Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pardon me...

So the spouse and I were watching something or other the other night and happened to catch the new Grey Poupon commercial, "The Lost Footage," which purportedly reveals the aftermath of that famous original Rolls-Royce to Rolls-Royce Grey Poupon exchange, which pretty much put Grey Poupon mustard on the map (or, in this case, table).

Our immediate reaction? WTF?! That has got to be one of the strangest -- or weirdest or most out there -- ads we've ever seen. Which is saying a lot.

And the really weird thing? Grey Poupon isn't the only brand that had re-edited an old commercial, or gone retro. Check out this new retro ad for Herbal Essences.

(Here's the original Herbal Essences airplane ad, for those who are interested.)

Did someone bring back the 1980s and forget to tell me?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'd rather be on Hawaii

Those of you who know me (or regularly read this blog) know I am not a fan of winter -- and bolt for warmer climes whenever I can.

For my latest escape, I flew to the Big Island of Hawaii. (Alternate title of this blog post, "Hawaii J-TWO-O.") It was actually the teenager's idea. And what a fabulous idea it was.

While I had been to Kauai (with the spouse, on business), when the teenager was a baby, and to Maui, seven years ago (for a big birthday, which was a big disappointment), we had never been to the Big Island (aka Hawaii). While Hawaii doesn't have the lush greenery or multiple white sand beaches like Kauai and Maui do, it has many other charms, such as...

Coffee. OMG. If you like coffee, Kona coffee is the best. And you can find dozens of varieties, from small growers to plantations, on the Big Island. (Interestingly, there is practically no decaf as their is no decaffeination plant on the island -- too expensive.)

Delicious (and exotic) fruits and vegetables. The Saturday Farmers Market at the Keauhou Shopping Center is amazing. Had I known how much I would love dragon fruit...

I would have bought a dozen. (Who knew there was only one guy who grew/sold them on the island -- and that he'd head off to California for a week?)

We were also quite fond of the romanesco, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

(Do you think there's any money in being a vegetable photographer? Anyone have a beloved veggie they want a portrait of?)

And the flowers! So beautiful.

And the waterfalls! Amazing.

(Though couldn't they come up a better name than "Akaka" for this waterfall?)

Speaking of water, I could watch the waves crash against the rocks all day...

(The spouse has a way better, smarter phone than I do.)

Indeed, there were so many beautiful spots on Hawaii, it is hard to pick just one. But the Pololu Valley Lookout in the north (be sure to have lunch at Sushi Rock either on the way there or back)...

and the infinity pool at the base of Mauka Meadows, a fabulous botanical garden and coffee place...

were among my favorites. (That last shot doesn't look real, does it? And did I mention, free coffee?)

Sigh. I could go on (and on), but I won't.

Aloha a hui hou, Hawaii....

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Evolution of Mom Dancing

Friend of the blog David T. posted this video titled "Evolution of Mom Dancing," featuring Jimmy Fallon and First Lady Michelle Obama, on his Facebook page, and I just had to share.

(Wow, I never realized how much I looked like Jimmy Fallon, or danced like him.)

Okay, ladies, now shake your hips twice, same side, and let's all do just the hands part of "Single Ladies." And be sure to share your new dance moves with your daughter. ;-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm boycotting Valentine's Day

I have always loathed Valentine's Day, that incredibly manipulative holiday -- or as the spouse (then boyfriend) used to refer to it, the florist, chocolatier, and jeweler conspiracy.

Sure, a lot of it is -- or was -- sour grapes, being the only woman in my dorm at college who didn't receive something (or feeling that way). Never having a boyfriend on the big day, or having one who scoffed at the idea of celebrating Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day?! Who needs it?! I thought. (The answer, of course, was, I did.)

Then, after years of togetherness (and repeated refusal to acknowledge February 14 as more than another day on the calendar), the spouse began giving me presents on Valentine's Day. Turns out, he's a pretty good gift giver.

But really, after you have received the vacuum of your dreams (technically a floor sweeper)*, what else is there to give, or to receive? We can't have flowers in the house because the cats will eat/destroy them (and I'm tired of cleaning up the glass from all the broken vases). I like chocolate (though only dark chocolate), but it would go bad before I ate it. I don't really drink (despite those Facebook posts). And I'm an anti-social hermit who sits in front of a computer all day, fending off cats, so what's the point of jewelry?

And honestly, I don't need or want anything... except maybe courtside seats to a Knicks game or a pair of seats on the Giants 50 yard line or a month in some place sunny and warm near a beach or....

ANYWAY, the point is, after nearly 20 years of marriage, I know the spouse loves me, and I love him -- and neither of us needs to prove it with flowers or candy or jewelry or Hallmark cards. (Though if you really want to show me how much you love me, honey, you'll get all of your boxes and bins of stuff out of the family room and guest room and stick them back in your office.)

So this year I am boycotting Valentine's Day.

Who's with me?

*Also way up there, the soap box he got me for our anniversary last year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dog tested. Dog approved.

I'm a confirmed cat person, but I love a good dog ad. And Subaru's new "Dog Tested" campaign, which is airing during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, is doggone funny.

First up: "Subaru Dog Tested: Intro"

Next, "Subaru Dog Tested: Breeds"

Love the hunting dog.

And finally, the "Last One."

Hey, no barking at the cat -- or chasing squirrels!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tattoo it like Beckham?

For those who haven't beheld the very chiseled David Beckham running, swimming, jumping and kicking a football (aka soccer ball) in his skivvies, here you go.

You're welcome, ladies. Consider that an early Valentine's Day present.

(So guys, do you think Beckham did all his own stunts -- or did he have a body double? If the former, all I can say is WOW.)

There is no denying that Mr. Beckham, seen above advertising his new line of David Beckham Bodyware for H&M*, is a fine specimen of manhood. But I cannot get past all those tattoos, which (to me at least) are a major distraction -- and turnoff.

I just don't get why someone, especially someone who takes pride in his body, would wish to deface it like that. Though of course most people getting tattoos don't see it that way. One little tattoo? Okay, I can kind of get that. But having someone permanently ink you all over? Maybe there's something addictive in tattoo ink that compels users to keep going back for more.

Or maybe I'm just a cranky old woman who doesn't appreciate "art."

Oh, hold on a sec. There's something going on outside.

Hey, David Beckham! Get off my lawn!

*So if I buy some of this here bodyware for the spouse for Valentine's Day, will he look like David Beckham?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is ruffing awesome

It's been, like, months since we've had a viral video that has inspired dozens of parodies. And I know you, like me, were beginning to worry.

But now, my fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over (or beginning all over again, depending on your point of view).

I know I speak for over 90 million YouTube viewers when I say, Thank you Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (and Wanz) for giving us "Thrift Shop" (which is not safe for work or those with virgin ears).

More importantly, thank you, Pet Collective, for giving us Barklemore and the "Thrift Shop" parody "Pet Shop," which is barking adorable.

That was ruffing awesome.

(To see other "Thrift Shop" parodies, click here.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

View from a snow storm

Greetings from Southern New England, which feels like 20,000 leagues under the snow. (No sign of a giant snow squid yet, but you never know.)

For those of you who have forgotten what snow looks like, here's a reminder, brought to you by the letters J. (for J-TWO-O) and N., for Nemo.

Here's a photo of Snow Storm Nemo at 8:15 a.m. ET, after it had been snowing here for around an hour...

Here's what things looked like outside my front door at 11:15 a.m. ET...

Here's what Snow Storm Nemo had dumped on us by 2:15 p.m. ET, when I went to fetch the mail.

 And I took this shot while waiting for Mr. Tumnus to show up.

Yes, yes, I know: Very pretty! You want to come over here tomorrow and help shovel the stuff? (I am also terrified that we are going to lose power, again, when the wind starts howling.)

And that, boys and girls, is what eight inches (of snow) looks like.

UPDATED 2/19/13 at 10:15 a.m. ET:  Here is the same scene photographed in the first three shots.

I think we got around 18 inches of snow. Heard some towns in our state got over three feet of snow. Wind is still howling. Gusts up to 30 mph we hear, which has knocked the snow off the trees. It's a MIRACLE that no one in our little town lost power this time. (Hope I didn't just jinx us.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Who names these snow storms?!

Oh joy, another winter storm is heading our way. And according to the Weather Channel (and other sources) it may dump two feet or more of snow in Upstate New York and Northern New England.

The name of this storm, which the Weather Channel is calling an "historic, crippling blizzard"? Nemo. (We watch a lot of Weather Channel here at J-TWO-O HQ. So much so that for her last birthday I got the teenager autographed photos of Stephanie Abrams and Jennifer Carfagno.) WTF names an "historic, crippling blizzard" Nemo?

I don't know about all of you, but most people when they hear the name Nemo think of this cute little guy from the Disney animated film Finding Nemo.

I also think of Captain Nemo, the Jules Verne character, which is better, but still. Though apparently the name Nemo is derived from the Latin for "no one" and the Greek "I give what is due" (see nemesis), which would be more appropriate except I am so not due for more snow -- or another power outage. Thank you very much.

More importantly, WHY DO WE NEED TO NAME SNOW STORMS? And who comes up with these names? (You can see a full list of Winter Storm Names for the 2012-2013 season here.)

That said, how awesome would it have been if this storm was named Khan instead of Nemo?! KHAAAAAN! (Also, memo to the folks at the Weather Channel: Q may be a NYC subway line, but I guarantee the name refers to the Star Trek character Q.)

But Virgil and Yogi?! Come on, Weather Channel people! Virgil?! Pick a really menacing name, like Voldemort. (Though as the teenager pointed out, wouldn't that make it the storm that must not be named? Good point.) And Yogi? I don't know about all of you, but the only thing I want to protect when I hear Yogi may be blowing through is a picnic basket.

Sigh. Well, whatever you call it, I should probably lay in some supplies. Am now heading out to the liquor store.

Stay safe. And let me know how much snow you get. We're supposed to get around six inches here, but I never trust guys when they tell me I'm going to get six inches.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Are we raising incompetent human beings?

When I was growing up, my father, a confirmed male chauvinist and bachelor, may he rest in peace, used to say to me, "There's nothing more useless than a woman who can't cook and can't drive." (We shall ignore the fact that this was a man who ate Pepperidge Farm oatmeal raisin cookies for breakfast, along with half a grapefruit or cantaloupe, which his cleaning woman would halve for him.)

At the time, my response was, Why when you live in New York City does a woman need to cook or drive?!

Oh how times have changed. Dad, you were right.

But it isn't just girls who should know how to cook and drive -- and know how to keep a checkbook, and do laundry, and shop on a budget -- before they go off to college. It's boys, too.

Maybe it's because I was the only child of a single working mom, but by the time I was 13 I was doing my own laundry, making my bed and cleaning my room (daily), and cooking. And I could sew a button on and darn holes in clothes. A few years later, I was buying my own clothes on a budget.

Yet I am constantly surprised by how few teenagers today, or maybe it's just suburban teens of well-off parents, know how to take care of themselves. Maybe this isn't a new problem, and I am just more aware of it now that I am a mother of a teen. But I worry about today's teens.

I also wonder what the cause is. Is it that parents try to teach their kids these skills but the kids refuse to learn? Or is it because the parents never taught them? And if it's the latter, why not?

I would love to hear from parents, dads as well as moms, whether or not your teen (or tween or twentysomething) knows how to cook and/or do laundry and/or helps out around the house -- either via a comment or by taking the anonymous poll below.

I'd also be interested in hearing what you all knew how to do by the time you went off to college.

Does your teen...

For the record, I taught our daughter how to do laundry when she turned 13, before she went off to a sleep-away program -- and she is now responsible for doing her own laundry and putting it away. She also cooks and buys her owns clothes. We are still working on getting her to clean up.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What I've been reading

Usually, I only list my half-dozen or so favorite recent reads in each Book Nook post. However, as I am a very picky reader, and knowing that a book I didn't love you just might, I decided to list all of the books I have read since my last Book Nook post, in the order I read them.

Also, instead of providing a summary and a link to Amazon, I put a single * by those books I recommend, two ** in front of those books I highly recommend, and a # by those books I intensely disliked or felt greatly let down by.

As for the books I disliked or did not recommend, it was typically because the author was a) too self-indulgent -- in love with his or her own prose -- and/or his or her tone or style turned me off; b) too many holes in the plot or the story or characters were too hard (at least for me) to believe; c) the ending sucked; or d) some combination of the aforementioned. (I am thinking of doing a blog post titled "Where did all the editors go?" or "Does anyone here know how to edit a book?")

If you would like more information about a book, Google it or go to Amazon.com -- or send me an email. And if you have a book you would like to recommend to readers, please leave the title and author in a comment. (Two of my favorite books below were recommended by members of my Book Buzz group -- and I greatly value personal recommendations.)

Note: A good many of the books below fall into the category of "Historical Fiction," i.e., books based on true stories and/or historical figures or events that are mostly factual but with fictional characters or events thrown in to spice things up. Some of these works of historical fiction are mysteries. There are also a couple of contemporary mysteries. And, yes, there are a couple of romance novels. But as is the case more and more, my favorite books tend to be nonfiction, and are more often than not written by journalists. (One day I hope to be in that crowd.)


The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Mozart’s Ghost by Julia Cameron

Beautiful Lies by Clare Clark

* The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart

# Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Then Comes Seduction by Mary Balogh

The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle

# A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry

* White Truffles in Winter by N. M. Kelby

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

* Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

* Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple


# Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ‘60s and Beyond by Jane Maas

** The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell by Rachel Herz

** Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

* The Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace by Molly Caldwell Crosby

For more (past) book recommendations, click here.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Are you ready for some Puppy Bowl?!

Coming this Sunday, February 3, at 3 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on Animal Planet.... It's Puppy Bowl IX!

And now, for the first time ever, here is an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Puppy Bowl, titled "Any Given Puppy Bowl."

(For a true behind-the-scenes look at Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl, including some interesting facts and figures, read this fascinating article in Forbes.)

Sure, puppies are cute and fun to watch, but can they do something useful, like predict who will win the Super Bowl?

Let's go to the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Puppy Predictor to find out!

Don't like that result, 49ers fans? No problem. Just check out the Animal Planet Super Bowl Puppy Predictor instead!

No matter which team you are rooting for, though, looks like a doggone good time.