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 and 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, 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.]