Sunday, August 31, 2014

Failure sucks

I am a failure.

Or, maybe I should say, I feel like a failure -- as in lacking professional (and personal) success.

As in, no matter how hard I work or try, it seems I never succeed, or my efforts fail to get noticed or make money. Apparently, like the poster says, my best just isn't good enough.

And as anyone who has studied really hard for a test, or spent days working on a paper, prepared really hard for a presentation, or worked her ass for a promotion or raise, only to get a poor grade, have the presentation fall flat, or get passed over for that promotion can tell you, failure sucks.

Sure, I know that somewhere out there there are people who have failed worse than I have. At least I think there are. I don't really know because you never (or rarely) read about them. Or you only read about them after they have failed and then become enormously successful. Or they failed so spectacularly that they make front page news.

Just read Inc. and Fast Company or The New York Times or Business Insider. (Or don't. It's reading all those entrepreneur and blogger success stories that got me to start my own blog and ecommerce business -- and into this funk.)

And while failing rarely feels good, social media has made us small-time, run-of-the-mill failures feel even worse. Indeed, if I am to believe everyone's Facebook or Twitter feed, I am the only failure out there.

By the way, for all of you out there reading this and saying "J! No wonder you are a failure. You have a bad attitude. You need to think positively! What you need is... a vision board!" Fuck you. And I mean that in the kindest, nicest way. It's like telling someone who is upset or stressed out "Just relax!" (Which doesn't work either.) Or "You need to meditate! And join a book club!" (Been there, done that. Feel worse.)

If I am a pessimist -- or, as I like to say, a realist -- it's because I did everything I was supposed to (or was told I needed or had to do); followed all the rules; and yet never won or got the promised reward. While I saw people who cheated or cut corners or just knew the right person get ahead.

Wait. What's that I hear? Tiny violins? Playing just for me? Yes, I hear them, too.

But the point of this post is not to elicit your sympathy. (Though if you do feel even the tiniest bit sorry for me or want to make me feel a little less like a failure, share a link to this blog and/or to my ecommerce clothing business on your social media feeds or blogs -- or just buy a t-shirt or polo shirt.)

Frankly, I'm not exactly sure what the point of this blog post is. Maybe it's to feel a little less alone -- to feel as though I am not the only one out there (or here) who spent days, or weeks, or months, or years laboring over something, really giving it my all, or my best, only to have it fall flat or not be noticed by anyone. (If you write an article or create a business and no one knows about it or talks about it on social media, have you actually written an article or created a business?)

Btw, that's not a call for you to one-up me with your failure stories. ("You think you failed? Let me tell you about the time I failed!") Or tell me about your dieting failures. (Please, I'm begging you, don't.) Or to humble brag about your failure. (Complaining about getting a million dollar bonus while your buddy got a five-million-dollar bonus does not make you a failure. It makes you a jerk.) But I could use, or would appreciate, a little company.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My kind of ice bucket challenge

This video of Patrick Stewart taking the ice bucket challenge for ALS may be my favorite.

Now that's my kind of ice bucket challenge!

Cheers Sir Patrick!

To find out more about ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, though some scientists have posited that Lou Gehrig didn't actually have ALS) and the Ice Bucket Challenge and/or to make a donation, go to the ALS Association.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A visit to Montauk and Amber Waves Farm

One of our favorite things to do when traveling is to sample the local delicacies (food) and visit the local farmers markets. And even though I have frequented the East End of Long Island (aka The Hamptons) for over 40 years, I had never eaten at the world famous Lobster Roll restaurant (aka LUNCH, though no one calls it that) or visited the fabulous Montauk Farmers Market or climbed to the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in the United States!

Until last week. And if or when you find yourselves on the East End of Long Island, in East Hampton, Amagansett, or Montauk, I highly recommend you do the same.

Here are some highlights of our recent visit, starting with the world famous Lobster Roll Restaurant, where we dined on succulent lobsters and drank Montauk OffLand IPA (or at least I did). Delish.

Thursday morning, my stepfather, the teenager, and I headed to the Montauk Farmers Market, a wonderful place where you can not only find the freshest vegetables and fruit but artisinal foods and drinks, such as Miss Lady Small Batch Root Beer (and Cream Soda)...

(We bought a bottle of each.)

And delicious fruit preserves from Josephine's Feast, in unusual flavors, such as Hand Foraged Wild Beach Plum Preserves (which won a Good Food award), Thick Cut Blood Orange Marmalade (amazing), Strawberry and Rhubarb Preserves, and Organic Pear Preserves (scented with ginger and fennel seed).

And you can't have jam without bread, right?

Fortunately, just a few feet away was Carissa's Breads, made and run by our friend Carissa. Her breads are amazing -- made with local ingredients and lots of love.

We tried her stout bread, which is made with the Montauk Brewing Company's Guardsman Stout. And from personal experience I can tell you, the stout bread is excellent, very flavorful (a bit like if you crossed rye with pumpernickel), especially with Mecox Bay Dairy cheese (wasn't able to snap a good photo, but their raw cheeses were delicious) or the Thick Cut Blood Orange Marmalade from Josephine's Feast.

We then headed over to the Amagansett Sea Salt booth, where we chatted with the owner, Steven, and the teenager sampled many of his locally farmed salts. (I do not like the taste of salt, so I take the teenager's word for it when she said the Amagansett sea salts she tasted were excellent.)

And, of course, there were lots of farmers selling vegetables and fruit, particularly tomatoes. There were tomatoes EVERYWHERE!

After depleting nearly all my cash at the Montauk Farmers Market (we also bought some delicious garlic-infused olive oil and some mango plums), we headed to the Montauk Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in the United States, dating back to George Washington's presidency, and well worth a visit.

The views from the top were breathtaking.

On our last full day, we paid a visit to Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, run by our friends Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow, the two hardest working women we know.

Visiting Amber Waves Farm is one of my favorite things about visiting Amagansett (along with late-afternoon beach walks and lunch at the Hampton Chutney Company).

Looking at these photographs of flowers, heirloom tomatoes, purple peppers, and eggplant, that I took at Amber Waves, I think you'll understand why.

(Tell me that white eggplant does not resemble the Grinch.)

And what better way to end the day than a long walk on the beach?

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

12 Things You'd Love to Say on Facebook... but won't (or shouldn't)

We've all had that moment on Facebook (which I often think should be called HumbleBrag) where we've seen a photo or read a status update and thought unkind thoughts -- but left a nice comment anyway. But what if people actually told the truth on Facebook? You know, wrote what they really thought?

[Thinks about this a minute. Realizes she is a) guilty of the occasional brag, whether done intentionally or not, and b) would probably have no Facebook friends if she didn't filter her thoughts.]

Okay, so that probably isn't going to happen. And probably shouldn't (most of the time). But admit it, at one time or another, you have probably thought one of the following when looking at Facebook -- and even went as far as typing it... and then quickly deleting it.

Herewith, 12 Things You'd Love to Say on Facebook... but won't (and, okay, probably shouldn't; listed in no particular order):

[NOTE: To all my friends and family members reading this, please remember that this is a satirical blog and that I'm not necessarily talking about you. I love your kids, cats, and dogs. Seriously, they are the cutest -- and so intelligent!]
  • Please stop using pictures of your kid(s) as your profile photo.

  • When was that profile photo taken, 10 years ago? 

  • Could you edit those photos before you post them? Half of them are blurry and do we really need to see six shots of you/your spouse/your best friend who isn't even on Facebook holding a glass of wine/margarita/beer?

  • Do you guys not see each other/live together/talk to each other anymore? Or are you just afraid if you don't wish your spouse a happy birthday/anniversary in 100 words or more on Facebook, letting everyone know you are happiest/luckiest gal/guy in the world, every year, that he/she will divorce you?

  • Hey, you two, could you conduct this conversation via email or Facebook Messenger?

  • Too much information!

  • Please stop signing me up for sh*t. If I wanted to play that game/have that app, I would have signed up for it myself.

  • Wow, you got fat/old!

  • OMFG, ANOTHER photo of your kid/dog/cat?! I hate to break it to you but no one besides you and your parents think your kid/dog/cat is that cute/talented (and I'm not so sure about your parents).

  • Please stop constantly posting articles about [INSERT POLITICALLY CHARGED TOPIC HERE].

  • You win. Your kid is way smarter than mine.

  • You win. Your life is way better than mine.
Care to add to the list? Just leave a Comment. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Late summer 2014 reading list

This Book Nook post has something for everyone. A biography of England's King Edward VII (one of the best biographies I have ever read). An interesting history of life at the Hotel Ritz in Paris leading up to and during the Second World War. Several clever mysteries. A smattering of romance. And two books about food/food trends.

I also noted two books that I had extremely high hopes for, which dashed them just over halfway through -- and I have still not forgiven the authors. Both of them received rave reviews, and one of them is up for a prestigious book award. So what do I know? (Plenty. But clearly I am not on the same page as the people who nominate books for awards.)

As per usual, I've divided the books into Fiction and Nonfiction and listed them alphabetically. I have also provided a brief description/summary of each title. If you want to know more about a book, Google the title -- or go to Amazon or GoodReads to read more in-depth descriptions and reviews. (To see previous book recommendations, click on the Book Nook label at the end of the blog post or the Book Recommendations link to the right.)


The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick. Fans of Eleanor of Aquitaine and tales of medieval France (and England) will enjoy this story of Eleanor (or Alienor as she was then known) of Aquitaine's early years as ruler of Aquitaine and France. The first book in a trilogy, The Summer Queen tells of Alienor's young marriage (at 13) to Louis VII of France in 1137, how it came to be annulled 15 years later, and her marriage to the 19-year-old Henry, Duke of Normandy, who became King of England at 20 (or 21). Well researched and well written, I found it a good, quick read and am looking forward to the next book in the series, The Winter Crown, about Alienor's life in England, which is scheduled to be published this fall.

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. A whodunnit -- written by a twentysomething native French speaker, which takes place in New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire -- that keeps you guessing until the very end. (I loved it, but many book reviewers here in the States were not as crazy about it as I was, or the millions of Europeans who made the book a smash hit in France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland, where the author is from.)

Imagine Nabokov's Lolita if Agatha Christie or Louise Penny had written it as a murder mystery.

The novel tells the story of one Marcus Goldman, a twentysomething writer whose first novel was a smashing success but now has writer's block -- and his publisher is about to sue his ass if he doesn't produce a new manuscript pronto. So Goldman turns to his mentor and former college professor, Harry Quebert, for guidance, visiting Harry at his home in a small beachside town in New Hampshire.

Shortly after arriving, however, Goldman learns of his mentor's long ago affair with a 15-year-old girl, who disappeared 33 years before. When the girl's bones are then found, along with the original manuscript of Quebert's prize-winning book that launched his career, in Quebert's yard, Quebert's affair is exposed and he is arrested for murder. With the world screaming for Quebert's head, and his publisher screaming for a manuscript, Goldman returns to New Hampshire to help Harry and search for the truth, launching his own investigation in the Harry Quebert affair -- and then writing about it. But nothing, it turns out, is as it seems.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). Reading The Silkworm reminded me of those classic Raymond Chandler whodunnits, updated for the Twenty-First Century. Instead of Philip Marlowe, however, we have Cormoran Strike, an Afghanistan war vet turned private investigator/detective who lives and works in London (and is aided by his very attractive, about-to-be married assistant, Robin). The case of the silkworm involves a second-rate author, who goes missing after penning a scathing, thinly disguised book about many people he knows in the publishing world. His long-suffering, rather odd wife wants him found. But when the author is discovered murdered in a grizzly fashion, everyone, it seems, is a suspect. Fast-paced and well-written, The Silkworm is in the noir fiction tradition of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger. A novel of intrigue set mainly in 1385 London, Chaucer's England, featuring Geoffrey Chaucer and many other prominent historical characters of the time. The "burnable book" in question is a book prophesying the deaths of the kings of England, including the death of England's new young king Richard II. Many want to get their hands on the book, for different reasons, but all who seek or possess it seem to die or suffer. It is up to John Gower, a poet and trader of information, to find the truth -- and the book.Good historical, or medieval, mystery.

Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James. As many of you know, romance novels are my guilty pleasure. And I typically don't feature them on these book posts because I am a bit embarrassed. But it's summer, and I love Eloisa James, who, ahem, has a BA from Harvard, an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale and is an English professor, in addition to being a best-selling, award-winning writer of romance novels. (Feeling a bit intimidated? I know I am.)

Three Weeks with Lady X is her latest novel, and, I think, one of her best. I could give you a brief description of the plot, but is that really necessary? (Oh if I must. Thorn Dautry, rich, handsome bastard son of a duke needs a wife. So he sets his sights on a proper young lady and hires Lady Xenobia India, a society decorator, who happens to be young, beautiful, and headstrong, to make his new abode, and himself, presentable in just three weeks. Of course, this being a romance novel, things don't go exactly as planned and... passions are ignited.) Anyway, if romance novels are your guilty pleasure, too, pick up Three Weeks with Lady X. You won't be disappointed.

The Other Language by Francesca Marciano. I am not a big fan of short story collections. Not sure why. I think it's because I find them uneven and unsatisfying. But something about The Other Language intrigued me enough to check it out. Maybe because it is written by an Italian, and most of the stories are set outside the United States, in Italy, India, and Africa. And I love books set in other places, told from a non-American point of view.

In any case, while the stories in The Other Language are all a bit (or more) sad and depressing -- tales of love (or lust) and loss -- they are beautifully and movingly told (the word poignant keeps springing to mind). I also found them all too relatable and  admired the author's ability to capture moments in relationships.

Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell. A fictionalized account of the heyday of English soprano Anna Storace, an opera singer who achieved fame at 16 and went on to become Mozart's muse. Written by an American opera singer, Vienna Nocturne takes readers on an tour of some of late Eighteenth Century Europe's great opera houses (in England, Italy, and Vienna) and stars -- and makes you feel as though you had box seats. I am not a fan of opera, yet I enjoyed this well written, well researched book.

The House at Tyneford by Naomi Solomons. I keep swearing off books about World War II and events leading up to the Second World War, especially books about the cruel treatment, deportation, torture, and massacre of Jews. (Too hard/depressing for me to read.) And yet they somehow keep finding their way into my book bag. That said, I fell in love with this novel of a 19-year-old Viennese Jewish girl whose family sends her to England to escape the coming war and the new family she finds there. A tale of love and loss and war, beautifully told.


The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo. The Nazi occupation of Paris observed from inside the Hotel Ritz, where Nazis, the rich and famous, Allies, and spies for both sides lived and mingled. A work of nonfiction, the book at times reads like a spy novel or pulp fiction and includes plenty of glitz and glamor, as well as a history of the Hotel Ritz and some of its famous occupants and regulars, going back to its opening in 1898.

The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley. One of the best biographies I've read -- extremely well researched and very well written. Ridley gives readers a full-blown portrait of Edward VII, aka Albert Edward or Bertie, from his boyhood to his coronation and death, uncovering many previously unknown or forgotten facts about not only Edward but about his role in governing England and the political conflicts of the time (mid to late 1800s through the early 1900s). She also gives us a glimpse into the life of Queen Victoria, his mother, a perfectly horrible sounding woman and mother, and her family, and Bertie's wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark. A fascinating read. Highly recommend, especially if you are an Anglophile.

Save the Deli: In Search of the Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen by David Sax.Warning: Do not read this book unless you have a really good pastrami, or corned beef, or turkey sandwich, on rye bread, with a side of coleslaw, handy. Which, considering there are no great delis anymore, or very few, will be tough to find. So prepare to be hungry.

Save the Deli in short is a love letter to that temple of smoked or cured meats and schmaltz that Jews (and non-Jews) flocked to for centuries. Sax, a Canadian, spent several years traveling the United States, Canada, and Europe in search of the last remaining delis, sampling their wares and writing about what made them great (both the food and the people) and why so many once great delis -- institutions -- closed (mainly in New York, because the rent is so high) and why and how they have managed to survive in other places (namely Los Angeles).

The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed up with Fondue by David Sax. Great idea. Inconsistently executed. If you are into food (i.e., a foodie) and/or amused by food trends, this is a must read. Sax discusses a variety of food trends, past and present -- from cupcakes to Chia seeds to food trucks to fondue -- how they arise and how and why they peter out. And he includes many interesting anecdotes and facts about food marketing that people who are into food and/or food trends will find interesting.

That said, throughout the book, I kept getting the feeling that Sax bit off more than he could chew and/or lost interest and was rushing to get the book to his publisher. (As it turned out, his wife had a baby while he was writing this, and I don't doubt he was sleep deprived and distracted much of the time, though shame on his editors for not catching or introducing so many errors and typos and/or not fact checking the manuscript, wrote the former fact checker.)

Books That Really Pissed Me Off

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. Loved the first half, about a dentist looking for meaning in his life -- was laughing out loud and proclaiming what a great little book this was. Hated the second half. WTF Ferris? Was so very, very disappointed. Had a great premise, a great narrative approach, and just went off the rails, or the deep end, totally blowing it for me about halfway through.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I similarly quickly fell in love with this book about a curmudgeonly bookstore owner who overcomes tragedy to find love -- but became disillusioned and upset about two-thirds of the way in, albeit for different reasons than I wound up disliking To Rise Again at a Decent Hour.That said, those who enjoy books with tragic twists will probably enjoy it as it is well written, often amusing, and poignant (yes, that word again).

Read any good books lately, especially ones that made you laugh out loud? Let me -- and other readers -- know via the Comments.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are you an askhole?

Know someone who always asks you for advice -- and either ignores it or does the opposite, like, all the time? Well, apparently there is a name for that type of person. It's askhole.

[H/T to Larissa]

Everyone knows one (or two). And, okay, we all have probably been guilty of being an askhole at one time or another, about something. (Guilty.)

However, I would argue there is a difference between asking someone to be a sounding board, or occasionally asking someone for her opinion or advice and not necessarily following it and constantly asking someone for advice only to constantly ignore it and do whatever it was you were planning on doing or buying anyway.

That effing drives me crazy.

This card is for those people. (And I am very tempted to print it and hand it to people when they ask for my advice.)

[For those who can't see the image, it says "Please don't ask for my advice if you're just going to go fuck up your life anyway." To which I say, amen.]

Moral of this blog post: Don't ask for advice unless you really want it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Got Milk? Caturday Edition

Some cats like to drink their milk from a saucer or bowl...

While some cats prefer to be bottle fed...

And there are those cats who like their milk straight up, or down...

Direct from the cow.

(I think I've milked this post for all its worth.)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When pigs surf

Meet Kama, the Surfing Pig.

Kama's owner, Kai, took this video (using a GoPro camera) of himself and Kama surfing on Sandy Beach on Oahu, and I had to share.

Just watch Kama hog ten!


(Somewhere out there there is a skydiving pig. And when I find that video, I am going to title the post "When pigs fly.")

P.S. Please think good thoughts for Hawaii, especially the Big Island, which is directly in the path of two hurricanes, which are expected to make landfall tonight or tomorrow (Friday). Very scary.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is your glass half empty or half full?

Went out for lunch today with the spouse and my (unsweetened) iced tea came in this glass,

which has a line about halfway up with the word optimist on top of the line and pessimist below it.

Over the course of lunch, I kept staring at the glass until I got to the line. It was decision time.

Was I an optimist or a pessimist?

The verdict: I am a realist. Technically, the glass was half empty, as I had drunk half of the iced tea. Did that make me a pessimist? No. Had the glass been empty and the waitress filled it up halfway, I would have said it was half full.

So, what about all you? Do you see the glass half empty or half full? Do you consider yourself a pessimist or an optimist? Let me know via the Comments.

(Psst. All you pessimists. Check out these cool glasses over at I may have to get one.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cappuccino potato chips?

I like cappuccino.

I like potato chips.

But I refuse to eat cappuccino potato chips.

Seriously, WTF Lay's? (Or maybe that should be "Lay's WTF Potato Chips.")

For those of you who, like me, were on vacation in July and missed the news, on July 17, Lay's
announced the four finalist flavors in its Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” contest. Lay’s Cappuccino, Lay’s Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Lay’s Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger and Lay’s Wavy Mango Salsa flavored potato chips were selected as finalists from the more than 14 million entries submitted to the contest between January 13 and April 5, 2014.
Lay's goes on to state that "all four finalist flavors have been fully developed by Frito-Lay’s culinary experts." (I can only imagine what that job must have been like... and what their current life expectancy is.)

Lest you think this is some kind of joke, all four flavors are currently available on supermarket shelves (my foodie friend Molly posted a picture of the Cappuccino Lay's bag, taken on a recent supermarket run, on her Facebook page) and "the finalist behind the winning idea taking home a $1 million grand prize."

I am so in the wrong line of work.

One million dollars for coming up with Cappuccino potato chips... or Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese potato chips, or Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger potato chips or Wavy Mango Salsa flavored potato chips.

(What, no beer-flavored potato chips?!)

Just take a minute for that to settle in. 

Btw, the guy who submitted the Cappuccino Potato Chip idea is getting his PhD (in Food Science?) at Texas A&M and is currently a visiting lecturer at UNLV.

Ironically (?), Lay's Cappuccino potato chips have no caffeine, which, to me, is a total buzzkill.

But maybe I'm being too critical. Maybe Cappuccino potato chips (even without the caffeine) are an effing brilliant idea. Ditto Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese potato chips. (Though isn't the name a bit redundant?) Or Wasabi Ginger potato chips. Or Mango Salsa chips. (I do like mango salsa, albeit on tortilla chips.)

What do you all think? Would any of you actually eat any of these chips?

(Here's the "Do Us a Flavor" press release from Lay's if you want to learn more, or vote for your favorite potato chip flavor.)