Seasons series)

Movies-

Of the 26 movies I saw last year, here are the movies I rated an A or A-. Last year I listed 11, not so this year:

  • Aladdin
  • Toy Story 4
  • Booksmart
  • John Wick 3: Parabellum

TV-

I’m still a network tv watcher so I’m going to talk about a couple of those shows here because I feel like they get no love anymore.  My Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV list just keeps growing and is too overwhelming.

I still watch a lot of the same shows I’ve been writing about so I’ll just put a plug in for the new ones I’m enjoying.

  1. “Bob Hearts Abishola” – A very sweet comedy about an overweight, single, compression sock businessman and his relationship with a nurse from Nigeria whom he meets when he has a heart attack. It’s funny, it’s real (shining a light on immigration) and it’s well acted.  I really like it.
  1. “Stumptown” – If you didn’t know this show was based on a series of graphic novels, you wouldn’t really know it by watching. It centers on Dex (Cobie Smulders from “How I Met Your Mother”) a Marine vet who is a hard drinking, PTSD affected, gambling addicted, smart mouthed PI who takes care of her brother Ansel (who has Down Syndrome) and hangs out in a bar owned by her close friend Grey, an ex-con (played by Jake Johnson from “New Girl”).  Micheal Ealy plays a cop she hooks up with. The cast is fun to watch, the show is and different – quality escapist television.

I am also still watching “Emergence” and “The Unicorn” but I’m not as fully invested as I am with the above two.

Eating/Saving the Planet-

While we enjoy Veganuary at our house, I thought I’d share CNN’s list of the best/worst diets for 2020 – click here.

We have begun composting!!! If you are interested in learning more, click here.

Here we go into the 2020s!  It’s going to be an eventful year for my family.  I wish you and yours good health and much happiness and many, many entertaining moments.  Thanks so much for reading.

Better Late Than Never…

We’re just going to skirt past the fact that I sort of skipped the summer blog post and, instead, focus on the recommendations that I am making for your Labor Day weekend! (We had a fabulous summer and I hope you did, too!)

TV

If you are looking for something to binge, you should try Dead to Me on Netflix.  Christina Applegate plays a widow who meets another woman, Linda Cardellini, at a support group and they become friends.  It is a dark comedy full of secrets and twists and turns and is very fun to watch. Applegate was just nominated for an Emmy, which is terrific, but I also really enjoy Cardellini, I wish she had gotten a nom too.

Last post I mentioned the podcast “The Daily.”  I still love it.  If you do too, you should watch “The Weekly” on FX and Hulu. Similar to “The Daily,” “The Weekly” focuses on one story per episode (30 minutes each) featuring a New York Times journalist’s investigation.  It is compelling and informative.

One final plug for “Jane The Virgin.”  I’ve already described it (a couple times) so I won’t again (because you can read past posts) but I will say that the final season was SOOOO good. It is quality television; heartwarming, suspenseful, surprising, thoughtful and really just lovely. If you never watched it, you should.

On a future television note, one of my favorite historical romance authors, Julia Quinn, has a series headed for Netflix thanks to Shonda Rhimes.  The Bridgerton Series is a collection of eight books, each featuring one of eight siblings.  I have read them all and they are all entertaining; laugh out loud funny, smartly written and so fun to read.  Not only is exciting that it is a Shondaland production but Julie Andrews has been cast as Lady Whistldown, who will serve as narrator.  I cannot wait.  For more info, read here.  Better start with book one, The Duke and I, now so you can get through all of them before they start airing in 2020.

 

(More) Books

Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir – Ruth Reichl

For some unknown reason, the only other book I have read of Reichl’s is Garlic & Sapphires which I also loved.  (If you haven’t read it, you should.)  This memoir, as the title suggests, chronicles her tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet magazine.  I love her writing, I also want to hang out with her and be her friend. This is a wonderful read and (bonus!) recipes are interspersed throughout.

Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

This is an “oral history” of the formation of one of the biggest bands of the seventies.  Daisy is a free spirit floating around LA who is beautiful, gets wasted, sleeps around, and can sing.  The Six is a band led by Billy Dunne, who is very intensely focused on his band, has a girlfriend, and goes a little crazy while on tour.  A producer puts them together and this is what happens.  If you love Fleetwood Mac, you’ll enjoy this novel.

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays – Mary Laura Philpott

My good friend wrote a book!!!!  And I loved it!!! (Thank goodness!  Can you imagine how awkward that could’ve been?)  My former neighbor, MLP, has compiled essays illuminating moments in her life; being a student, meeting her spouse, having a family, working, raising that family – and detailing the stress and pressure inherent in all of that.  So relatable, heartfelt, witty and charming – you’ll see that you aren’t alone when you realize you have felt the same way, that it’s never too late to re-invent yourself and that just because there’s a box, you don’t have to fit into it. You’ll want to share this gem with all of your friends, like I am sharing it with you. :  )

Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes

One of the reasons I loved this book is that it is set in a small town in Maine.  Having spent a bit of time in Maine., I’ve often thought I could live there.  It’s quaint, it’s chill and the people are so nice.  Anyway, Evvie lives in Maine and is recently widowed. The crippling sorrow she feels regarding this life change is misunderstood by everyone around her.  Enter Dean, a New York major-league pitcher who can’t throw anymore.  Needing to get out of town, he moves into an apartment at the back of her house.  I love Maine and I love baseball so this book hit a sweet spot for me. If you are going on vacation, bring this.

 

Podcast

“Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” is an hour-long weekly news-based radio game show where panelists (mostly comedians) and contestants are quizzed in humorous ways about that week’s news.  It’s hosted by Peter Sagal and announced by Bill Kurtis, both of whom are very funny and witty.  It may not sound that interesting but I laugh throughout the whole thing. Props to my sister in law, Janet, for introducing this one to us.

 

Song of the blog

I heard “My Cheating Heart” by Love Fame Tragedy on Alt Nation and loved it immediately.  I hope you do too.

 

Thanks for reading!

Is This The Real Life?

Let’s get right into it (click on titles for links)…

Documentaries:

Leaving Neverland

Like most children of the 80’s, I was a big Michael Jackson fan.  Up until recently, hearing his music on the radio sparked joy, even knowing there were rumblings about his predilections and strange behavior. All of that didn’t really affect how I felt about his songs.  WHY NOT??  I think we were all so innocent and naïve that it overshadows everything from that period – we excuse it by saying it was a simpler time.  It was a simpler time because we didn’t live in a world where we knew of all the bad things that could and were happening.

Yesterday, a song of his came on and I immediately turned the station.  Obviously, I don’t know for sure what, if anything, he did to all those young boys he slept alongside for all those years.  But really, it can’t be good, right? People counter the authenticity of this doc with “why now?”  If these two men are telling the truth, per them, they just couldn’t bury it any more.

This two part (two hour each part) documentary is very persuasive, very thorough and very, very disturbing.

 

Surviving R. Kelly

HOW IS THIS MAN NOT IN JAIL????  I don’t really know what else to say.  In this case, how can there be doubt?  Here are dozens of women speaking their truth, they are identified as survivors, which they are.  This man is a pedophile, a misogynist and a monster.  And still, his fan support is unwavering. One of the psychologists interviewed explains this phenomenon by saying artists are attached to our memories and our love of music.  We don’t want to let go of this love so we minimize what we don’t want to know.  It’s easier to believe that it’s not true.

This six part (one hour each part) documentary series left me flabbergasted, appalled and so angry for these girls/women.

 

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Let me begin by saying that I didn’t really love this documentary.  I do try to only talk about things I love and recommend those but I’m mentioning this because I think the topic is fascinating.

Elizabeth Holmes became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire (19!) by coming up with an invention that promised to revolutionize blood testing.  She had the support and funding from men even I’ve heard of, secured a deal with Walgreens (which put Theranos in their stores) and even got FDA approval.  But guess what – her product NEVER worked!!

I would like to have learned more about her; how she grew up, what her friends and family thought she was like, how she became who she is, but that’s not covered here.  A friend was reading the book on her, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou – maybe that’s the way to go?  Or you can wait for the just announced Hulu limited series starring SNL’s Kate McKinnon.  Or the possible feature film supposedly starring Jennifer Lawrence.  So many options.

 

Podcast:

The Daily

I am very new to podcasts but a friend of a friend suggested this one and I am hooked.  Every weekday morning, Michael Barbaro informs on a different topic for about 20 minutes.  He speaks with a knowledgeable guest on that topic, usually a New York Times journalist, and they go in depth enough that I actually understand current events.  Subjects have recently included a possible cure to HIV, a Russian assassin’s story, explaining the Boeing crashes, the family that built its fortune on OxyContin, the Mueller Report, etc. I find it fascinating and helpful, and am now often able to hold my own in social dinner conversations!

 

Books:

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This book I did not read, but rather listened to on audio book.  I have realized that this is not my preferred method in completing a book but I chose to listen in this case because Michelle Obama is the one reading.

No matter your political stance, this is a great book and she is truly an admirable person.  It is not a political book; it is a recounting of her life – as a child/daughter/student/lawyer/girlfriend/wife/mother and ultimately First Lady.   She tried to do actual good while in the White House – focusing on children’s nutrition and bringing that to the public consciousness.  It is inspiring and well written. I feel like I know her, and I like her a lot.

 

Commercial

Another example of someone who has done good things in real life is Dwyane Wade.  Watch this commercial from Budweiser and make sure to have a tissue handy.

 

Game of Thrones

This blog post was focussed on real life not fantasy, but I must acknowledge the coming of Winter. If you haven’t watched every episode of Game of Thrones, I just heard it would take about 2 days and 15 hours plus.  If you need a little refresh and don’t have the time to re-watch all 67 episodes, click here because Entertainment Weekly has recapped them all for you.

 

Song of the Blog:

My 15 year old loves Billie Eillish.  I’m not totally sold but I do like the song “ocean eyes.”  She is 17 and is the first artist born in the 2000s to hit No. 1, with the release of her debut album so Mazels to her.  If you’d like to read a little about her click on her name above.  If you’d like to hear the song, click here.

 

Thanks for reading!

2018 In Review

Following are the books I read (in order) in 2018; if I recommend it, it has an asterisk in front of it.

  1. *The Power– Naomi Alderman
  2. *The Dry– Jane Harper
  3. A Stranger In The House– Shari Lapena
  4. *Still Me– Jojo Moyes
  5. *Before We Were Yours– Lisa Wingate
  6. *Born A Crime– Trevor Noah
  7. *Hello Stranger– Lisa Kleypas
  8. The Gilded Years– Karin Tanabe
  9. Every Note Played– Lisa Genova
  10. *The Immortalists– Chloe Benjamin
  11. How To Stop Time– Matt Haig
  12. You Think It, I’ll Say It– Curtis Sittenfeld
  13. The Flight Attendant– Chris Bohjalian
  14. *The Woman Left Behind– Linda Howard
  15. Accidentally On Purpose– Jill Shalvis
  16. *my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry– Fredrik Backman
  17. *What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw– Leah Stewart
  18. *I Am I Am I Am– Maggie O’Farrell
  19. Beach Rental– Grace Greene
  20. *Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine– Gail Honeyman
  21. *Before Jamaica Lane– Samantha Young
  22. *Hero– Samantha Young
  23. *One Good Earl Deserves A Lover– Sarah MacLean
  24. Wired– Julie Garwood
  25. Force of Nature– Jane Harper
  26. Hope Flames– Jaci Burton
  27. Fall From India Place– Samantha Young
  28. When Katie Met Cassidy– Camille Perri
  29. Life And Death– Stephenie Meyer
  30. Severance– Ling Ma
  31. *Echoes Of Scotland Street– Samantha Young
  32. *Chemistry– Weike Wang
  33. Hate To Want You– Alisha Rai
  34. *Fight or Flight– Samantha Young
  35. This Will Only Hurt A Little– Busy Phillips
  36. Roses– Leila Meacham
  37. *Because of Miss Bridgerton– Julia Quinn
  38. The Girl With The Make-Believe Husband– Julia Quinn
  39. *The Kiss Quotient– Helen Hoang
  40. The Little Shop Of Found Things– Paula Brackston
  41. The Wedding Date– Jasmine Guillory
  42. The Great Alone– Kristin Hannah

 

My top 5 recommendations on this list (not including romance, those will follow) are:

  1. Still Me
  2. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
  3. The Dry
  4. Chemistry  (I recommend actually reading this one, not listening to it on Audible. The way/how it is written is part of the experience.)
  5. The Immortalists– I wrote about the four above in previous posts so please go back for my take or click on the links to see book details. As for this one, I didn’t love everything about the book but it did stay with me.  If you could find out the day you were going to die, would you want to know?  After reading this, I’m not sure I would. Destiny, free will, family dynamics, living life to the fullest or protecting oneself from everything – a lot to noodle over.

As for romances:

  1. Hero/ Fight or Flight  – Same author though very different stories. Fun, escapist reading.
  2. The Kiss Quotient  – The lead character (and author!) has Asperger’s so a different slant to a romance story.  I enjoyed it.
  3. Because of Miss Bridgerton  – The first of a new series from one of my favorite authors.  I think I read it in a day because I didn’t want to put it down.  Book four comes out this year.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t enjoy the second book of the series and I haven’t yet read the third.)

 

Movies-

Rather than list all the movies I saw, I’m going to list the ones I gave A’s or A-‘s to (listed in order seen):

  • Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
  • Molly’s Game
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Ready Player One
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  • RBG
  • Hearts Beat Loud
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout
  • Beautiful Boy
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

 

In the spirit of “I should go on a diet January,” I’d like to recommend a documentary on Netflix. What The Health critiques the health impact of meat and dairy products consumption and how the production of these foods affects communities and our planet.  It is very compelling in its advocacy of a whole food plant based diet which, shown here, can reverse chronic disease (including diabetes).  Obviously the creators of the doc want you to feel how they feel; it’ll be up to you to do your own research after you watch it.  All I can tell you is my girls have changed how they eat now after watching it.  It’s pretty powerful.

 

TV-

I listed my favorite dramas last time.  My favorite comedies haven’t really changed and I think I’ve discussed them all previously:  “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (thank you NBC!), “Mom,” “The Good Place,” “Superstore,” “Blackish,” and “Fresh Off The Boat.”  No I haven’t watched “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”  (Amazon Prime) yet, though I have seen half of the “Barry” (HBO) episodes – jury is still out.

 

Song of the Blog –

In Busy Phillips’s memoir she talks about sparkly humans.  I like the term though it conjures up a different type of person for me than it does for her.  Sparkly people, to me, are those to whom we gravitate or want to be with – they draw you in.

My aunt Micki was a sparkly human.  She was always the life of the party; you could hear her laughter from across the room.  The world needs more sparkly people like her, not less.  She left too soon, but while she was here she did a lot of good and she had a ball.

My grandfather celebrated his 100th birthday this past July.  I think we were all more excited about the milestone than he. I also think he was biding his time until he could be reunited with my grandmother who passed away 3 years ago. He was properly exalted at his party; we praised, celebrated, memorialized and loved on him – it was a gift for all of us that we were able to do it and that he was able to receive it.  He was a small, quiet man with a big presence.  He wasn’t sparkly but you wanted to make him proud.  And if you made him laugh, you felt like a million bucks.

He passed away in October.  I’ve been thinking about what it must’ve been like to have lived for 100 years and all the change he must have witnessed: the loss, the love, the disappointment, the joy, the pain, the gratitude, etc.

I guess the number of years doesn’t ultimately matter, 100 vs 74, but how you live them.  Hopefully, to borrow from Marie Kondo, you can do something every day that will spark joy for yourself and for others.

As for this song, the title is kind of apt, but that’s it.  I just like the song; the feel, the rhythm, the groove.  Here’s 1950 by King Princess, I hope you like it, too.

Thanks for reading!

A Fall Harvest

Movies:

In the Captain Obvious segment of movie recommendations let’s begin with A Star Is Born. The performances are all top-notch (I especially enjoyed Sam Elliott and Andrew Dice Clay).  The singing was, not surprisingly, the best part for me.  Lady Gaga steals it with every performance; she is just so innately, effortlessly talented.  I really love that they recorded every song live, it gives the movie so much more power and authenticity. But can we just discuss Bradley Cooper?  I’ve been a fan since “Alias,” admiring his looks and acting chops but he is ridiculously distracting in this movie.  I’m not sure I have ever seen anyone better looking on the movie screen and I do not say that lightly.  Swoon.

Bohemian Rhapsody has not gotten the best reviews.  Critics complain that the movie did not delve deeply enough into Mercury’s hedonistic lifestyle or accurately portray his gayness. All that may be true but everyone I know who saw it looooved this movie.  Not only that, we all fell in love with Queen’s music again. Have you noticed “Bohemian Rhapsody” is on the radio more?  I enjoyed the movie and I thought Rami Malek was excellent.  As far as highlights go, that Live Aid scene is truly Killer Queen.

A movie I’d like you to consider seeing is Immediate Family.  For anyone who has harbored a desire to foster children, or at least an admiration for those who have, this movie is for you.  Or, if you appreciate a well-done family comedy, it is also for you.  It’s based on the director/co-writer’s own experience as a foster parent. My mom and I heard him speak at the screening, and he is very passionate about the subject.  The movie is not slap sticky or hokey; it is realistic in a loving way and definitely funny.  I really liked it.  It’s PG-13; your kids will like it, too.

 

TV:

Here are my top 5 favorite (network) television shows right now:

  1. “The Resident” – I’m a big fan of Matt Czuchry (“Gilmore Girls”), I love that it’s filmed in Atlanta and visually proves that it’s in Atlanta and I like that it shows us a different side to the medical drama than we are used to seeing. It’s a little more corporate and evil than I’d like to think it is but what do I know?
  2. “Manifest” – It’s filling my “Lost” void. I love the concept and I like the supernatural aspect of it mixed with everyday life.  They were missing for 5 ½ years?!  That’s so cool.
  3. “New Amsterdam” – It’s heartwarming without being schmaltzy. Don’t you want to assume that every hospital administrator would prefer focusing on exceptional care over bureaucracy?
  4. “FBI” – I’m not really a procedural girl (imagine the “Law & Order” BUM BUM in the background) but I am enjoying this show.  Smart, levelheaded people responsible for keeping us safe – again, what we all like to assume is truth.
  5. “The Good Doctor” – hmmm, I have a lot of medical shows on this list. What can I say? They are all good!  I liked this last year and I like it this year.  It’s very well acted and thought provoking while also entertaining.  In a recent episode of “CBS Sunday Morning” there was a story highlighting companies that hire people with autism because these are highly intelligent people who often have uncanny abilities and strengths, which can be utilized in many professions. After watching this show, I definitely believe it.

 

I’m in the middle of “Ozark” and “Bodyguard” on Netflix so maybe more on those later.  I was going to watch “The Good Cop” on Netflix because the reviews were so good but just saw that it got canceled so…maybe not?

 

Books:

Chemistry by Weike Wang:  I really enjoyed this book; I learned some things and I laughed out loud.  I saw this review which coincides with everything I feel about the book:  “Wang’s heroine, a young Chinese-American woman who is emotionally and professionally adrift, feels crushed by the expectations of her demanding parents, and by the pressures of her prestigious Boston university and her competitive male-dominated field, synthetic organic chemistry. She is also deeply ambivalent about marriage and committing to a career in synthetic organic chemistry. Chemistry is a sort of anti-coming-of-age story: Instead of figuring out how to be an adult, the narrator learns to live with uncertainty and indecision . . . In a deadpan voice, Wang drops in arcane chemistry trivia and captures the quirky, cutthroat subculture of science graduate students.” —Alexandra Alter, The New York Times

I did not find a corresponding New York Times review of Fight or Flight by Samantha Young, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good! It’s a romance, so if that’s not your thing, you can move on.  It is a quality read AND you can take it out in public because the cover is not embarrassing.  If you like it, I recommend all of her books, particularly Hero. You’re welcome.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel by Gail Honeyman is deeper than you may originally think.  She is definitely quirky and not initially likeable but you soon begin to see how she came to be the way she is and you grow to care and hope for her; funny and heartbreaking.  (Side note, I just read that Reese Witherspoon’s company is turning it into a movie which is set to be released in 2019.)

 

Instead of a song of the blog this time, I am providing a recipe.  I’m not really a pumpkin everything fan, but I do love this recipe from Taste of Home magazine years ago.  I make it every fall because my kids love it (especially when I throw in chocolate chips) and I gift it to others as well.  I hope you enjoy.

Delicious Pumpkin Bread

5 eggs

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil

1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 pkgs (3 oz each) cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

In a mixing blow, beat the eggs.  Add oil and pumpkin; beat until smooth.  Combine remaining ingredients; gradually beat into pumpkin mixture. Pour batter into five greased 5” x 2 ½” x 2” loaf pans.  Bake at 325 for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks. Yield: 5 miniature loaves.  OR (and this is what I do more): Bread may also be baked in two greased 8” x 4” x 2” loaf pans for 75-80 minutes.

 

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for reading!

A Dose of Reality

Happy summer everyone!

A lot of big movies have been out recently that have been really good; Black Panther, Ready Player One, Avengers: Infinity War and The Incredibles 2.  While we are getting a little breather until the next wave of tentpole movies arrives, let me recommend some smaller excellent films.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a documentary about Mr. Rogers.  I will pass along to you advice given to me, bring tissues (good looking out, Natalie). He was every bit as wonderful a person as you hoped he was.  I’m not the only one who is giving it an A, it has a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score.

RBG is a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I was not aware of the impact she made before she became a Justice.  She is a force.  I think you would look great in a Notorious RBG shirt, just saying.

Hearts Beat Loud is very reminiscent of Begin Again and Sing Street. (If you haven’t seen either of these yet, you should.)   In this film, Nick Offerman is a single father who owns a record store.  His daughter is about to move across the country for college.  Before she leaves, they (sort of) form a band. It’s sweet, moving and is chock full of good music.  I loved it.  (Thank you, Amanda.)

Books

I went through a little lull again where every book I read was eh.  That’s actually why it has taken me so long to get a blog entry out. I know people want recommendations and I only like to recommend if I really, really like it.  I have a pile of promising-looking books on my counter but the last 2 I read were worthy of posting.

What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw– Leah Stewart

This book is not going to win any awards but it is a great beach read.  It’s about two Hollywood actors who have recently broken up.  The actress achieved stardom in her role as a Buffy The Vampire-type and the actor is on a popular show.  He has been kidnapped. That’s all I’ll say about the plot.  It’s a birds-eye view into the inner workings of Hollywood and the pitfalls that go along with being a famous actor/actress.  Side note, this book prompted me to start a new list on my phone of words I would like to inject into my verbal repertoire.  I enjoyed the tone of the book as well as its use of vocabulary.

I Am, I Am, I Am– Maggie O’Farrell

Probably not a beach read, at least not a breezy read if that’s what you are looking for. It’s a memoir in which each chapter chronicles one of her 17 brushes with death.  It’s a wonder she is around to tell some of these stories; gripping and well written.

TV

I’m basically playing catch up. I am watching a couple summer shows but nothing really worth promoting.  If, however, you haven’t watched Paul McCartney on Carpool Karaoke, then please click on this.  It’s perfection.

I don’t normally do product placement but I’m going to make an exception here.  At the risk of aging myself, I’m going to provide a public service for those of you females who need reading glasses.  Is there anything more annoying then going to a restaurant for dinner and not being able to read the menu?  Insult to injury, you couldn’t fit your readers in your little purse.  SO frustrating. I saw Neckglasses on Deals and Steals on GMA and bought some immediately. You’re welcome.

Song of the blog:

My girls and I are loving “Miracle” by Chvrches.

Thanks for reading and have a great summer!