April 17, 2014 in Book Reviews

From a reading standpoint, I love Young Adult novels. The teenage years are ripe with angst, raging hormones, rash decisions, and under age drinking, which makes for great conflict and drama. It is an interesting time of simplicity (they have no jobs or children or income taxes to be responsible for) and complexity (it really is daunting trying to figure out if the senior boy who pays no attention to you likes you or not).

From a writing standpoint, I love reading novels with different formats. Mark Haddon’s The Red House is written from eight different viewpoints. The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot is told entirely through emails, and Isaac Asimov wrote a novel (Murder at the ABA) where the narrator and another character get into arguments about the accuracy of the narrator’s storytelling in hilarious footnotes.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher is a YA novel told in a unique format, and I ate it up.

Clay Jensen has just received a mysterious package in the mail. Inside he finds a series of seven numbered cassette tapes (love the vintage throwback!) and a letter instructing him to listen to all of the tapes or suffer the consequences, for there is a second set of tapes waiting to be released to the public if he does not comply. Each side of each tape (except the seventh, which is only one side) is dedicated to revealing the wrongs committed by 13 different people, including a teacher, toward fellow student Hannah Baker. These are no ordinary wrongs: these are the 13 reasons that ultimately led Hannah to commit suicide.

The novel is written from the first person point of view of Clay Jensen and through Hannah Baker’s voice on the tapes, and these voices flip-flop paragraph by paragraph. Having Hannah’s voice in italics helps keep who is doing the talking clear, which is important because the voices are constantly alternating.

Just as in high school, there are characters who are kind and those who will use anyone to get what they want. There are some who wish they could have moved past their own insecurities to reach out to another and some who care so little about other people that they end up doing some rather nasty things. There are cliques and ostracizations, harried teachers that miss important opportunities to intervene, and even Hannah, bogged down in an inability to change her reputation and a losing battle to belong, made some poor choices before she died.

I love that Hannah was not perfect. Just like everyone else, she struggled to discover who she was and where she fit in, and the decisions she made were questionable at times. She was a normal, flawed teenage girl, except now she’s dead.

There are great lessons to be found here.  The damage that can be inflicted in seemingly “harmless” high school antics is demonstrated, like “The List” where the fact that Hannah earns “Best Ass” has consequences. (Although it’s hard to tell which is worse: being on “The List” or not being on it.)  The difficulty of not belonging or having a friend you can count on is poignantly told, and the signs of her impending suicide could be helpful to all of us in spotting someone who might be in trouble.

I loved every sentence of this novel. I hope a lot of high schoolers read it, both to see how their behavior has consequences they may not even realize, and to learn what signs should trigger a warning to get help for a friend.







April 15, 2014 in Random Thoughts

Ease in Understanding What I Am Saying

Seattle: Despite being over 3200 miles away, the Turks Islanders have heard of Seattle. Not once did I have to clarify which country or state I was from; simply saying Seattle was enough.

Turks & Caicos:

USA Citizen: Where are you going/did you go on vacation?

ME: Turks & Caicos.

USA Citizen: Turksin— What?

ME: (slowly) Turks…and…Caicos.

USA Citizen: (perplexed) I’ve never heard of it. Is it in Mexico?

ME: It’s in the British West Indies, not far from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

USA Citizen: Oh?

ME: It’s in the Carribean.

USA Citizen: Oh! Now I get it. Tur— What was it called again?

Winner: Seattle.

Ease in Understanding What The Natives Are Saying

Seattle: They speak English and so do I.

Turks & Caicos: They speak English too, but some Islanders have such thick accents that it is hard to understand what they’re saying. It’s not so bad when you’re in a shop or a restaurant, but when you are in the ER and a bit stressed out and the intake nurse is asking if your son something-something-fluorimase, it can be a bit disconcerting. (No worries, mon. Said son is perfectly fine.)

Winner: Seattle.

Control of My Hair

Seattle: The constant moisture in the air (in the form of rain) makes my fine hair with a hint of curl frizz wildly out of control.

Turks & Caicos: The constant moisture in the air (in the form of humidity) makes my fine hair with a hint of curl frizz wildly out of control.

Winner: Tie.

The Ocean Water

Seattle: Dark blue and always freezing cold, even in the summer. If you do go in, you can’t see anything because the water is so murky.

Turks & Caicos: About 50 different shades of brilliant turquoise nestled against the deep blue of the sea further out from shore…and it’s warm! The water is so clear it’s like swimming in a pool.

Winner: Turks & Caicos

The Weather in the Spring

Seattle: Cold and rainy, with some wind and hail thrown in to shake things up a bit.

Turks & Caicos: Hot every single day.

Winner: Turks & Caicos

Alcoholic Beverages

Seattle: Local wineries abound, so the wine selection is as varied as it is delicious.

Turks & Caicos: Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! Rum Punch, Pain Killers, and about 50 other dangerous yet delicious cocktails made with rum are available.

Looks innocent, but it is not.

Winner: I like both, so…Tie!

Seafood (Disclaimer: I don’t like seafood.)

Seattle: Salmon is king. I’m not a fan of salmon because it tastes so (gag) fishy.

Turks & Caicos: Conch is king. Conch (pronounced “conk” on the island) is a sea snail that has no taste whatsoever. At last! A seafood that doesn’t taste like seafood!

Winner: Turks & Caicos

Transportation to Restaurants for Dinner 

Seattle: Driving in a car in rush hour traffic.

Turks & Caicos: A beautiful barefoot stroll along the beach at sunset.

Winner: Turks & Caicos

Cost of Living

Seattle: A box of cereal costs under $4.00.

Turks & Caicos: A box of cereal costs $8.10, and that’s not including tourism tax, which they add on to everything. Even if you are not a tourist, grocery shopping is expensive. One of our taxi drivers does his bulk shopping at Sam’s Club in Florida. He purchases space on a pallet to have his items brought back on a ship, pays the hefty Turks & Caicos Import Tax, and it is still cheaper than shopping on the island.

Winner: Seattle.

Income Tax

Seattle: Must pay income tax.

Turks & Caicos: They do not pay income tax…at all.

Winner: Turks & Caicos (Happy Tax Day!)

Grand Champion: Us!

 Thanks for a great vacation Luisa & Jesse!


April 7, 2014 in Random Thoughts


Photo by Robbert van der Steeg

On Friday mornings I take an exercise class called Cardio Strength. It is a circuit class, which means after a group warm-up, everyone finds a station and we rotate through each station two, three, or four times, depending on how many stations there are. Typically, each station consists of three exercises that we do for one minute each, for there is an old adage in the gym culture that says “You can do anything for a minute.”

A minute is only 60 seconds long, but after participating in this class, I can tell you two things:

1) Not all minutes are created equal.

2) There are some things I can’t do even for one short minute…although I’m working on it!

I’m a cardio girl, so doing cardio for a minute is doable, although not even all cardio minutes are created equal. I can jump rope for a minute with no problem, but box jumps (jumping onto a knee-high bench over and over again) are hard work.

The minutes involving leg strength fly by, but the minutes involving my poor, weak upper body drag on, second by tortuous second. A minute of push-ups or plank break downs or the evil torture of pike-ups on a fitness ball lasts a hell of a lot longer than a minute of squats, even with a weighted bar on my shoulders.

But it’s not just exercise where a minute stops following the logic of time. Ask any American Idol, Chopped, or other reality show contestant. When Ryan Seacrest or Ted Allen is getting ready to announce who is going home, it takes forever. The camera is on Ryan Seacrest as he says something like “The one who is leaving our stage forever is…” Then they pan to one contestant for about ten seconds, then to the other, then back to Ryan, then to the contestant’s family members in the audience, then to the judges, then back to Ryan…my God. That is one evil minute for those young kids trying to make their dreams come true.

The last minute of any March Madness basketball game is never 60 seconds long. It can easily go on for ten minutes with all the fouls and time outs and plays under official review. The “Just a minute!” cry of a harried mom trying to have an adult conversation with a friend is never only a minute, a fact kids learn early. When a mom yells for her kids to come running, and they shout back “I’ll be there in one minute!”,  she might as well sneak off for a “one minute” spa pedicure.

Minutes can just as easily whip past you much quicker than 60 seconds, like when you’re late. In that case, each minute lasts roughly 12.5 seconds.

In my crazy life where I have no control over the passage of time, I like the fact that my exercise class is reminding me of how long one minute actually is. In one minute, there is plenty of time to look each of my sons in the eye, tell them I love them, wish them a good day, and demand that they throw their stinky socks into the washing machine on their way out the door. One minute is enough time to send a pick-me-up text to a good friend or thank someone for helping me out. Taking one minute to sit down, breathe, and stare out the window is a slice of heaven, and someday, if I keep working hard, one minute of push-ups from my toes will happen.

I hope you take one minute for yourself today and every day.










April 3, 2014 in Reflections on Pop Culture


Read Part 1 here.

Ok, I am just going to come out and say it: I have a crush on Josh Holloway.

If you know me, this is not news. I’ve raved about Lost’s Sawyer for years. The bad boy with a heart of gold buried somewhere deep inside, a pair of irresistible dimples, and a penchant for coming up with clever nicknames for his cohorts, like “Doc” and “Freckles”: what’s not to love?

So when I heard he was headlining a new TV show called Intelligence, I raced right over to CBS and prepared to be enthralled.

Gabriel Vaughn, played by Josh Holloway, is an ex-Delta Force operative who volunteered to have a super-computer microchip implanted in his brain, allowing him access to the global information grid. (As a non-tech-savvy layperson, I have no idea what that means, but it plays out in scenarios like Gabriel unlocking hotel doors with his mind.) He currently works for U.S. Cyber Command in an effort to stop bad guys while being protected 24/7 by his own Secret Service agent Riley Neal.

This show has its share of flaws. Some of the things Gabriel can do stretch the limits of plausibility (although as a non-tech-savvy layperson, I readily admit this flaw could be mine). The dialogue is often clunky. Marg Helgenberger, terrific in CSI, looks like she’s trying to play the director of U.S. Cyber Command Lillian Strand as an ice-cold, strong as steel, ballsy woman, but instead it comes across as stiff and distant. Meghan Ory, playing Gabriel’s protector, looks to be eighteen years old and has perfected the arched-eyebrow facial expression to convey any number of her inner feelings, such as “Ok, bad guy, you are annoying me now. Don’t you know I have cheerleading practice in an hour? Quit stalling and answer my question.”

But I love this show anyway! Here’s why:

Josh Holloway

His hair is shorter, but the dimples are still out in force and there’s enough of the “Sawyer” swagger left that I can almost convince myself I’m watching Lost again. As a main character, he has a lot of screen time, and an hour spent watching Holloway is a pretty damn good hour. Looks aside, I do see a lot of potential with this character. Right now, he’s basically a walking computer, but I think Gabriel is smarter than the writers are giving him credit for. I would love to see him using his own mind instead of relying so heavily on the chip. Perhaps he gets a virus that shuts down the computer in his brain and he has to solve a complicated crime on his own without (gasp) internet access?

John Billingsley and P.J. Byrne

The creators of the show hit the jackpot with these two characters: a father-son team of uber-smart scientists that work in U.S. Cyber Command. John Billingsley is Dr. Cassidy, the neuroscientist responsible for the computer chip that now resides in Gabriel’s brain. In many ways, he regards Gabriel as his own son, setting up a realistic jealousy issue with his biological son Nelson, played by P.J. Byrne. Dr. Cassidy and Nelson bicker, they get the best lines, and no matter what, they have each other’s backs.

Of all the actors, these two are the ones that actually get to show their emotions, resulting in moments of poignancy and humor.  That may be the biggest problem with the show: except for these two, everyone is in an emotional lockdown. There has been a lot said during the show about the fact that Gabriel is a human being, not just a computer. If that’s true, then let him be human. Show his flaws and insecurities. Show him making a mistake and dealing with the consequences. Mess him up a little and let him show that he is, indeed, human.

That goes for Riley too. She’s a Secret Service agent, so we know she’s tough. But where is she vulnerable?

The season finale just aired, and I hope it gets picked up for a second season. There is a lot of potential here for a great show. I hope they take advantage of it if given the chance.


March 31, 2014 in Reflections on Pop Culture


Photo from Lifetime’s Kim of Queens

I am not a TV snob. For every True Detective, Homeland, and Downton Abbey episode I watch, there are a number of sitcoms (Mindy!), reality TV shows (Project Runway!), and cooking shows (anything on Food Network!) that I watch as well.

If it’s a great show that I am passionate about, I will tell everyone about it, and I don’t care where it falls on the critically lauded list or in the ratings. But sometimes I watch shows that I know aren’t very good and I love them anyway. I quietly record them on my DVR, watch them in the privacy of my own home, and don’t say a word about them to anyone. They are my guilty pleasures, just like a box of Pop Tarts or an US Weekly magazine.

Today, that is going to change. I am going to let you in on my secret little world of  bad TV and share two shows that deserve to see the light of day. Yes, they have their flaws, but so do I, and I am still worthy of a little love. These shows are too.

Lifetime’s Kim of Queens is an hour-long reality show about (gasp!) beauty pageants. As a college educated woman, I am at complete odds with the world of beauty pageants. I have made fun of some of the Miss USA’s contestants’ inability to properly frame a coherent response to an interview question. I have been aghast at what some of the mothers do and say to get their six-year-olds pageant-ready. And what good could possibly come from parading around a stage in a swimsuit? So why am I watching a reality show about beauty pageants?

I’ll tell you why: Kim Gravel.


Photo from Lifetime’s Kim of Queens

Kim Gravel is a pageant coach. She’s well qualified: she was one of the youngest contestants ever to win Miss Georgia. But she gives much more to these young pageant hopefuls than big hair and a lot of makeup; she is teaching these girls to be themselves.

How is she teaching young girls to be themselves when she’s making them use tan-in-a-can, false eyelashes, and packaging tape as a push-up device? As Kim says herself, her job is not only to make the girls beautiful on the outside, but to make them beautiful on the inside, although her version is more colloquial: “You can wear a burlap sack, girl; but if you got it on the inside, it shines on the outside.”

Kim has a southern accent to die for, striking blue eyes, a beautiful singing voice, a heart the size of Texas, and she knows exactly who she is. She does more than coach these girls; she folds them under her wing and inspires self-confidence, self-esteem, and a drive to improve. Kim tells it like it is, and sometimes that honesty can be tough to hear, but it always comes from a place of love and a desire for the best for these young ladies.

Kim is larger than life, funny, real, and confidant, and she commands every second of screen time she is in. She is flanked by her younger sister, Allisyn (comic relief), and her mother Jo, who is the very definition of a southern lady. Some of the pageant “moms” are over-the-top to the point where I wonder if some of their antics have been staged, which is too bad because there is plenty of depth to be mined there already. But the heart of the show is the interactions between Kim and her girls. She is a mentor, a friend, an advocate, a counselor, and a believer in her pageant contestants and their potential. “I see things in young girls they don’t see in themselves,” she says, and she is committed to helping her girls discover and believe in their own strengths.

Every hour I spend watching Kim of Queens is an hour filled with laughter, tears, sweet “aaahhhh” moments, and a fervent wish that I had had a Kim Gravel in my life when I was going through those awkward teen years. Honestly, I could use a Kim Gravel in my life right now (she is a life coach), but I’ll settle for the next best thing: watching Kim of Queens on Tuesdays at 10:00pm on Lifetime.

Stay tuned for my other Guilty Pleasure!


March 27, 2014 in Book Reviews

Without meaning to, I read two novels back-to-back that dealt with a similar premise: more than one family member is brutally murdered in the dark of night and someone is in jail for the crime, but a surviving family member has questions about that night that will not go away.

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

In John Searles imagining, these events are set against the backdrop of an unusual family: the parents’ work is in the field of the paranormal. Those who seek them out are struggling with loved ones and inanimate objects that seem to be possessed by evil. Sylvie Mason’s parents try to help the haunted find peace by removing the objects and relocating them to the Mason family’s basement, including a haunted hatchet and an uber-creepy doll named Penny.

One snowy night, Sylvie’s parents get a call to meet someone at their local church. Leaving Sylvie in the car to sleep, her parents enter the church. The sounds of gunfire wake Sylvie, who gets out of the car and peeks into the church, sustaining an injury of her own.

Sylvie’s story flips back and forth from the events leading up to that night and the present, where she is trying to figure out if the person she accused of the crime really is guilty.

I give this novel high marks for the “creepy” factor: the descriptions of Sylvie’s parents’ work with the haunted is spooky and suspenseful. The relationship between Sylvie and her big sister, who has secrets of her own, is intriguingly dysfunctional, and the stories that unravel about Sylvie’s parents are delicious: do they really believe in what they are doing?

This novel is whip-tight, but the ending stretched too far in a direction that didn’t ultimately satisfy me. That being said, this is a page-turner that will give you chills.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

On a dark January night in Kansas, seven-year-old Libby Day escapes from the slaughter of her mother and her two older sisters in their farmhouse. Libby’s brother Ben is sent to jail for the crime based on her testimony. Now Libby is all grown up, but still bears the scars from that night. Out of money and with no ability to hold down a job, she reluctantly agrees to help out a small contingency of people convinced of Ben’s innocence—for a fee.

This novel is called Dark Places for a reason: it’s dark. The characters are a strange blend of likability with a dark underbelly that Flynn loves to expose to the light. The crime is brutally violent and sifting through those details isn’t pretty. It is also a juicy mystery with a lot of drama leading up to the massacre—Satanism, drugs, a worthless dad desperate for money, the bank about to foreclose on the farm, a pregnancy, allegations of inappropriate behavior concerning a minor—and Flynn is a master at knowing just which thread to unravel when. Flynn alternates between the present and Libby’s quest to find out what really happened that night and the events from the past told from different characters’ perspectives.

I couldn’t put this book down, but it is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t mind a little—or a whole lot of—dark, then you are in for a well-written, suspenseful ride that may give you nightmares…in a good way.






March 24, 2014 in Random Thoughts

The following is a transcript of the phone call I wish I could have with NCAA President Mark Emmert.

Mark Emmert: Hello?

Me: Hi. I have a complaint.

Mark Emmert: Oh? How can I help?

Me: It’s about the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Rankings.

Mark Emmert: What about them?

Me: Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but the rankings don’t mean anything. I think you need to re-evaluate how to rank these teams in a way that is, you know, accurate.

Mark Emmert: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Me: I’m talking about Baylor beating Creighton by 30 points! Creighton is a #3 seed ranked #16 on the AP poll. Baylor is a #6 seed ranked #23 on the AP poll. If those are correct, how is it possible that a) Baylor beat them; and b) Baylor beat them by 30 points?

Mark Emmert: Statistics on the court are quantifiable, certainly, but they are not the only factor to consider. (pause) Are you losing your bracket pool?

Me: That’s not important.

Mark Emmert: The system we have for ranking these teams is fine.

Me: Oh really? Let’s talk about Wichita State.

Mark Emmert: I appreciate you calling, but I’ve got a, uh, meeting—

Me: Wichita State is a #1 seed! They are #2 on the AP poll and they were undefeated going into the tournament. Explain to me how they lost to a #8 Kentucky team that wasn’t even in the Top 25 on the AP poll?

Mark Emmert: It’s called a “big upset.”

Me: I’m serious!

Mark Emmert: That game was very close.

Me: But it shouldn’t have been! With the discrepancy in their rankings and seedings, it should have been a blow out by Wichita State. That’s my point: the rankings as they are calculated now don’t mean anything. How am I supposed to predict the Final Four when all I have are useless statistics?

Mark Emmert: Nobody can predict who is going to win. That’s why it’s called “March Madness.” That’s why Warren Buffett can offer $1 billion dollars for a perfect bracket. There is no way to quantify heart, drive, passion, and getting a good night’s sleep before playing in the basketball game of your life. Human beings can’t be reduced to statistics.

Me: So why do you have rankings at all?

Mark Emmert: Excuse me?

Me: Why don’t you just pick 64 teams out of a hat, throw them onto courts across the country in pairs of two, and see who wins?

Mark Emmert: That wouldn’t be fair. You could have a really good team—

Me: Like Wichita State?

Mark Emmert: —blow out a less talented team.

Me: Like Kentucky?

Mark Emmert: No, like…

Me: Like Duke and Mercer?

Mark Emmert: Yes! I mean, no! Listen, I understand you’re upset. March Madness can be a very upsetting time for some. Let me give you a phone number to call.

Me: So I can talk to someone about how the rankings and seedings are so grossly inaccurate?

Mark Emmert: Nooo, this a number for someone who can help you. It’s our March Madness Hotline.

Me: (suspiciously) Hotline?

Mark Emmert: There are psychiatrists on call 24 hours a day—

Me: You clowns rated Kansas 10th in the country in the AP Poll, seeded them at #2, and you think I’m the one who needs a psychiatrist? They lost! They lost to Stanford, and they’re not even in the Top 25!

Mark Emmert: How much money did you lose?

Me: None.

Mark Emmert: And you’re this upset?

Me: It’s the principal of the thing. (pause) I’m a Libra.

Mark Emmert: (gently) I really think you should call the Hotline.

Me: I don’t like injustice. That’s what I meant about the “Libra” remark. You know, balanced scales and all that. (pause) I’m not crazy.

Mark Emmert: Uh huh.

Me: (sighing) Maybe I should call that number.

Mark Emmert: That would be great.

Me: But if there are any more unreasonable upsets next weekend, I’m calling you back.

Mark Emmert: I’ll let security know.





March 19, 2014 in Random Thoughts

I am obsessed with the mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. I can’t stop watching MSNBC and CNN for the latest updates, reading about it online, and discussing it endlessly with anyone who will listen.

I am not the only one. Even Courtney Love is obsessed to the point where she thinks she may have found the missing plane.

For me, it’s hard to imagine that a Boeing 777 airplane laden with 227 passengers and 12 crew members can vanish without a trace in this day and age. With the number of military and civilian radars and satellites operating throughout the world, how is it possible that a 777 airplane just fell off the grid? And if a hijacking incident was in progress and/or the plane somehow landed safely somewhere, how is it possible that all 239 people on board have kept silent for 13 days in the age of cell phones?

There are a lot of theories out there based on precious little fact, but I keep coming back to human nature. Based on my in-depth knowledge of aviation (0%), terrorism (0%), ocean currents (0%), and the inability of human beings to keep a secret (100%), there are 2 theories that I feel make sense.

1)    A catastrophic event of a mechanical nature occurred. It either happened quickly (explosion) or slowly (depressurization of the plane/lack of oxygen), but however it happened, it either killed the passengers instantly or rendered them unconscious and thus unable to send urgent messages of distress with their cell phones. As we saw during 9/11, there is no way a person would not find a way to let their loved ones know they were a) ok; b) not ok; or c) that they were about to die and that they loved them very much.

2)    A catastrophic event induced by a human element occurred (pilot error? hijacking?), quickly rendering the passengers and crew unable to communicate with the outside world.

There have been 13 days of radio silence from the passengers on the plane. I think if they could speak, they would have found a way. The silence, more than anything else, makes me think Flight 370 is now in the ocean.

With the vastness and the depth of our planet’s oceans, particularly the Indian Ocean, it is possible that this plane will never be found. It may just go the way of Amelia Earhart’s airplane, which disappeared in 1937 and has never been found, or the Argentine military plane carrying 69 people that has been missing since 1965, or the squadron of five bombers that vanished in 1945 in the Bermuda Triangle. (Read more about these other aviation mysteries here.)

I want to know what happened just as much as the next person because I am curious and it makes me feel safer knowing we have the technology to possibly rescue anyone on this planet no matter where they are, or in the worst case scenario, to provide closure to the passengers’ families.

But my curiosity is but a drop in the tidal wave of grief and despair the families of the passengers and crew are facing. Misinformation, a lack of information, and deep-seated worry about their loved ones is taking its toll on the family members, and will only going to get worse as the length of time increases without any trace of the missing plane. The families and loved ones cannot function now, but how will they function in the future if the plane is not found? It was a headache wrapping up the threads of my dad’s life when he passed away and I had a certified death certificate in my possession. How will these people collect the life insurance or retirement funds of their loved ones if there’s no body, let alone the wreckage from a plane?

My sincerest hope and sympathy go out to the families of the passengers and crew of Flight 370. The plane needs to be found, and not  just to satisfy my own curiosity. For those waiting desperately for any information about their loved ones, this plane needs to be found.


March 17, 2014 in Book Reviews, Chocolate! (and other less exalted food experiences), Random Thoughts


I’m not Irish, but sometimes I wish I was. Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy (immensely successful Irish authors) are my idols, and I’ve read every one of their novels more than once. I am in love with the way the Irish speak, with their “your man” and their “fecking” and the lovely lilt at the end of their sentences.

Over the weekend I was delighted to find myself sitting by a large Irish family from the opposing team during my son’s lacrosse game. It was like being surrounded by a bunch of chatty leprechauns! I spoke in an Irish accent all the way home, to the absolute delight of my children.

Kids: “Mom, come on! Stop it!”

Me: “No way! It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll be talking this way all weekend. Now stop your fecking complainin’ or your man won’t be getting a Shamrock Shake.”

(I’m not entirely sure how bad a swear word “fecking” is in Ireland. Perhaps I should look into that.)

So it should come as no surprise that I love St. Patrick’s Day. A holiday centered around the color green, clever little leprechauns, vibrant rainbows with shiny pots of gold at the end, four-leaf clovers, lots of booze, and Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s—as a holiday, St. Patrick’s Day is magically delicious!

Here are a couple of things Irish that I love and I hope you do too!

Marian Keyes is a master at blending despair with humor. You can’t go wrong with any of her novels, but my personal favorite is Rachel’s Holiday. Rachel’s “holiday” is actually a stint in rehab after a near overdose. It may sound heavy, and it is, but just like real life, there are shining moments of humor, humanity, and triumph.

While Marian Keyes loves a modern Irish heroine, Maeve Binchy’s heroines are firmly planted in the past, trying to balance their strict Irish Catholic upbringing with the passion they feel for the boy next door. Unwanted pregnancies, alcoholism, and forbidden love are some of her favorite themes. You can’t go wrong with any of her novels either, but Light a Penny Candle, a poignant tale of two girls and their enduring friendship, still stands out in my mind as one of her best.  

“Fiddle-de-fizz ‘tis magic, it is!” Ten Lucky Leprechauns is a charming counting book filled with the magic of leprechauns, rainbows, and friendship just perfect for your wee ones.

How cute are these? These mini brownies with a surprise pocket of gold sprinkles inside will definitely be part of our St. Patrick’s Day’s festivities! If you haven’t visited Courtney Whitmore’s Pizzazzerie.com yet, you are in for a treat! She has loads of wonderful desserts and decorating tips for any event.

I am in love with  Martha Stewart’s Leprechaun Trap! It is eye-catching and I bet it tastes delicious. It also looks like it would take all day to make. The jury’s still out on whether or not I will make this or take a nap instead.

Need more ideas? Check out my St. Patrick’s Day Pinterest Board!







March 13, 2014 in Book Reviews

I like to keep tabs on the Newbery and Caldecott winners for my kids. They are always looking for a new author or series to fall in love with and as much as they love Captain Underpants, I would like to offer them up some, ahem, other choices too.

Every year, there is only one Newberry and one Caldecott Award winner, but here are a host of other awards given out as well, so in the end there is a lovely compilation of beautifully illustrated picture books, enchanting beginning reader books, and well-written books for children up to young adults. For the complete list of the 2014 Winners and Honors books, click here.

In reading the blurbs, I became enthralled with the Michael L. Printz Award Winner for excellence in literature written for young adults given to Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood. (I won’t lie: in no way did I think my young adult son would be interested in this book. I wanted to read it for me.) It is a series of seven short stories all interconnected in some mysterious way. Set on an unusual island called Blessed located far, far north, and spanning time from ancient civilization to 2073, Midwinterblood is a mystical tale of love, secrets, sacrifice, and ancient rites.

I absolutely loved this book. Sedgwick sets a tone of mystery early, and the threads are woven through each short story, pulling you in and wrapping you up tight in details that become familiar despite the complete change of scenery. The further back in time he takes you, the more the mystery of what’s happening in the present begins to unravel. It is not your average mystery/ghost story with a vampire thrown in. Instead, it is mystical and magical and otherworldly with plenty of chills to go around.

On one rainy day with my son and his friend locked in my car on the way to school, I tried to sell them on Midwinterblood. They looked at me with blank, teenage boy stares. I don’t know if they’ll ever voluntarily pick this book up, but they should, and so should you. Seriously. It is a wonderful escape into seven different worlds, all linked in an extraordinary manner.