Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions We Wish People Would Make

Instead of making New Year's resolutions for ourselves this year, how about we create a list of New Year's resolutions we wish other people would make -- and keep?

I will start off the list, but feel free to add to it via a Comment.

(Note: You do not have to have a Blogger or Gmail account or a blog to leave a comment. You can check Anonymous or just leave a Name, no URL necessary.)

Herewith, 14 New Year's Resolutions We Wish Other People Would Make -- and Keep -- for 2014 (listed in no particular order):

I resolve not to talk so loudly into my mobile phone that the guy three seats away can hear me.

I resolve to not chat on my mobile phone during movies, shows, weddings, funerals, while on the toilet, or during gynecological appointments.

I resolve not to chat on my mobile phone handset or text my friends while driving and to pay attention to the road and the drivers around me.

I resolve to play my car radio or music at a volume you can't hear three cars or even one car away.

I resolve to use my turn signal -- before making a turn.

I resolve to not drive like an a-hole and nearly run you off the road for driving at (or slightly above) the speed limit.

I resolve not to be such an a-hole (in general).

I resolve not to constantly name-check.

I resolve not to constantly brag about my kids or assume you will agree that they are the cutest/smartest/most [insert adjective here] by constantly posting sh*t about them on Facebook.

I resolve to return emails and phone calls within 24 hours.

I resolve that I will not wait until I am 15 minutes late to call or text you that I am running late.

I resolve to fact check all political statements or promises before assuming they are facts and/or mass emailing them.

I resolve not to forward spammy chain or "good luck" emails to my friends and family members.

I resolve not to make promises, commitments, or resolutions I can't keep.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Remember when pajamas were for sleeping?

When I was growing up, I had a male cousin who, instead of sleeping in pajamas, insisted on sleeping in his clothes. It would save him time in the morning, he told his mother.

How times have changed. Now, instead of sleeping in their clothes, people wear pajamas during the day. (No word about this trend from my cousin who, last time I saw him, was nicely dressed in an Oxford shirt and trousers. Though I wouldn't put it past him to wear a onesie to a client meeting.)

I'm not exactly sure when the pajama-as-day-wear trend began, but I'm guessing it was shortly after stores like Old Navy (and its chicer retail cousins) began selling mix-and-match pajama bottoms and tops that looked and felt more like lounge wear or apres-ski wear than sleep wear -- that also, btw, looked fabulous with a pair of UGGs. Not.

At first the pajama-wear trend was confined to teenage girls in private schools and on college campuses and weary mothers in SUVs dropping their kids off at school. But now it seems pajamas as daytime fashion has gone mainstream. (I hesitate to call pajamas in public a fashion or fashion statement as I'm not sure what that statement would be: "Look at me! I'm lazy!" or "I couldn't bother to get dressed this morning"?)

Personally, I am okay with people wearing pajamas outside the bedroom -- within limits. You want to wear them around the house or to drive your kid to school in PJs? Super. I think it's also perfectly fine for early morning and late evening dog walkers to do the deed in their pajamas, albeit preferably with something over them (and under them, in the case of males).

However, I draw the line at strolling around in public in onesies, footie pajamas, and, pajamas that clearly look like, um, pajamas.

I especially draw the line at entire families gallivanting around in matching Christmas jammies.

[Dude, seriously, put on some underwear.]

But maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy.

Where do you think pajamas belong? In the bedroom? Anywhere inside? Wherever? Let me know via a Comment.

[For more on the "pajamas in public" topic, check out this New York Post article my friend CK sent me.]

Thursday, December 19, 2013

You can't spell Christmas without C-a-t

Christmas is almost here, people! And nothing makes one merrier than a bunch of adorable cat and kitten videos. Indeed, there should be a holiday just for celebrating cats. You could call it Catmas! (Or not.) Anyway, consider this post my Christmas present to all of you fellow cat lovers.

First up, "How to Transport Your Cat," which has got cute in the bag.

Next vet visit, forget about the cat carrier. Just get out a plastic shopping bag!

[H/T to Cuteoverload.com]

That cat video not ringing your bells? Perhaps you're in the mood for something a bit more festive. Well then, how about a chorus line of adorable kittens bobbing their heads to the tune of "Jingle Bells"?

Or perhaps you'd prefer something slightly more menacing, slightly more mature, slightly more... Maru.Well, you are in luck, my friends. Live from Japan, just in time for Christmas, the latest Maru the cat video, featuring Maru and kitten Hana.

All together now: Aaaaw.

[That video totally reminds me of Garfield and Nermal. Though no way would Garfield ever share his bed with or groom Nermal.]

And no Christmas cat post would be complete without a video of Simon's Cat.

[While there are newer Simon's Cat Christmas videos, this one, titled "Santa Claws," is still my favorite.]

Wishing you all a meowy Catmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Year without a Chrismukkah

As some of you may know, Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights (aka Christmas for Jews), begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev (which is not Hebrew for December, though it typically coincides with December).

As the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles, this means that Hanukkah -- also known as Chanukah -- can fall anytime between November 28th and December 26th. And this year, for the first time in many moons, Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving, giving us Thanksgivukkah -- or eight days of turkey and latkes.

That also meant, a year without a Chrismukkah.

A year without a Chrismukkah? Why, that's like a year without a Santa Claus, but without the cool songs.

[I never get tired of watching the Snow Miser/Heat Miser songs -- or an excuse to feature them on the blog. Thank you Rankin/Bass and ABC Family.]

While many Christians are happy not to have to share Christmas* (even though Christ was actually born in June and what we now call Christmas is actually the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia, which Christian leaders co-opted in the 4th Century CE or AD), this has posed a dilemma for interfaith families and New York Jews for whom Chrismukkah is a tradition. (I still have fond memories of singing the Messiah with my other Manhattan private girls school Jewish friends.)

For example, do you still put the Hanukkah topper on the Christmas tree?

[Yes, Virginia, there is a Hanukkah tree topper. (You're welcome, Morri.)]

And can you still sing "The Hanukkah Song" at Christmastime, even if Hanukkah ended nearly three weeks before?

So many questions.

Fortunately, order, and Chrismukkah, will be somewhat restored next year, in 2014, when Hanukkah begins on December 16th and ends on Christmas Eve (aka December 24th).

Until then, have yourselves a merry little Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or whatever.

*Or as Dave S. calls it, the Holiday for Everyone [unless you are Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or an atheist]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The gift of Michael Bolton?

Is it just me or is Michael Bolton in every fourth (or third) television ad right now? (And I don't even watch that much TV!)

First there was the Optimum campaign...

[Do not worry, Michael Bolton. I have no intention of calling you.]

Then the Starburst fruit chews Orchard ad...

[Boltonizing? Now he's a verb? Also, "His voice is so smooth it creates the juiciest flavors in the world"? Ew.]

And now Michael Boston is pimping for Honda, too?!

[The snow isn't the only thing about to blow, Michael.]

It's like the 12 days of Bolton.

[How am I supposed to live without you, Michael, if you won't go away?]

All I can say is Michael Bolton owes a major debt to Lonely Island and Andy Samberg.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter storms should have cooler names

It is hard to take a winter storm named Cleon or Dion -- or Nemo -- seriously. It is not that I do not take winter storms seriously. I do. I just find it hard to take seriously some of the names the Weather Channel assigns these winter storms.

(I actually blame the Latin class at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana. Zephyr, guys? Really? Do you even know what zephyr means? For those too lazy to look it up, it means "soft, gentle breeze." Sheesh. Also, what is with all the rhyming names this year? Cleon, Dion, Leon... Ion, Orion... Janus, Maximus, Quintus....)

Look, I get it's easier to talk about a particular storm if you give it a name, like we do hurricanes. But Weather Channel (and you know we love you), you can do better than this:

Personally, I think every storm should be called Khan (last year's K storm, which wasn't much of a storm), or something appropriately wrathful, or violent, or unpredictable.

I know, how about naming winter storms after football players, or wrestlers, or tantrum-throwing celebrities? (Snow storm Alec or Lindsay anyone?)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hot guys & cool cats

Finally, someone has figured out a way to successfully combine two of the Internet's hottest memes, photos of sexy guys and pictures of adorable kittens (and cats).

And if that was not enough, it's French. Oo la la!

Presenting le blog le plus virale du moment, Des Hommes et des Chatons.

To see more hot guy, cool cat mashups, click on the Des Hommes et des Chatons link above.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My 13 Favorite Books of 2013

Every year, I read so many great books, it's often hard to pick my 10, or 12, or even 13 favorites. But I have once again managed to narrow it down.

Following are my favorite reads of 2013 -- books I particularly enjoyed either for their wit, their writing, and/or their ability to amuse and/or enlighten me -- listed alphabetically by author. I have mentioned some of these in previous Book Nook posts. Several others I have not yet blogged about. As per usual, there is something for everyone.


The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank. I loved this book, and I am totally not into the whole Southern ya-ya sisterhood type of novel. But Benton Frank had me cheering for the heroine, Leslie "Les" Carter, the put-upon (by her husband and adult children, who take Les for granted), about-to-be 60 "last original wife" among her close-knit group of couple friends -- and had me chuckling to myself repeatedly. She also made me want to move to Charleston.

While guys will probably consider The Last Original Wife menopausal chick lit, that's selling the book short. To me the book is a heartwarming (dang, I used heartwarming!) yet humorous tale about self discovery, taking charge of your life, and going after what you want -- something apparently you're never too old to do. Highly recommend.

The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I loved this book. Which is saying a lot because, as the spouse would say, "it doesn't seem like a Jennifer read." What can I say? I guess I'm not that predictable after all. So why did I love this book, which is about a teenage boy, a loner who is the only child of a single mother who runs an occult bookshop, who at 10 years old was struck down in his bathroom by a meteorite (the boy, not the mother), develops epilepsy, and winds up befriending his much older, pot-smoking, Kurt Vonnegut-loving neighbor? I'm not sure. Must have been the writing. Though I found the characters and their relationships with one another endearing. Just read it.

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood. Beautifully written -- a sensuous, sensual read about the power of taste and smell and the desire they can inspire. (The author mentions in his acknowledgements that he had originally planned to call the book Taste, which I think would have been a better title.) The book takes place in late 18th Century France and is the tale of one French aristocrat's quest to taste everything -- food, as well as women -- the world has to offer. A must read for food lovers as well as lovers of historical fiction , particularly works set in France.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I loved this book. It is charming and funny and sly, all of the qualities I appreciate in a book -- and it is an original. As for how to describe the book, Amazon does a pretty good job in its one-sentence summary: "A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were a [Swedish] explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it’s not too late to start over..." As the main character journeys across Sweden, meeting other interesting characters, we learn about his fascinating (and explosive) past -- much of which involves his role in critical moments of Russian, U.S., Chinese, and Indonesian history. A thoroughly delightful read.

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali.I know it's cliched, but I really did laugh then cry reading this fabulous, heartwarming book about an Iranian mother and her Iranian-American daughter -- and their quest to belong in the United States after fleeing Iran in 1980. Indeed, I found it hard to believe this was Marjan Kamali's first novel, it was so beautifully written and flowed so effortlessly.

I think any woman who has lived in a foreign country -- or far from where she was raised -- especially if she raised a family in a new place, will relate to this story. The book also gave me a fresh prospective on what it was like to be an Iranian in Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as what it was like to be an Iranian in the United States just after the hostage crisis.

Above all, though, the book is a warm and often funny love story, between a wife and a husband, a mother and a daughter, and the daughter and the boy she meets while visiting Tehran in 1996 (when much of the novel takes place). I cannot recommend this book enough.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The romantic in me loved this book. Loved. One of the most beautiful, moving books I have ever read. I was captivated -- and I don't care a fig about the Jacobites or Scottish history (though I love a man in a kilt -- if he has the legs to pull it off). In brief, The Winter Sea tells the story of best-selling historical fiction writer Carrie McClelland who, while researching her next book about the 1708 attempt to return James Stuart to the throne, comes across a story line she did not know existed. Compelled to pursue this new story line, she finds herself on the shores of Scotland at an ancient castle, where, though genetic memory and research, an ancient secret and love come to light. (Hmm... Maybe I should write jacket copy for a living.)

Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg. I stumbled upon Brilliant, which was published in June 2004 (long before the financial crisis), while looking for something else in the stacks at my local library. And am I glad I did. It is my definition of a guilty pleasure: a funny, sexy romp through fabulous places (in this case London and Provence), involving jewels, thieves, fast men and fast cars, the auction business, and a sharp-tongued, sharp-witted narrator who is not what she seems. Highly recommend for those looking for a little escapist literature. 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Several people in my Book Buzz group told me I would enjoy Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and they were right! Part mystery, part coming of age story, though it's often unclear who is coming of age here, the precocious 15-year-old narrator (for lack of a better term), Bee, or her brilliant but neurotic and reclusive architect mother, who one day disappears. Full of warmth and humor, as well as a kind of valentine to Seattle. I loved it.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro. I know I keep saying it, but I loved this book, the tale of two women, one French, one British, which moves back and forth between Paris in 1955 and New York in 1927 (with a stopover in the South of France in the early 1930s and Paris in the early 1940s). The title is a bit of a red herring, at least in my opinion, though a large part of the novel does involve perfume.

At its heart, however, the novel is a tale of betrayal, hope and love. The central question or mystery: Why did Eva d'Orsey, the mistress of a famous French perfumer, who died at the age of 41 or 42, leave her considerable fortune to Englishwoman Grace Munroe, a young woman of 27 who didn't even know d'Orsey? And did I mention it's mainly set in Paris -- and there's food and Champagne and shopping and romance? A must read for my female readers (maybe some of the male ones, too).


The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell by Rachel Herz. Why do some scents repel us while others give us pleasure? And what role does smell -- or scent -- play in romance and procreation? These are some of the topics Herz, an expert on the psychology of smell, tackles in The Scent of Desire. A fascinating, informative read, one which had me constantly saying to the spouse, "Did you know...?"

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman. WARNING: This book will make you crave a hamburger, constantly. Specifically an In-N-Out burger. And fries. And a shake. East Coasters, you are screwed. That said, I thought this was one of the best business books, or books about a business, I've ever read.

While I have never had an In-N-Out burger, I knew about the chain -- and greatly enjoyed Perman's most recent book, A Grand Complication, which I recommended in a previous Book Nook post. If you are at all a fan of the burger chain or enjoy a good nonfiction book about business, in this case an iconic family business with a side order or scandal and intrigue, check out In-N-Out Burger.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. One of the best business books -- or books about a business -- I have ever read. Yes, another one. Well researched and well written. Stone spent years getting to know Amazon and Bezos as a business reporter, and and has a knack for making potentially dry business topics interesting. A must read for entrepreneurs and people who like reading about successful entrepreneurs, as well as those who have ever wondered, How does Amazon do it? And there are those pesky Amazon same day delivery drones. (Click on the link to read reviews by Amazon employees and Jeff Bezos's wife, MacKenzie.)

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson. The subtitle pretty much says it all. A fascinating look at the evolution of the kitchen, or the technology (both low tech and high) behind food preparation and consumption. Very informative, often humorous, "a book to savor."

So what were some of your favorite books from this past year?

Please leave me a Comment with the name of the book and the author.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oo la la!

Alternate title: Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

I have always known the French have a more laid back or open attitude toward sex and the female body, having spent a summer in the South of France as a teen and seen several French films. But I was a bit gobsmacked to see a 15-foot-tall topless woman on the back of a bus in Paris, in the middle of Place de la Concorde. (And I wasn't the only one who did a double take.)

Forget prudishness. Can you imagine the number of traffic accidents this ad for lui magazine would cause if placed on the back of a bus in New York?

The spouse and I were also greatly amused by this giant ad for "ejaculation precoce" prominently displayed at a Metro stop.

(Note: It is purely coincidence that this picture was #69.)

Hey, it makes more sense than two people sitting in separate bathtubs holding hands.

So, what do you all think? Too racy or Vive la France!?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving: BUSTED

[Alternate title: Everything I know about Thanksgiving I learned from The Brady Bunch.]

Did you know that Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until 1863? Or that there was no turkey, or cranberry sauce (or cranberry relish or jelly), or sweet potatoes or pumpkin pie -- or forks -- at the first Thanksgiving (or what we citizens of the United States assume to have been the first Thanksgiving) back in 1621? Or that the Pilgrims didn't wear buckles on their hats? (I know!)

Those are just a few of the "25 Little Known Facts About Thanksgiving" that the good folks at Mental Floss reveal in their latest video:

Well, however you celebrate it, I wish you a happy -- and delicious -- Thanksgiving.

And thanks for reading J-TWO-O!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jingle balls?

And now I bring you tidings of comfort and Joe from ye merry gentlemen of Kmart. (Sometimes I wonder if the K in Kmart stands for Kinky.)

Presenting Kmart's new Christmas ad for Joe Boxer underwear, titled "Show Your Joe."

Ho ho ho.

UPDATED 1:25 PM: Just for grins, I searched online to check out the Joe Boxer briefs -- only to find that Kmart does not appear to carry them. :-/

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If you want something done right...

I am not a perfectionist (despite what the spouse and teenager think). I just like things done a certain way. The right way. (Which is why I have always been loathe to hire people to work for me -- and am always very careful about recommending people for jobs.)

True, "right" is open to some interpretation, but I think we can all agree that there are right ways to do things and wrong ways. Like loading the dishwasher, for instance...

Or making the bed.

This one drives me crazy. How effing hard is it to make a bed? I'm not talking hospital corners here, people, though they do look so nice.

I'm talking about making sure the fitted sheet fits and the top sheet and blanket (or comforter) are evenly spread across the bed. Seriously, how frickin' hard is it to make sure you have the same or similar amount of sheet and blanket or comforter (or duvet for my European readers) on each side?! Yet every cleaning person or service I have ever hired cannot figure this out (nor can the spouse -- though I still love you, honey), even after I've shown them. WTF?

And do not get me started about laundry or folding clothes (you know, so they don't get wrinkled and fit in your drawers)...

Don't get me wrong. I love the idea of delegating. But as the old saying goes, good help is hard to find. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Silent but deadly? A guide to farts and farting

[Alternate titles: "Let 'er rip!" "Who cut the cheese?" "Break like the wind"]

For everyone who ever wanted to know the answer to the question, Are silent farts worse? Here is the answer from the guys at Asap SCIENCE (a great YouTube Science channel):

Note to self: Stay away -- or in front of -- people who consume lots of eggs, meat, and broccoli.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Customer service? More like customer disservice.

The other day, while on hold, waiting for the nice customer service representative to figure out why she couldn't find my account, again, I wondered, How much of our lives is wasted dealing with customer service -- or on hold waiting for a customer service representative? And how much of that wasted time is spent trying to fix a problem the company (not you) created...

Or a problem that you thought had been already resolved, but wasn't?

Granted, mistakes happen. That's why companies have Customer Service departments. I just think companies have different definitions of "service."

Oh to have a dollar for every customer service representative who was flat out incompetent. (I swear, if I have to spell my first and last name for my insurance broker, whom I have been working with for three years now, one more time, I'm going to explode.)

Or those customer service reps who can't actually help you with your problem, even though you know you pressed the right option on the customer support phone tree, and transfer you to someone else, often more than once....

[I have actually had this happen with my credit card company -- not Discover -- and with my digital subscription to my newspaper, which doesn't allow you to cancel your digital subscription online. You have to call -- and then have to go through two different departments, after going through a phone tree.]

Or those customer service -- or tech support -- folks who don't give a f@ck about your problem (or you)...

[Raise your hand if this has happened to you! Though I do somewhat sympathize with those IT help desk guys.]

Though the worst ones, at least to me, or the ones who seem all friendly and helpful -- who cheerfully "Yes, dear" you -- leading you to believe your issue has been resolved. Then days or weeks later you find out the problem hasn't been solved, and you have to go through the process all over again.


So, any of you got beefs with customer service, or the lack thereof? Leave me a comment.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Do we still need watches?

I love watches. Rather than mere time pieces, I have always thought of watches as works of art and science.

Back in the day (as in pre-Internet), I used to sport two or three watches at a time on my left wrist and arm. There is even a picture of me at my first job at a quasi-fashion magazine sporting a fresh manicure and at least eight watches (most of which were donated by my colleagues for the sake of taking a photo, a Polaroid, which I cannot find).

 But for the past dozen years or so, I have rarely worn a watch. I haven't needed to.

Why wear a watch when we are surrounded by clocks? If you work in an office, there is a clock on your computer. Travel for work by car or shuttle your kids, there's a clock on your dashboard -- and on your GPS. Not in front of your computer or in your car and want to know what time it is? Just check your smart phone. Cooking in the kitchen? No need for a watch. There are clocks on your oven and on your microwave -- and chances are you have a TV or computing device or radio in your kitchen, which has a built-in clock. Have cable television? Then you know what time it is every time you pass in front of a cable box.

Just think about last Sunday, when you had to set your clocks back an hour (unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona) and you understand how pervasive time is -- and how little need there is for watches, or clocks, anymore. Except maybe as decorative pieces.

Do we still need watches anymore? Are they relics of the past, a bracelet that keeps time? Or maybe watches have evolved into something else, say, a computer you wear on your wrist?

Time will tell.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why can't people #$?!@!?

I have questions. Maybe one of you has the answers. Or some of them. (Note: Many of these questions are rhetorical. That is, I'm not really expecting an answer.)

Why can't people (other than doctors) turn their mobile devices off (or at least put them on mute) in theaters? Can whatever it is really not wait?

Why do people bring young children to fancy restaurants after 6:30 -- or to R-rated movies?

Why do brunettes who bleach their hair blond wait until they have two (or more) inches of brown roots showing to dye their hair again? And why do so many bottle blonds insist they are naturally blond, or were when they were young?

What is the deal with tattoos? Is there something in the ink that makes tattooing highly addictive? Do people understand that tattoos are permanent (or very difficult/expensive to remove) -- and look ridiculous when you are over 50 (or 40)?

Why do people sign up for classes (or gym memberships), when they know they aren't going to attend -- or schedule appointments at the time of their class?

Why is it so frikkin' hard for people to be on time, especially in this age of electronic reminders? And why do people wait until they are late to notify you?

And speaking of waiting.... Why do people wait until they are actually turning (as opposed to before they make a turn) to use their turn signal? And why do so many people think they don't need to use turn signals? Do you really think other drivers are psychic? (Psychotic, yes; psychic, no.)

Why do people say "Let's do lunch!" when they have no interest in or time to "do lunch"?

Similarly, why do people inform you they will be visiting your town or city -- and then tell you they have no time or interest in seeing you?

Why do people leave the Subject line in email blank? Are we supposed to guess what the email is about?

Why do people send spam email? Do you really think someone is going to wire money to a bank in Nigeria, or buy your penis enlargement pills, or have you find them a slut? (On second thought....)

Why do people forgive the sinner but never praise the saint?

Why is it so friggin' hard to pass strict gun control measures in this country? (This would be an example of a rhetorical question.) Even the NRA was for it... before it was against it. (You want to dramatically reduce the number of gun-related deaths in this country? Dramatically reduce the number of guns.)

Why are so many people afraid of and/or against a single-payer insurance system, like the UK and Canada have? Do people really love their health insurance companies and overspending on health care so much? (Again, this is a rhetorical question. Though feel free to dazzle me with your brilliance.)

I have more questions. But I think that's enough for now.

Feel free to contribute your own question(s) in the Comments section.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Apparently '80s New Wave music is cool again

I know I wrote about this a few years ago, but apparently the trend of current day musicians and bands channeling 1980s New Wave music has not gone away. (Not that I am complaining.)

Just check out this video for "Out of My League" by a band called Fitz and the Tantrums and tell me he/they don't remind you of ABC, or Spandau Ballet.

And I can't be the only who has noticed a striking resemblance between Lady Gaga (seen here in her "Applause" video) and Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons (seen here in the Missing Persons video for "Destination Unknown").

So anyone else notice any striking similarities between current bands or singers and 1980s New Wave groups? If so, please let me know via a Comment.

I'd also be interested to know people's thoughts on Volkswagen's riff on A-ha's "Take on me."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Scary movies for intellectuals?

I know many people love scary movies. But I don't get it. Why pay to have yourself scared silly when real life is scary enough? (You want to get freaked out? Turn on your local news station. All the stabbings you want, for free!)

Also, you would think people would have learned not to go into dark, scary houses or the woods alone by now.

That is why I was delighted to find these two new scary good horror film trailers, which gently poke fun at the genre.

First up, "HELL NO: The Sensible Horror Film."

To which I say, HELL YEAH!

Next, Saturday Night Live's New Horror Trailer, "From the mind of Wes Anderson, The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders, starring Edward Norton as Owen Wilson":

I think Owen Wilson should be afraid of Edward Norton.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's the Great Pumpkin Spice Meme, Charlie Brown

If the Peanuts classic It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown were made today (or last year or the year before last) instead of in 1966, I'm pretty sure it would have been called It's the Great Pumpkin Spice Latte, Charlie Brown (or maybe just It's the Great Pumpkin Spice [fill in the blank], Charlie Brown).

While I enjoy a nice warm Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte as much as the next suburban yoga-pant wearing mom, I fear the pumpkin spice trend, or meme, has gotten waaaay out of control.

Indeed, everywhere you go or look, there's pumpkin spice something -- coffee, drinks, cupcakes. (The teenager actually made pumpkin spice latte cupcakes the other day, which were quite the hit at school and which she'll be replicating for an upcoming cupcake competition.)

Even McCormick, the spice company, has come out with a special Pumpkin Pie Spice, which, as I recall, used to be known as Cinnamon. Whatever.

Heck, if I knew pumpkin spice was so damn popular, I would have named our new clothing line Pumpkin Spice Clothing instead of Prepster Pineapple. (Though technically, the teenager came up with the name -- and the logo.)

So do you think it's too late to change the name of our brand new, super comfy Prepster Pineapple yoga pants to Pumpkin Spice Yoga Pants? (Our pineapple logo looks practically like a pumpkin.)

Oops! Look at the time. Time to go run some errands -- get me a pumpkin spice latte! Ciao!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does your family suffer from kitchen blindness?

Does it seem like your spouse and/or your children call your name every time they go looking for something in the kitchen, only to discover the item in question was right in front of them (or close by)?

Do they leave dishes or pots or pans in the sink, waiting for the washing-up fairy to magically appear? Or perhaps they wash a pot or a dish or two but leave several others behind (not wishing to offend the washing-up fairy)?

Is their idea of cleaning the counters to clean one or two, or just that spot in front of where they were standing or sitting? 

And when you ask them to vacuum the kitchen floor, do they carefully navigate around chairs and tables, instead of vacuuming under them, where the crumbs lie?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, your family may suffer from Kitchen Blindness, the inability to see objects, especially dirt or grime, directly in front of or near you when in a kitchen environment.

Sadly, there is no cure for Kitchen Blindness*, at least that I know of. However, sarcasm and humor (see "Hon, where's the butter?" card, above) have been known to alleviate the condition in some instances.

*Though if you know of one, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween just got a little scarier

It is a known fact that Americans are Halloween crazy. Indeed, according to Alliance Data Retail Services, Halloween is the fourth most popular consumer holiday -- after Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter -- here in the United States. Frightening.

And check out these scary statistics: Americans are expected to spend $2.6 billion (that's billion, with a b) on Halloween costumes in 2013 -- $1.04 billion on children's costumes and a whopping $1.22 billion on adult Halloween costumes. Plus another $330 million on Halloween costumes for their pets. (I'm looking at you, dog owners).

Remarkably, those sales forecasts mark a decrease from 2012 Halloween spending. Talk about scary.

In addtion, according to the National Retail Federation, by October 31, 2013, Americans will have spent $1.96 billion on Halloween decorations. That's a lot of pumpkins, fake cobwebs, skeletons -- and feet sticking out of your trunk.

Or one very over-the-top Halloween Light Show synched to "The Fox (What does the fox say?)"

[Okay, perhaps I exaggerated. But I'm scared to see their electric bill.]

Man, am I glad I am not their neighbors. (Something I will be thankful for come Thanksgiving.) Though I will admit, that is an impressive Halloween Light Show.

So, what do you all have planned for Halloween this year?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A primer on facts, opinions, and lies

To quote the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts."

Sadly, too many people these days confuse "opinion" with "fact" -- wholesale believing what they hear on opinion shows or in opinion columns as fact, without bothering to see if the information is factual or not (or an outright lie).

Maybe it's because my first job was as a fact checker (at a national magazine, back in the days when magazines still employed fact checkers), but I have always had a high regard for facts -- and have always searched out the truth, to trust but verify, before casting my lot.

So for those of you who may be a bit fuzzy on the difference between a "fact," an "opinion," and a "lie," here's a quick primer:

A fact is a true piece of information, something that can be proven or verified. For example, that 2 + 2 = 4 is a fact. And in general, most things mathematical or scientific or that can be proven are facts. Here's another non-scientific example: On Saturday I picked up seven shirts at the dry cleaner's. (Not only can at least two other people prove I was there, the dry cleaner has a record of my picking up and paying for our shirts.)

An opinion, on the other hand, is a belief or a generally held view. For example, it may be your opinion that a certain baseball player used performance enhancing drugs. But without concrete evidence, it is not a fact. (See how tricky these things can be?)

And a lie is an untrue statement, the opposite of a fact, spoken or written with the intent to deceive. Granted some lies are more harmless than others -- I can say I am 5'3", which may be true with shoes on, but I am really only 5'1.75" -- but they are still lies.

Granted, you can see how someone with a strong belief or opinion about something can regard said opinion as a fact, or get someone else to believe it a fact, especially when it is repeated over and over again, but that still does not make it a fact.

So why am I bothering to bring up these distinctions?

Because while I am no longer surprised by politicians, celebrities, and athletes lying, I am surprised by how many people wholesale believe these lies -- people's willful ignorance of the facts, if you will.

Maybe before the existence of fact checkers and the Internet people could be forgiven for believing an impassioned speaker or charismatic politician or snake oil salesman, but today, when at least the claims of politicians can be easily fact checked -- by independent, nonpartisan organizations such as FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com? It boggles my mind -- and saddens me.

Not that it will change your mind, or how you vote, but as a service to your fellow Americans, remember that a fact is something that is true, not because you want or wish it to be but because it is, that can be proven. So if you are not sure of something you heard or read, try to verify it, through an independent organization (not Fox News or Matt Drudge). If it cannot be proven -- if there is no reliable data to back up the claim -- it is either an opinion or a lie.

Remember, there are no "your facts" and "my facts," just simply facts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Scooby-Dooby-Don't! Halloween ruh-rohs

Zoinks! I somehow missed the Scooby-Doo episode titled "Fred and Shaggy Make a Porno." But now you can own the costumes worn in it! Just in time for Halloween! (Though did Scooby-Doo really need a sexy Halloween makeover? I think not.)

And here I thought Scooby-Doo was a boy dog....

Apparently I was mistaken. Or maybe that's supposed to be Scooby's bitchin' girlfriend, Doo-Me?

And who knew under that oversized, bulky sweater Velma was sporting such a hot bod?

No mystery what was going on inside the Mystery Machine now!

Sigh. Is nothing sacred?

Sadly, Victoria's Secret is not the only company to put the Ho in Halloween (or vice versa).

[Btw, you can find both the "Doggy-Doo" and "Mystery Studies" costumes for sale on Amazon. You're welcome.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What I've been reading

Time for another Book Nook post! (So soon, you may ask? Hey, reading beats watching the dreck on television these days -- or watching the New York Giants lose another football game.)

As per usual, I have divided the books into Fiction and Nonfiction and then listed them alphabetically by author. Titles are hyperlinked to their page on Amazon.com, where you can read additional reviews. Titles with an asterisk (*) in front of them are "favorite reads," which I plan on including (as of now) in my 13 Favorite Books of 2013 blog post at the end of this year.


The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister. While called "a novel," The Lost Art of Mixing is more a series of interconnected short stories about love and loss, community, and the power of food to bring people together and console. Or you can think of it as a multi-course meal, where you are not sure what the next dish will be, and may not like everything you sample, but you find yourself liking things you didn't know you liked and walking away satisfied and satiated. The axis of the story is Seattle area chef and restaurant owner, Lillian. Rotating around her (so to speak) are Chloe, her young sous chef, who doesn't trust men; Finnegan, her very tall introverted dishwasher, who has a crush on Chloe but doesn't know how to woo her; Lillian's introverted accountant Al, who loves numbers and rituals; and Lillian's lover, Tom, who is still grieving over the loss of his young wife, who died of cancer. We also meet and learn about Isabelle, a kindly older woman in the early (or middle) stages of Alzheimer's who lives nearby with Chloe, and Louise, Al's bitter, suspicious wife.While the characters may not sound so appetizing, The Lost of Mixing is worth checking out. (Note: It took every ounce of willpower I had not to use the words "poignant" and "heartwarming" in that review.)

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Magical realism at its best. Choo, a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent who studied and now lives in the United States, is a masterful storyteller, effortlessly combining Chinese folklore, traditions, superstitions, and her knowledge of 19th century Malaysia, to create something both new and familiar -- and beautiful. The ghost bride of the title is a young woman named Li Lan, a Malay of Chinese descent whose family has fallen on hard times since the death of her mother (when she was very young) and her father's addiction to opium. To cancel the Pan family's debts, the wealthy Lim family asks Li Lan's father to permit Li Lan to become the ghost bride of the Lim family's recently deceased son. Li Lan's father refuses, as does Li Lan, but Li Lan is soon haunted by her would-be ghost groom, a spoiled, despicable fellow who comes to her in her dreams. Seeking a way out of her dilemma, Li Lan embarks on a long journey, where she discovers things about this life and the next -- and about true love.

The Adventuress by N.D. Coleridge. We've all known someone like the title character, Cath Fox, an attractive glamor-and-riches-seeking young woman from a working class family who constantly reinvents herself as she climbs -- or rather sleep her way up -- the social ladder (i.e., a social climber). At least I know I have. And so no doubt has the author, Nicholas Coleridge, the president of Conde Nast International. (Cath, who marries a British footballer at one point in the book, in some ways reminded me of Victoria Beckham, who makes an appearance in the novel.) A perfect airplane or vacation read -- "delightfully wicked."

*The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank. I loved this book, and I am totally not into the whole Southern ya-ya sisterhood type of novel. But Benton Frank had me cheering for the heroine, Leslie "Les" Carter, the put-upon (by her husband and adult children, who take Les for granted), about-to-be 60 "last original wife" among her close-knit group of couple friends, and chuckling to myself repeatedly. She also made me want to move to Charleston. While guys will probably consider The Last Original Wife menopausal chick lit, that's selling the book short. To me the book is a heartwarming (dang, I used heartwarming!) yet humorous tale about self discovery, taking charge of your life, and going after what you want -- something apparently you're never too old to do. Highly recommend.

The Body in the Piazza: A Faith Fairchild Mystery by Katherine Hall Page. As I have written before, I am a sucker for books that take place in Italy -- especially if they involve food. And I do enjoy a mystery. So it was pretty much a given that I would enjoy The Body in the Piazza, the latest Faith Fairchild mystery by Katherine Hall Page, which takes place in Rome and in Tuscany, mainly at a cooking school outside of Florence. The good thing about this book is you don't have to have read any other books in the series to understand and enjoy it. It stands on its own.

The Witch of Little Italy by Suzanne Palmieri. A better title might be The Clairvoyants of Arthur Avenue, but I guess The Witch of Little Italy had a better ring to it -- even though I never thought of the title character as a witch (by either definition) and most people when they think of Little Italy think of the one in Manhattan, not the one in the Bronx (which I never heard called Little Italy). That said, I mostly enjoyed this book, the story of Eleanor Amore, an art student at Yale, who finds herself pregnant by her abusive boyfriend and returns "home" to her mysterious grandmother and great aunts' house in the Little Italy section of the Bronx, a place she hasn't visited since she was 13 and only vaguely remembers. A tale of magic and love, abandonment and pain, and overcoming your fears to find happiness. (Plus there's food.)

*The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro. I LOVED this book, the tale of two women, one French, one British, which moves back and forth between Paris in 1955 and New York in 1927 (with a stopover in the South of France in the early 1930s and Paris in the early 1940s). The title is a bit of a red herring, at least in my opinion, though a large part of the novel does involve perfume. At its heart, however, the novel is a tale of betrayal, hope and love. (Seriously, why am I not writing jacket copy for a living?) The central question or mystery: Why did Eva d'Orsey, the mistress of a famous French perfumer, who died at the age of 41 or 42, leave her considerable fortune to Englishwoman Grace Munroe, a young woman of 27 who didn't even know d'Orsey? And did I mention it's mainly set in Paris -- and there's food and Champagne and shopping and romance? A must read for my female readers (maybe some of the male ones, too).

[I also read The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio, but I had too many issues with it to recommend.]


The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America by Langdon Cook. A fascinating field guide to or first person account of the who, what, and where of wild mushroom picking in the Pacific Northwest -- the many characters involved in the picking and brokering of wild mushrooms (porcinis, chanterelles) and the chefs who covet them. I only wish Cook (or his editor) had included a short guide to edible mushrooms, not just in the Pacific Northwest but across the United States, with photographs. By the way, you don't have to love mushrooms to enjoy this book, though it helps. And if you do love wild mushrooms, make sure you make a reservation at a restaurant that serves them as this book will make you very hungry.

To see my previous book recommendations, click here or on the Book Nook label at the end of this post.

So what have you all been reading? If you read a book you'd recommend (not just to me but in general), please leave the title and author in a comment on this blog post. It doesn't have to be a new book. Could be a classic or something that was published a few or a dozen years ago.

Finally, a shout out to The Book Dumpling, a great book recommendation site a friend recently turned me onto. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Signs of fall

At the risk of jinxing the weather, I have to say in the over 13 years now that we have been living in Southern New England, I have yet to experience such a lovely autumn. The air conditioning has been off for weeks, and we haven't had to turn on the heat (yet). It also hasn't poured every day, or even every other day. (OMG, it's so going to snow next week now, isn't it?)

In short, it's been a pretty glorious fall, as you can see from these fall photos I shot this weekend up in the Berkshires, where the spouse, teenager, and I went leaf peeping, apple picking, and cow gazing.

I love fall.

[On a related note, Is it just me or did everyone go apple picking this past weekend]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Is that a pickle in your pocket?

No, it's an almost ripe Monstera Deliciosa in an empty canola mayo jar.

This (below) is what the spouse and the teenager brought home from their shopping run last weekend. (The teenager is very into cooking and trying new foods.) Looks strange but innocent enough, no?

Little did we know what happens to a Monstera Deliciosa as it ripens. (And no, deliciosa is not Spanish for penis.)

And no, I have no idea how you eat this thing. Though I hear it is delicious -- and tastes similar to a pineapple.

Consider this an open thread....

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let's furlough Congress (specifically the House of Representatives)

Talk about "nonessential" government employees. Republican members of the House pretty much top the list. (As my friend, P., a banker, wrote me from England, "If the result of the shut down was that the first group of 'public servants' not to be paid was politicians an agreement would have been found." Yup.)

For those of you who vaguely remember your U.S. History (or Schoolhouse Rock), the role of Congress, the legislative branch of our government, is to pass laws and establish an annual budget -- and levy taxes and tariffs to provide funding for government services. Clearly the current Congress, the 113th, is not doing a good job of either. (And the previous one did a sucky job, too.)

In fact, the only thing this Congress, and by "Congress" I really mean the Republican led House of Representatives (and the one before it), has done successfully is to obstruct Federal appointments and legislation -- that is, not pass laws and to de-fund and/or cripple many essential government services -- and shut the government down.

Newsflash: For those wondering what constitutes an "essential" government service, per Speaker of the House John Boehner, keeping the House gym open is "essential" but the National Institutes of Health providing cancer treatments to children is a "nonessential" service. Ditto Head Start. Ditto issuing benefits to the families of military personnel killed in combat. [For a full list of what's closed and what's open during the government shutdown, check out this CNN graphic.]

Here in the real world, outside the Beltway, when a group of employees doesn't do the job(s) they were hired to do, you fire them.

[Personally, I think the Irish were onto something when they voted to disband their Senate, which many Irish citizens consider ineffectual or incompetent and not worth the 20 million Euro pricetag. However the measure was voted down by a slim majority. I'd be curious to see, however, how a national vote to disband the House, at least temporarily, would go down here.]

Oh, and for those of you who believe the BS that there is plenty of blame to go around, please to be watching this Jon Stewart Daily Show clip. (I could cite many other sources re the cause or source of the government shutdown, but I thought this was one of the more succinct and to the point -- and most amusing. You can skip ahead to around the 1:09 mark.)

[I also enjoyed the Daily Show clip titled "Jon Stewart's Rockin' Shutdown Eve," and not just because of the New York Giants quip. Though I'm all for the Giants doing whatever it takes to get more points.]

So how long will the Tea Party, representing just 18 percent of the United States (if even that much), hold the rest of the government hostage to its ludicrous demands? Got me. And will they refuse to raise the debt ceiling, which, btw, Congress raised 17 times under Ronald Reagan? I don't doubt it.

What can be done? Short of marching on the Capitol with pitchforks, probably nothing -- unless gerrymandering and allowing wealthy citizens to fund candidates is outlawed.

I just wish someone could make the crazy in Congress go away.

UPDATED: The Tea Party-inflicted government shutdown has cost over $1.6 billion to date and is draining an estimated $160 million daily from the U.S. economy. 401Ks, IRAs, and savings are also taking a major hit. And who pays the price? We, the taxpayers.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bathroom etiquette: A little less conversation?

The other day I happened to mention to a friend that the spouse and I often chat (often about business) while one of us is in the shower -- not unlike Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk. Except in our case we are in the same bathroom and there are no bubbles.

You talk to each other in the shower?! She was gobsmacked. 

Frankly, I had never given it that much thought before. It just made sense. When else during the morning (or day) do you get 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time to discuss stuff (business, the kids, the running of the house) privately with your spouse? Also, people tend to be their most relaxed and creative in the shower, often leading to a more productive exchange of information than trying to discuss matters over dinner, when you are both tired and the kids are clamoring for attention. So what if one or both of us happens to not be wearing clothing? It's not like after 23 years we haven't seen each other in the buff.

But maybe the spouse and I are unusual in this regard. Maybe most couples don't chat with each other while doing their toilette or showering, or don't even share the bathroom (at the same time). Which led the spouse to suggest I conduct a survey.

So, Do you talk to your spouse in the shower? Just click on "yes" or "no." The survey, or poll, is totally anonymous. Voting is open until 11:59 p.m. ET Friday, October 11.

Do you talk to your spouse in the shower?

Btw, while I am fine with partners chatting in or from the shower, I am not okay with people talking or texting while on the loo. That's just plain unsanitary.

Friday, October 4, 2013

National Vodka Day? I'll drink to that!

I guess any excuse to drink. (Even though the people who put up the National Vodka Day website confess they have no idea why October 4th is National Vodka Day.)

But what the heck. Happy National Vodka Day, people!

[FYI, in Russia, every day is National Vodka Day. Here in the States it is also National Taco Day.]

Now I like vodka as much as the next Russian gal, but I never understood how something that is supposed to be tasteless and odorless could have so many variations. I mean, there must be dozens of premium vodkas out there -- and just as many non-premium brands. For a product that is supposed to be TASTELESS AND ODORLESS.

[For those wondering what the 10 best vodkas in the world currently are, here you go. Though I'm sure there's some other list touting 10 other brands. Back in the day, I drank Absolut or Stolichnaya. Then for a while I was drinking Smirnoff, after it won a bunch of taste tests -- AGAIN, FOR A PRODUCT THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE TASTELESS AND ODORLESS. Currently, I am doing shots of Luksusowa, vodka distilled from potatoes, since I've been avoiding wheat.]

Me, I'm a vodka purist. I like my vodka neat, right out of the bottle (literally), though I have been known to enjoy the occasional Cosmopolitan, Sea Breeze, Cape Codder, or vodka and orange juice. But the whole flavored vodka thing? Just say nyet.

Seriously, marshmallow vodka? Cookie dough vodka? Salmon vodka? Bacon vodka? WTF people? It's enough to make a girl drink.

Na zdorovye!

[Hey, it's five o'clock somewhere.]

Monday, September 30, 2013

I refuse to be a slave to my mobile phone

[Alternate title: And one ring tone to rule them all!]

The spouse and I have had a running battle for weeks now, maybe months, regarding my mobile phone.

I am, I believe, one of the few remaining people on the planet who refuses to be bound 24/7 to my precious mobile device -- keeping my phone off most of the time and using it primarily to communicate (i.e., text) with my teenage daughter when she is not home (i.e., when she needs a ride) and, okay, check my email when I am working on a project and will be out of my home office for more than an hour or so.

The spouse, on the other hand, wants me to keep my smart phone on and on or near my person 24/7 -- or to have all calls and texts forwarded to my computer (using Google Voice). An idea that make me want to move to a tropical island with limited cell phone reception (albeit one with Internet access).

But I refuse to be a slave to my mobile phone!

While I see the utility of  mobile phones and agree they are a boon to those whose job or lifestyle has them rarely in one place or the same place for long (e.g., traveling salespeople, mothers of children who do after-school activities), they have become an addiction -- and an unhealthy one at that.

I don't know what it is Apple and Samsung are putting in their devices, but clearly silicon is the new crack. Just try to find someone with a mobile phone who doesn't touch, talk to, or just stare at it every 15 minutes -- less! -- or get twitchy when they haven't touched their precious device in a while. (Yesss, thanks to RIM, Apple, and Samsung, we are all Gollum now.)

The irony, while mobile phones allow us to roam without being tethered to an office or single location (just watch out for those nasty roaming fees!), they have instead tethered us to them. But I refuse to bow down to my silicon overlord (she wrote while typing furiously on her laptop computer)! So the next time you call or text me on my mobile, and I don't answer, you know why.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Finally, an answer to the age-old question, Why did the chicken cross the road? (Well, sort of.)

Because it was test driving a Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive Magic Body Control System!

Note: No chickens were harmed in the making of this ad. Just deeply embarrassed.

More about the Mercedes-Benz chicken commercial and the Mercedes-Benz Magic Body Control  suspension system here and here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Enough with skinny jeans + 3/4 sleeves

Men have it easy, at least fashion-wise. You don't have to worry about hemlines -- or waistlines. If you know how to use a tape measure, you can accurately deduce what size shirt and trouser you need. And when buying shoes your biggest decision is typically "brown or black?"

Sure, there have been some embarrassing fashion trends for males -- the polyester suit (and its cousin the leisure suit), the skinny tie, the wide tie, white vinyl shoes. But those are a mere drop in the fashion bucket compared to what we women have had to put up with.

I personally have never dressed for fashion or been one to follow trends. And buying clothing for comfort and fit -- not style or hipness -- was not a major problem. Until the advent of skinny jeans.

Skinny jeans, also known as cigarette or pencil pants, have actually been around for a while. But except for Audrey Hepburn, beatnik poets, girls in 1960s beach party movies, a few punk rockers, and anorexic models, they look good on practically no one. And yet somehow these uber-form-fitting, low-waisted, tapered pants continue to make a comeback -- and unlike in previous decades, refuse to go away.

Indeed, skinny jeans have become so ubiquitous that they have squeezed out nearly every other fit or form of jean (other than "mom jeans," aka "relaxed fit").

Just try finding a pair of attractive straight leg or boot cut or gently flared jeans (as opposed to bell bottoms, which thankfully slunk back to the '70s again) -- that don't hang four inches below your pupik.

I think I'm speaking for most women when I write, women's jean manufacturers, I'm begging you, enough already with the skinny jeans. Give us women over 25, who don't have toothpicks for legs, and have had a kid or two, a break (without forcing us to choose between "skinny" and something with an elastic band and a bubble butt).

And while on the topic of "fashion," 3/4-length sleeves? Really? Whose genius idea was this, designers? Did you receive thousands of letters from women complaining it was too hard to roll-up their sleeves?

WTF is the point of 3/4-length sleeves?

Oh sure, some of those shirts with 3/4-length sleeves look nice. But do you know how annoying it is to wear shirts with sleeves somewhere between the elbow and wrist? You can't wear anything over them, because they bunch up -- and the form-fitting ones cut off your circulation and are often too hot to wear in warm weather. And yet for YEARS now, I keep seeing shirts with 3/4-length sleeves. WHY?

Seriously, how hard is it to roll up your effing sleeves, people? Tell women's clothing designers, enough with 3/4-length sleeves.

Thank you.

This has been a public service announcement.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Go ahead, sh*t all over this idea

Just when you thought you'd seen it all in terms of personal hygiene products, along comes POO-POURRI, "a blend of essential oils that virtually eliminates bathroom odors!" (Seriously, you cannot make this sh*t up. But now you can cover it up... with POO-POURRI!)

Scents include Deja Poo, Sh*ttin' Pretty, and No. 2.

But POO-POURRI isn't just for women. Manly scents include Royal Flush, Heavy Doody, and Nature's Call.

I know what you are thinking: Is this sh*t for real? It is. And before you poo-poo the idea of an eau de toilette that masks the odor of the toilet, check out the Amazon reviews. Indeed, one spritz of POO-POURRI before-you-go toilet spray and you'll be saying "Crap! Where has POO-POURRI been all my life?"

You're welcome.

This has been a public service announcement.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fall in love with a good book

Time for another Book Nook post!

As per usual, the books are divided into Fiction and Nonfiction and then listed alphabetically by author. I have also included a link to each book's listing on Amazon.com, where you can learn more about it. 


Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin.If you are a fan of magical realism, or the movie Romancing the Stone, you will enjoy Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire. (Bad title, good book.) The book takes place in the jungles of New York City and the Yucatan. And the hothouse flower of the title is recently divorced advertising copywriter Lila Nova (at least that's who I think it is), who, shortly after reluctantly buying a Bird of Paradise from an exotic plant dealer stumbles across an exotic-plant-filled laundromat and its equally exotic, mysterious owner one evening -- and winds up in a rainforest in Mexico on a quest to find the "nine plants of desire." Botanically informative (and accurate) as well as an enjoyable way to spend a weekend afternoon.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory. It's been ages since I'd read a Philippa Gregory book, and I had forgotten what a good writer she was (is). The White Princess is her latest, part of her Cousins' War series, and it tells the story of Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV of England who marries Henry Tudor, Henry VII. While I remember reading about the War of the Roses (the Cousins' War), Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I in school (many, many years ago), I recall nothing about Henry VII -- and I found the book very interesting and enlightening. (While I know Gregory's works are categorized as historical fiction, The White Princess, like many (all?) of her other novels, is heavily based on fact, which you can see from a quick glance at the bibliography.)

Cloche and Dagger: A Hat Shop Mystery by Jenn McKinlay. The latest (newest) series from mystery writer Jenn McKinlay (whom I had never heard of before but learned is very popular). Set in modern-day London, Cloche and Dagger tells the story of American Scarlett Parker, who flies off to London to help her eccentric cousin Vivian, a talented, in-demand milliner, run the shop they inherited from their grandmother. This is after an embarrassing video of Scarlett seemingly crashing an anniversary party and tossing cake at her supposedly divorced boyfriend has gone viral, forcing her to hideout in her Tampa apartment for days. However,when she arrives in Notting Hill, she is greeted not by her cousin Viv, who is nowhere to be found, but by Viv's handsome yet stodgy (and somewhat cantankerous) business manager, Harrison Wentworth, in her stead. Soon after, one of the shop's clients is found dead, in nothing but the hat Scarlett had just sold her -- and Scarlett and Harrison must prove that Viv didn't do it. A fun read with great characters.

Edward Trencom’s Nose: A Novel of History, Dark Intrigue, and Cheese by Giles Milton. If you enjoy subtle English humor (is that redundant?) and wit -- and stinky cheese -- you will enjoy this whimsical novel about a family of cheese connoisseurs with an exceptional nose and destiny. Like many of the books on this fiction list, Edward Trencom's Nose takes place mainly in England, specifically in London, in 1969. A jolly good read -- well written and amusing, with an imaginative, suspenseful plot that will keep you guessing until near the end.

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie. I enjoyed this collection of mystery short stories, set in late 1950s Cambridge, England. (I know, England again.) The tone and style are reminiscent of classic British detective or mystery novels, which I grew up reading and adoring. (Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie both spring to mind.) But I wish I had read the previous Sidney Chambers book, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, first.


The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention That Changed the World by Amir D. Aczel. As a bit of a directional dyslexic (i.e., someone with a very poor sense of direction, who often cannot tell North from South or East from West), I was immediately drawn to this book when I spied it on my stepfather's bookshelf. A fascinating look at the history of the magnetic compass, how it came to be used aboard ships, and how it changed navigation, ushering in the age of exploration. Really makes you appreciate early explorers and their ability to navigate by the stars, as well as more modern day navigators. A good, informative read.

Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built by Mark Russ Federman. This wonderful, heartfelt, humorous memoir, told by the former owner/proprietor of Russ & Daughters, a famous appetizing store on the Lower East Side of New York, is a must read for Jews of a certain age, true New Yorkers, and those whose idea of perfect Sunday morning includes a bagel with lox and/or smoked fish. While I intensely dislike smoked fish and most of the delicacies, or "foods one eats with a bagel," that Russ & Daughters is known for (somewhere in Heaven my father is weeping), I loved this book -- and made the spouse read it right after me. He, in turn, bought a copy for his brother. (Warning: This book can be hazardous to your waistline if, like us, you suddenly feel yourself craving bagels with all the fixings and act upon these cravings.)

So what have all of you been reading? Don't be shy. Tell me -- via a comment. I am always looking for a good book (albeit one that you would not characterize as "depressing" or "heartbreaking" or "dark" or "poignant" or "morbid").

Btw, you can find previous book recommendations by clicking the Book Nook label at the bottom of this post or this Book Nook link.