Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Have Moved!!

After 9, yes 9 years of blogging here on Blogger, I decided it was finally time for a little upgrade and I am excited to announce that I have now moved!

Don't worry, this site will still be here. I may even post occasionally just to be sure you're still paying attention, but my my site is way bigger and better and much easier to read and navigate. You will love it.

Please visit Victoriafedden.com right now.

Please update your bookmarks, etc.

On the new site, most importantly, you'll find a new home for My Blog. Please check out the current post about how my friends get me through the worst.

An About page.

A Book Club Page dedicated to my book reviews, recommendations and discussion questions about books I've read and loved.

A Recipes Page where I share all the yummy things I cook. Right now I have an amazing cranberry scone recipe up.

A whole page just for Nasty-Assed Recipes.

Writing Tips and Inspiration for Writers.
 
An easy place to find the books I've written.

A simple way to Contact me.

Don't forget you can still always find me on my Facebook page too where I share articles I've written, new blog posts and general stuff I find and love.

Please be sure to sign up for my Newsletter as well! Sign up form is at the bottom of this video post.

I'm excited to see you at my new home! Please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Back in the Day Vs. Now: The More Things Change...


Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love the food, the cheer, the time spent with family. Some of my best childhood memories are of my Thanksgivings past, all viewed from the kids’ table of course. Now that I have a daughter, I am more and more aware of how things have changed since I was little, in some ways for the better. For years I thought I didn’t like sweet potatoes because the ones we had back in the 70s were dumped out of a big, purple and orange can and smothered in mini-marshmallows. The millennial roasted, organic garnet yam version is WAY better.
 But as they say, as much as things change, they also stay the same.

Here’s a little side by side comparison of Thanksgiving back in the day and Thanksgiving now:

Then: Bundle up the kids and drive across town to Grandma’s House. Over the river and through the woods and all that. 
Now: Pack up the entire family, kennel the dogs, rush to the airport, endure an hour long security line, almost miss your plane and then fly across the country to grandma’s house. On the busiest travel day of the year of course.

Then: Throw the Butterball in the oven until it’s done.
Now: Brine the farm-raised, humanely slaughtered, organic turkey in a mixture of wine, Himalayan salt, juniper berries and star anise. Wrap it in grass-fed butter soaked cheese cloth after inserting decorative herb leaves under the skin and roast gently in a convection oven. Glaze with a chipotle spiked pomegranate molasses.

Then: Cranberry sauce plops right out of the can onto the dish with convenient lines for slicing!
Now: Are these cranberries GMO?
                                                                                                                                                  
Then: All the young men in the family have perms and mustaches and want to do The Hustle.
Now: All the young men in the family look Amish, complete with huge beards, have at least one ear tunnel and want to be organic farmers and run their own CSAs.



Then: You don’t eat meat? Well here, turkey’s not meat, it’s poultry. No? Ok, have some stuffing then. It’s not made with meat. Just some broth. What’s the big idea here? Are you voting for Carter or something?
Now: Oh my God, should we get the vegetarians a Field Roast or Tofurkey? Or make a lentil loaf and serve it in an acorn squash? Is Field Roast gluten free?

Then: Football!! Let’s go play outside and then come inside and watch the game.
Now: Umm, HELLO?? Have you never heard of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy? How about some Montessori games on the iPad for the kids instead? And can we go ironically retro and maybe watch The Sound of Music on Apple TV instead?

Then: Everyone’s in an uproar because Cousin Earl is showing off his tattoo that he got in the Navy. Rumors are going around that Cousin Kevin might be, you know, G. A. Y. because he has an earring.
Now: Everyone has a tattoo. The baby practically has a tramp stamp and look at Grandma rocking her new ink over there as she mashes those potatoes. And by the way, Cousin Kevin IS gay, every guy at the table has an earring or two or three, Cousin Katie has her nipple pierced and a beauty mark stud and no one cares about any of it. Except maybe Grandpa but he’s too busy trying to find out what in the devil this Brazilian wax nonsense is that everyone’s been talking about. What in the dickens is the matter with folks? Back in his day, a man appreciated a lady with a nice, full…GRANDPA STOP IT!!



Then: Well, we might hit the K-Mart or Sears tomorrow to see if they have any sales going on.
Now: We’re having dinner at one in the afternoon because we need to get the dishes washed and the food put away because the Mall opens at five pm and BLACK FRIDAY STARTS THURSDAY EVENING, BITCHES. I AM GETTING A FLAT SCREEN TV FOR TWO DOLLARS THIS YEAR IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO! And don’t think I won’t cut somebody if I have to.

Then: The kids are putting on an adorable reenactment of the first Thanksgiving. Aww, look at the little Pilgrims and Indians learning to share and live together in harmony.
Now: No way are we going to propagate a fake fairy tale story that did not happen in order to sugar coat the facts about how a bunch of bigoted, intolerant religious fanatics came over here from Europe to steal the native tribes’ land and kick off a centuries long, brutal genocide. Plus, they didn’t even have turkey back then. I’m sorry but Squanto was eating acorns, oysters and freakin’ squirrels.



Then: Polaroids and flash bulbs. Get around to dropping the film off at the Fotomat after Christmas. Hopefully. Then maybe by Easter someone will finally manage to stick all the pictures into a big, vinyl covered photo album.
Now: Instagram this immediately. Tag me. Delete that! I look fat. Untag me! Did you post that without asking me? Oh my God! How many likes did we get?   #FamilyThanksgiving2014 #OMGSoFull  #YesIAteThat 

Then: Kids arguing over the wishbone.
Now: Everyone takes a turn doing a wishbone selfie.

Then: Green bean casserole! Sneak all the crunchy onions off the top!
Now:   Green bean casserole. Sneak all the crunchy onions off the top!



Then: Grandpa’s wearing a leisure suit and bitching about taxes, Democrats and gas prices.
Now: Grandpa is still wearing a leisure suit and bitching about taxes, Democrats and gas prices.

Then: Ehn, we’ll probably go cut down a tree in a couple weeks and get it up in time for Christmas, once we untangle all the darned strings of Christmas lights we tossed in a cardboard box in the basement.
Now: That sucker’s been up since Halloween. Pre-lit, for the win.

Then: Here have a slice of Mrs. Smith’s Pumpkin Pie with some Cool Whip on top.
Now: How about a pumpkin spice latte with pumpkin spice oreos, pumpkin spice Pringles, pumpkin spice Milano cookies, pumpkin spice kale chips, pumpkin spice coffee with pumpkin spice creamer to go in it, pumpkin spice bagels with pumpkin spice cream cheese, pumpkin spice hummus, pumpkin spice marshmallows and pumpkin spice m&ms? And if your skin feels a little dry we also have pumpkin spice hand cream which goes nicely with our pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice air freshener and pumpkin spice shampoo.

Then: You got out of bed excited to see Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Bullwinkle and Kermit float down Broadway in the Macy’s Parade. You were really excited to see the Rockettes too and if the reception was bad you were totally willing to hold the tin foil on the rabbit ears so you didn’t miss a thing.
Now: You get out of bed excited to see Pikachu, Sponge Bob and some freaky looking, faceless, silver rabbit thing floating down Central Park South. And okay, you’re still really excited to see The Rockettes and if the satellite goes out on the TV it’s fine. You can live stream the parade on your laptop.



Then: Your family’s nuts, you’re stuffed, you’re happy and most of all, you’re thankful for everything.
Now: Your family’s nuts, you’re stuffed, you’re happy and most of all, you’re thankful for everything.

#HappyThanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Bouqs - Product Review!

This post contains affiliate links and I was given a free bouquet of flowers in exchange for an honest review.

I always said that if I were really rich that I would always have fresh flowers in all the rooms of my home. I would change them seasonally, have themed flowers, flowers growing, cut flowers. I really love flowers. I'm definitely not one of those girls who complains about flowers being impermanent or that red roses are unoriginal. I love them all. Flowers are one of the ways to my heart. Another tip? Give me chocolate AND flowers and I'm pretty much putty in your hands. But anyway...

I also like to send flowers to other people. Unfortunately this is usually cost prohibitive and difficult. A long time ago I used Hallmark Flowers exclusively to send arrangements mostly to my grandmothers or for funerals, etc. They were reasonable, reliable and had consistent quality but then, unfortunately, Hallmark discontinued their flower department. I tried Martha Stewart with okay results, but she too discontinued her flower service. FTD and the like were left but I often found them to be expensive and really unreliable. You'd order one thing and get something totally different, which sucks and can be embarrassing so honestly, I stopped sending people flowers through the mail. I only deliver them in person now. That's kind of sad though because there are many occasions where I want someone far away to receive a bouquet.

Luckily, I think I may have found a solution.

A couple months ago (sorry guys) The Bouqs, a new floral delivery service, contacted me and offered to let me pick out a free bouquet of flowers from their web site in exchange for a review. Great, I thought, because as I said before, I LOVE flowers!

The first thing about The Bouqs that impressed me was their aggressive marketing skills, but we all know that without a great product your marketing skills amount to nothing but BS. For me to be really impressed, these guys needed to deliver. Umm, literally I guess since we're talking mail order flowers.

When I went on their website to choose my free review bouquet (okay not totally because I had to pay for shipping, but that's fine) I was really impressed. A lot of times I get frustrated when I try to order anything online. Sometimes site layouts can be confusing and annoying and I have a hard time finding what I'm looking for. Not here. These guys have their site organized beautifully and it's not too cluttered. You can easily see the products and prices and the ordering instructions are simple and pretty much hassle-free. Big plus to me because I kind of hate shopping and filling out online forms. If something is even remotely annoying to fill out I will usually say, screw it and give up. I'm kind of ADD like that.

The best part for me, and I honestly thought this was genius, was that when you look at each bouquet they offer, you can see customers' pictures of the same products. I LOVED this idea because look, we all know catalog style photos aren't totally realistic. I would rather see a real customer's actual photo of their actual bouquet and how they displayed it. I found this enormously helpful. Loved, loved, loved this idea. You can also go on Instagram and search the hashtags #bouqs and #bouqslove to see real photos of the flowers.

I chose the Confetti Bouquet and I picked this one because I thought for reviewing purposes I should pick something basic and yet colorful and probably roses since people most commonly send roses. They arrived in a big box via Fed Ex a couple days later. They were heavily packaged and the stems were coated in some kind of gel that keeps the flowers alive and fresh and even though I live in stinking hot Florida the flowers were cold when they arrived so I'm guessing they ship them refrigerated somehow? Anyway, the flowers were very sturdy and healthy but be careful unwrapping roses. These had a lot of very big thorns and I kept getting poked. I kind of wish they could clip some of those off before sending them, at least the giant ones, but that might be labor intensive.

Here is one word of caution. When you order flowers from The Bouqs you are not ordering from a traditional florist where the flowers come already prepared and arranged for you in a vase. You or your recipient need to find your own vases and the arranging is up to you once you get the flowers out of the box. I don't particularly mind this, especially if I'm saving money but for a more romantic occasion where you want the showy arrangement with the balloons and the crystal vase and the whole shebang you might want to go with a traditional florist instead. I'm just saying.

My flowers were very fresh. They really seemed like they were picked and immediately packed and sent and I was glad to see they weren't wilty and that they had thick, strong stems. These flowers arrived in very good shape. I cut their stems, divided them into a few different vases for different rooms and by the next day they had all fully opened. So pretty. I was really happy that I chose The Confetti because they were very colorful. I'm big on color and I got a good variety. My favorite were the lavender roses.

They lasted about a week. I probably should have tossed them after six or seven days but I got attached so at ten days, when they were truly a lost cause and getting stinky I threw them away. But I was sad to see them go. Some people have luck drying roses, but I didn't feel like doing that.

Now here are my criticisms. I pride myself on doing complete honest reviews. I think my readers deserve that and if I'm going to recommend something I'm going to tell you the truth. I think some of the arrangements are too pricy especially because you can run down to your nearest Trader Joe's or Whole Foods and get the same thing. For instance, check out my favorite arrangement from the current holiday themes. It's five sunflowers. For fifty dollars. Seriously?? You can get that at the grocery store for around $12.99 here and cheaper at Trader Joe's where I've seen comparable sunflower bouquets for as low as $5.99. A lot of the bouquets are prices competitively and reasonably, but some, like this one, are not. I think The Bouqs could do a little better there.

My other issue is not so much a criticism but more of a wish list. I wish The Bouqs offered a little more obvious theming. I like to send flowers that are obvious to the occasion or holiday. If you click on holiday themes now you are led to a page of orange bouquets gleaned from other collections. I think this is an area where The Bouqs needs improvement. If I could get a really nice, Thanksgiving arrangement I would totally order it but I want something that says Thanksgiving more than just the color orange, you know? Maybe some wheat, some berries of some sort, fall leaves? I am anxious to see what they will offer for Christmas. I'd like to see some poinsettias, holly and pine and something uniquely beautiful that cannot be found faster and cheaper at the grocery store.

Other than that, I had a positive experience with this company. Their strong points are the ease in ordering, the efficiency in delivery and most definitely the freshness and quality of the flowers. I wish them much success and thank them for letting me try and review their product!
Thursday, October 02, 2014

Tips for Parents Dealing With Picky Eaters or How to Get Your Kid to Eat...Something.

1. Speak french all the time. Play "La Vie en Rose" on a loop and wear jaunty neck scarves whenever you are around your child. Prepare elaborate, cream-sodden, multi-course meals each night and drink as much red wine as possible. At the very least, after this much effort you should be able to get your kid to at least take a bite of a chocolate croissant and at least you get wine. If all else fails, you could just move to France because everyone over there is perfect and immediately upon arrival on french soil your jeune fille will be eating aubergine and betterave and channeling her inner Amelie.




2. Plant a large, organic vegetable garden with your little one. Children enjoy digging in the dirt and seeing where vegetables come from. After hours of backbreaking labor, a fortune spent on seeds, compost and god knows what else, this method is guaranteed to get your child to eat...dirt. While gardening your kid will definitely eat some dirt. And possibly a snail he found while playing in the mud while you attempt to prune your zucchini, but that's great because ESCARGOT! See #1 again. Escargot are french.

3. Do not engage in power struggles with your child over food. Mainly because you will lose. Every. Single. Time. You are powerless over mac and cheese from a box, frozen waffles and gummi anything.

4. Leave your children at someone else's house for a brief time. They may shriek with terror and act like you are trying to poison them if you so much as offer a single green pea but for your sister? They'll gladly eat marrow braised broccolini with sea urchin beurre blanc. They do this to screw with your head. They think it's hysterical when your sister says: "I don't know why you think they're so picky. They ALWAYS eat for me."

5. Take your pre-schooler for a ride in the car. Guaranteed he or she will find an entire meal of stale, half-crushed goldfish, old Cheerios and lint-covered fruit snacks in the crevices of the car seat and chow down. 








6. Let your child help you prepare a meal. Children love to assist in the kitchen and after you spend a whole night in the ER (relax, she only got 3 stitches from the paring knife, could've been worse) you'll both be starving and you can stop at the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru on the way home. Your kid will exclaim with glee "Mommy! Can we cook together more often? Stitches were totally worth getting to have chicken nuggets and waffle fries!"

7. Never use dessert as a reward. Serve them dessert at the same time as their meal and let your young one moderate his or her own food choices. This method really works if you want your kid to eat. He or she will definitely eat. The dessert. The kale will remain untouched but the vanilla pound cake with strawberry frosting will be gone in less than thirty seconds. Remember that old Bill Cosby routine about chocolate cake being healthy because it has grain, milk and eggs? Yeah. Go with that. Bill Cosby is a wise man.


8. Small children love dips. Customizing their food gives them a sense of control! It also ensures that at some point you will utter the phrases: "Ranch dressing isn't a beverage!!" and "That hummus is NOT hand lotion!!" But ranch is kind of nutritious, right?

9. Make a tasty nibbler tray! Spend an hour carving several healthy vegetables and fruits into fun shapes and adorable cut outs. Arrange them beautifully in an ice cube tray (does anyone have those anymore??) and set it out where your youngster can graze as he plays. On crayons, sticker paper and pretty much everything in the general vicinity of the tasty nibbler tray EXCEPT what is in the tasty nibbler tray.




10. Get a cat or a dog. Pets are great for children and playing with a beloved animal will help them work up an appetite. Kids simply can't resist a nice bowl of cat or dog crunchies, especially if they've been sitting out for several hours and have lots of dog slobber and pet hair stuck to them. Kibble is even better when dipped in the pet's water dish. Fear not, have you seen the ingredients in pet food these days? Salmon? Brown Rice? Kale? Omega 3s? Shoot, they even make GLUTEN FREE cat food now.

11. Don't give up. Keep presenting unwanted vegetables to your children and eventually they will become familiar treats. Of course by then your kids will be 19 and away in college and said vegetables will be offered by Hare Krishnas at their free vegetarian dinners, but whatever. Hare Rama. Your son and daughter finally ate some broccoli and cabbage. They're vegans now too and so what if they're wearing bindis and smell like Nag Champa and are threatening to follow a jam band around the country? You've done your job, Mom. Just look at them tearing up those veggie burritos.


Friday, September 05, 2014

Stop Being An Asshole on The Internet


I guess it's safe to say that last week I had a post go viral and while I have experienced some small degree of Internet success before, this was like nothing that had ever previously happened.

It got so crazy that a friend actually messaged me and said she was worried about me. I reassured her that I was fine.

"But the comments!" she said.

"I ignore them," I told her.

Because I do. And so should you. And you and you too.

Trust me, I get that this can be extremely difficult. For like the first fifteen minutes of my article being viral I was truly tempted to read and respond to comments but then my better sense took hold and I went and played with my daughter and convinced myself that none of it existed. Because honestly? It doesn't.

Comments on the Internet aren't real. They don't matter. They rarely (if ever) make any actual difference in our lives unless, of course, we let them. They are like the noise of a traffic jam. Picture yourself trapped on a giant, crowded parking lot of a freeway in Los Angeles during rush hour in a rainstorm where everyone has road rage and PMS and probably caffeine withdrawal too all at once. Imagine the sounds of the honking horns, the yelling, the skidding and braking, tires squealing. But also imagine yourself safe inside your car, ignoring the noise, turning up some NPR and waiting it out. That's what you have to do with comments on the Internet, be they on facebook, in a forum or a Facebook group, the comments section of a blog post or any other form of online communication. 

The opinions of total strangers are inconsequential. They are to be taken in stride. A lot of them are seriously bat shit crazy. Case in point: someone managed to somehow, God help them, make my back to school post about the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. I kid you not. That takes some skill. This person was like an advanced level Internet troll to make a leap like that. I was sort of impressed.

Last week my article ended up on the Huffington Post and I was so excited. Having a piece on there has been a long term career goal of mine and I was prepared. My friends started calling me up and asking me if I had seen the comments on there and oh my God people were calling me names!!!

I never read a single one of them. I don't really care if people were calling me names because first of all these people are strangers, their behavior reflects more poorly on them than it ever could on me and I just don't care.



The first rule of fight club, I mean writing for Huffington or any other big online publication is "NEVER READ THE COMMENTS."

You know those jail scenes in movies where someone has to walk through a corridor of cells and the prisoners inside are all going totally ape shit yelling and screaming, spitting, throwing poop and hurling insults? That's Huffington's comment section and you've got to walk through there unscathed, pretending none of it exists. Don't dare engage with the rioters or someone's going to reach out through the bars and wipe his jizz on you. Do not make eye contact with the prisoners under any circumstances.

That's how I maintain my sanity most of the time, but although I have a pretty much iron will about this sort of thing, it can still be hard, and my experience last week has me thinking.




We all need to stop being such assholes on the Internet.

But, duh. That's kind of obvious, right? I think we all know this already as it applies to others, but not to ourselves. So I decided to make a handy guide.

Are You Being An Asshole on the Internet?

1. Are you arguing with a total stranger?

2. Are you mad because someone on the Internet is wrong?

3. Did you read something that pissed you off on the Internet and decide that you needed to respond to it immediately? Like NOW.

4. Were you personally offended by something someone else said or did on the Internet?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions you need to get off of the computer immediately, get a popsicle and go outside and no, you can't bring your phone. You need a break. You are most likely being an asshole on the Internet. If you look up you might see the underside of a bridge because you could very well be a troll.

If you have determined (as hard as it is to admit) that you are at risk for being an asshole on the Internet, please read the following words of advice.

How to Stop Being an Asshole on the Internet

1. Take a deep breath. Step away from the computer or phone or whatever freaking device you are using to be an asshole on the Internet.

2. Gain some perspective. There are many many people in the world who have different opinions than you and that is okay. There are people with different aesthetic preferences, different ideas of what is funny, different thresholds for finding things offensive and different backgrounds that all contributed to their differing worldviews. And we are all going to be okay in spite of this. 

3. You aren't going to change anyone's mind by arguing with them on Facebook or in a comments section. I know this is a hard truth to bear, but suck it up and face the facts. Arguing never convinces anyone. It just makes them more mad and more defensive.

4. Pointing out that someone else is wrong doesn't automatically make you right.

5. If you really want to change people's minds and opinions, don't worry about them at all. Live your own best life and be a role model. For example, if you are a vegan animal rights activist, instead of shaming meat eaters and arguing and calling them all murderers, how about let them taste your yummy vegan food? Let them see how healthy your glow is and how great you feel. Then when they ask your secret, tell them it's because you don't eat animal products and leave it at that. If they ask about it, answer their questions. And if they don't ever ask and keep eating steaks? Who cares? Keep doing the thing you love and feel is best for you.

6. Many of the bloodiest Internet arguments I've seen have been between parents with different views on how to best raise kids. Let me end this shit right now. First, kids are pretty resilient. The fact that I survived my childhood and grew up to write this post is testament to that. Second, there's a very wide margin of error in child raising. If children are loved, fed and sheltered they're pretty much going to be okay. If you are really worried about the well being of children then take your smug ass of the computer and save the kids who actually need it, you know, the ones who live in poverty and abuse in our inner-cities and impoverished rural areas. Help the kids who live in shelters, the kids whose mothers' boyfriends beat the crap out of them, the kids who have no access to fresh fruits and have to eat a bag of Cheetos for dinner. Stop bitching out some bedraggled, middle class mom with a blog who stopped breastfeeding after a week and switched to formula and channel your venom into fixing a world where children in the projects actually choke to death on cockroaches. How about that?

7. We are all on our own paths in life. We learn at our own pace through different experiences. Many people's belief systems, especially the ones you think are really messed up, were cemented at a young age. Many people believe the things they do because they were born into certain belief systems. Often, we inherit our opinions from our cultures, religions and families. Sometimes our beliefs are sealed by fear. Some people will be able to change their minds and others won't. That's just the way it goes and you and your online raving isn't going to make much of a dent, so have compassion and try to put yourself in someone else's position, imagining how or why they believe what they do and then leave it alone.

8. Go do something fun. Please. Get out of the house and engage in some real-life, face to face positive human interaction.

9. Make this your new mantra: Just because someone says something doesn't make it true. 


 10. In the event that you have posted something on the Internet which has inspired comments understand this: no matter what it is, 1/3 of people will love it, 1/3 will be indifferent and 1/3 will hate it. Out of the 1/3 that hate it, a significant portion is likely to
be insane. It's not personal. It's kind of a numbers game and you can't please everyone.

11. By next week the people you're arguing with are likely to have completely forgotten you anyway so who cares?

12. Your opinion, rant, diatribe, etc. ultimately doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. If you are passionate about a topic then go out and actually do something. Take action. You might think that commenting is taking action but it's not. It can be the start of action in the best possible scenario, but usually it isn't.

13. When you bitch someone out, call them names, wish ill will to the mothers of people you have never met and will never meet, you are, alas, only reflecting poorly upon yourself and not the other person. How you act and what you say is always only about you. 

14. Audrey Hepburn, the embodiment of grace and class would never have sat behind her keyboard for three hours calling a woman in Nebraska a stupid, twat-licking whore. I'm sorry, but it never would have happened. So before you type, take a moment to ask yourself "Would Audrey Hepburn have said this?" And if the answer is no, which it probably will be, then don't say it. Move on. Be elegant and eloquent like Audrey.

15. Have some ice cream (and yes, I am aware that by including this that someone somewhere is going to read it and blame me for furthering the obesity epidemic and I am fine with that.)

16. And for the love of God, if after all this you still feel you must insult someone or express your distaste for something someone has written, please proofread and check your spelling. Okay?
Friday, August 29, 2014

Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi by Brian Leaf: Book Review!


This post contains affiliate links and I was sent a free book in return for a review (except I was totally going to buy and review this book anyway).

Last summer I discovered, read and
absolutely loved Brian Leaf's first memoir Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness . You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that he had a new book coming out this year! I love when I don't have to wait forever in between the books of my favorite authors.


Turns out that Mr. Leaf and I have both written for elephantjournal.com and that we had a lot in common. He even accepted my friend request on Facebook, woohoo. So I was extra excited to receive a free copy of his new book Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting , which, yes, I was going to buy and review anyway.

In his first book, Brian Leaf writes about how debilitating stomach problems led him to discover yoga and Ayurveda. The book is hilarious, quirky and talks a lot about poop, all the things I love and the second memoir, about his take on mindful/ holistic parenting is equally great.

What really makes this book stand out is Leaf's humor, self-deprecating wit and his friendly, familiar writing voice. For me, a lot of the information in the book was probably "preaching to the choir" but I was fine with that. I most enjoyed Leaf's personal anecdotes and parenting disasters and reading about how much he adores and respects his wife is truly heartening. I love the advice he gives on playful and free-range parenting (two things I really support) and I can honestly say that I used some of the suggestions in this book when my daughter was acting like she needed an exorcist and they worked. Her head immediately stopped spinning. No joke.

Do I agree with everything in here? No, of course not. I'm not quite to the level of earthy crunchy as the Leaf family, but that's okay. We all parent differently and our children are all loved and cared for and that's what's nice about this book. You won't feel judged if you don't practice elimination communication or if you are not an "intactivist" who has had an orgasmic home birth (so not me). Leaf advocates for those things, but his total lack of smugness about them is really refreshing. This is the kind of book that no matter what your parenting philosophy happens to be, that you can still take away some excellent advice, new tips and a lot of laughs. 
Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School: The 70s vs. Today, A Lot has Changed

Back to School in the 70s

1. Take the kids downtown to go shopping at Sears for back to school clothes the last week of August. Get everyone a new pair of corduroys and a striped tee shirt. Buy the boys a pair of dungarees and the girls a pair of culottes. No, Jennifer, you can't have that orange and red poncho. Promise you will crochet her a better one with much more fringe. Get the girls a package of that rainbow, fuzzy yarn they like in their hair. You are done. You have spent a total of $43.00. Now take everyone to the Woolworth's lunch counter for grilled cheeses and chocolate milk.




2. On the night before the first day of school (that would be the Sunday night after Labor Day, of course, you know, mid-September) throw the kids in the way back of the station wagon and drag them downtown to Eckerds, K-Mart, Ames, Dollar General, Drug Fair or the like and hurry them over to the back-to-school area to pick out a lunchbox. Make sure to tell them get a move on because you don't have all night for them to make a damn decision. They need to get in bed by eight and yes, they're going to miss the Wonderful World of Disney if they can't decide between The Fonz and Dukes of Hazzard. Good Lord, why is it so hard for them to pick? Tell Kimberly if she can't make up her mind between Holly Hobbie and The Bionic Woman then you're going to pick Pigs in Space and you don't want to hear another word about it until June. Grab a composition book for each of them and a pack of pencils too. That's all they need. Remember to save some grocery bags so they can cover their textbooks with them after the first day of school.


3. Buy yourself a pack of Virginia Slims on the way out and smoke three of them on the way home.

4. Get up in the morning and make yourself a cup of Sanka with Sweet 'n' Low. Line up all the lunchboxes on the formica counter top in your kitchen. Open up a bag of Wonder Bread and do this assembly line style.

5. Spread yellow mustard on bread. Slap baloney on bread. Unwrap American cheese slices and put on top of baloney. Put top on the sandwich and wrap sandwich in tin foil or wax paper. Put it in the lunchbox. Every kid gets the same exact lunch. Period.

6. Alternate sandwich choices could include: peanut butter and grape jelly, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, the end of last night's leftover roast beef or the ever popular with children tuna fish with large chunks of onions and celery and Miracle Whip.

7. Put some Planter's Cheese Balls into a baggie and close with a twist tie.

8. Take Twinkies out of the box. Put one in each child's lunch box.

9. Fill Thermoses with either Kool-Aid or whole milk.

10. Include a red delicious apple even though you know that damned apple is just going to come home uneaten again, which is fine because you can keep adding the same one until it practically rots.



11. Close the lunchboxes. You're done. Go put some Barry Manilow on the record player and celebrate that your kids are out of the house until dinner time. They'll grab them, along with a frosted, dutch apple Pop-Tart on the way out the door as they walk a half mile down the road to get to the bus stop.

Back to School 2014

1. Take five deep breaths and say a positive affirmation. School begins in two weeks. It is the middle of July. Don't worry, you still have time to order BPA-free bento boxes and authentic Indian tiffins made with special stainless steel that did not involve any child-labor, sweat shops or animal cruelty. Remember, you have Amazon Prime. You can get the free two day shipping and you will have plenty of time to read reviews and make this very important decision because your kids are in summer "camp" which is actually just another word for school in the summer because OH MY GOD you were so tired that day you had to have them home all day with you and you couldn't go to your restorative flow class at yoga. And that was also the day something went terribly wrong with the homemade glitter cloud dough recipe that was supposed to go in their sensory bin and the very same day that they were out of soy milk at Starbucks and you had to immediately email corporate to let them know that duh, they should actually be selling almond milk and/ or coconut milk. Get with it Starbucks. Soy is so 90s.  Ugh, but you digress. The tiffin. The bento boxes...

2. One Week Later: The bento boxes and tiffins have arrived. So has your childrens' school's annual list of school supplies that you must purchase and deliver. It is three and a half pages long.  It includes a ten pound bag of flour and several cleaning products and also requests a Costco-sized package of toilet paper.

3. Begin frantic online search for backpacks and school bags made from all natural materials yet still "cool." Have them monogrammed.


4. Take kids shopping at the mall for new school clothes. Buy them each a completely new wardrobe from Gymboree and Crew Cuts. Spend $2,387.07 on your credit card.


5. Take children to the child psychologist to prepare them mentally for the difficult transition to a new grade, new teacher and new classroom.

6. Intently study the allergy list the school has sent you which lists all the items that other children in your children's classes are allergic to and thus cannot be sent in your child's lunch either. This is extremely stressful because the last thing you (or anyone) wants to be responsible for is sending a second grader into anaphylactic shock. Make notes on your phone so you can remember what not to buy when you go to Whole Foods.

7.  Purchase school supplies for your children. Not to be confused with the 3 1/2 page list of classroom supplies you are also responsible for. They will need paper, pens, folders, notebooks, a calligraphy set, fifteen new apps for their tablets, a graphing calculator, a scalpel, an electron microscope and a centrifuge.

8. Go to Whole Foods to shop for school lunch items. This will take 4 hours and 15 minutes because you have to read every single label to make sure you are purchasing organic, locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten-free, allergy friendly products. You come home with tahini, bananas and a package of brown rice cakes. You somehow spent $76.19.

10. The night before the first day of school prepare the bento boxes. Fill containers with organic, local strawberries intricately cut into the shapes of  sea creatures. Include homemade, nut free granola made with certified gluten-free oats. Make a sandwich on vegan hemp bread out of tahini, kale and jicama. Form it into the shape of your child's favorite Disney character. Make flowers out of non-dairy cheese slices, olives and seaweed. Photograph the finished Bento Box and post it to Instagram.

 11. Write your child an encouraging note which includes an inspirational quote.

12. Include a sheet of stickers for good measure.

13. Fill a Siig bottle with filtered water and also include a box of chilled coconut water in the Bento Box because children can never be too hydrated. Ever.

14. Blog about this experience. Pray it goes viral and is picked up by HuffPo.


15. Get up at four in the morning on the first day of school. Make first day of school signs for each child to hold as you photograph them on the front step. Make a bunting to hang above the front door. Blow up balloons. Actually, go ahead and make a full on back to school photo booth.



16. Make pancakes in the shape of the letters of the alphabet.

17. Dress kids in coordinated outfits and spend 35 minutes posing and photographing them (with your phone).

18. Load everyone into the car to drive them to school.

19. When they are safely in their new classrooms, return to your car to cry for the next 20 minutes. But it's okay, really. You'll be back in six hours to pick them up and drive them to Synchronized Swimming, Cello and Urdu classes this afternoon. 
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Overheard at the Park - Mary Poppins, Where Are You Edition





It's been a long time since we've had a good "Overheard at the Park" and mostly that's because it's Florida in the summer, meaning that it feels like a wet furnace outside and indoor fun is far more desirable. Once October comes around maybe we'll be more inclined to venture outside more.

But still, the park exists and we still attempt to brave the heat and go and with the park in South Florida, assholes are inevitable.

Case in point:

Three Year Old: Mommy, Mommy! I need to go potty!!

Mother: Honey, please. Mommy is talking, sweetheart. Your nanny will be back from getting my Starbucks in two minutes. Can't you hold it until she gets here?

Three Year Old: But Mommy, I need to pee pee!!

Mother: Sweetie, I told you Nanny will be right back and she can take you.

Yes, folks. There you have it. A mother who cannot even take her own child to the bathroom at the park.

Don't you wish you lived here? And if anyone has the nerve to tell me I'm being judgmental, I'm going to come after you through this computer screen.
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sun Shower: Magic, Forgiveness and How I Learned to Bloom Where I Was Planted on Kindle!


I have big news!! Today is the day! My second memoir, the sequel to Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat, is now out!

 Sun Shower: Magic, Forgiveness and How I Learned to Bloom Where I Was Planted is now available on Kindle!

Paperback, Nook and iBooks versions will be available soon as well.

This book picks up right where the last one left off and follows my (mis)adventures the next year.

I hope you love it!


Monday, June 30, 2014

The Kind of Princess Disney Needs Next.

I'm nine days into my vacation in California and having an absolute blast and part of the fun has been being able to spend plenty of time in Disneyland!

Now, I went through a phase of being less than enchanted with the Magic Kingdom and I think this is just because I got old and didn't have kids and I went through a phase of kind of being over the whole thing - the crowds, the heat, the drive to Orlando, bleh.

But now, I'm experiencing an all new love for Disney as I see it again through my three year old daughter's eyes. That and I have discovered that I like my experience at DisneyLAND here in California more than my former experiences at DisneyWORLD in Florida. Mainly, I like the cool, dry weather here much more and I like that it's closer to where my in-laws live so instead of a three hour plus drive to Orlando from where I live, we can do a 20 minute drive up the Freeway and boom, there we are. I also find Disneyland smaller and more manageable and it has been significantly less crowded. Besides that, I absolutely love the California Adventure park. It's super cool, very pretty and I find it relaxing.

Part of the Disney experience with a little girl is going to involve princesses. Lots of princesses. I used to be kind of anti the whole princess thing, but I've come around especially after the past few days getting to meet some of them. Let me just tell you, the girls who play those Disney princesses are so incredibly sweet and lovely with the children. They're a lot of fun and all the Disney employees make the experience so meaningful with their thoughtfulness.

Part of what has redeemed the whole princess thing for me is that Disney has really made an effort in the past several years to create more diverse princesses who are really good role models. My daughter likes Merida because she climbs and jumps and shoots a bow and likes to play outside. She's three so she doesn't get the whole getting married thing yet. My favorite princess is Tiana because I just think it's the coolest thing in the world that a princess likes to cook and has a goal to own her own restaurant. Plus, she has what I think is the prettiest dress. Just kidding. I have to admit that I'm looking forward to having my photo taken with Tiana at some point on this trip and yes, I will post it if I get one.

So we have a black princess, princesses who don't want a prince, princesses who like to play outside, princesses who like to read, princesses who save all of China by dressing like boys, princesses who are brave and funny, awkward, plucky, kind, sweet and princesses who are more complicated characters than dear, helpless Cinderella and I love that. I love that more different looking princesses are being celebrated, but I still think Disney has a little further to go in that department.

What Disney really needs is a fat princess.

Now that would be truly revolutionary.

And a fat princess would be a hero to so many girls and women who feel they don't live up to the willowy standard of beauty to which every single other princess regardless of race, culture or personality conforms.

In the past, all of the curvier or more overweight characters in Disney films have been either evil, old or stupid. I'd like to see a more voluptuous princess who is smart, independent, beautiful and complex. I'd like to see her weight not being a main issue in the storyline either, as in that it's something for her to overcome. Her weight should be secondary to her real story, whatever that might happen to be.

Disney is doing much better with their fairies of Pixie Hollow. If you haven't seen any of the Tinkerbell spin-off movies, I highly recommend them. I'm a big fan. The animation is gorgeous for one thing and the fairies are extremely diverse and YES! There is a fat fairy in Pixie Hollow. Her name is Fairy Mary.

I'd like to start a Fairy Mary fan club. Fairy Mary embodies everything that I'd like to see in a princess. She is confident, beautiful, smart and in a leadership position in the fairy world. She isn't old, evil or stupid at all. In fact, she shows extremely good sense and her weight is never, ever mentioned or an issue in the story. She's just a big, beautiful fairy loved as she is. On top of that, she is the best ice skater of all the fairies, so she's even athletic! Here is a blog post that someone else wrote all about Fairy Mary that I think is an excellent and eloquent read. 

Disney is definitely headed in the right direction. I love that we now have single princesses, warrior princesses, entrepreneurial princesses and bold, intelligent princesses who do their own thing. I love that we have a Native American princess, a black princess, and a Chinese princess. We need a princess who truly goes against tradition by daring to redefine our preconceived notions of what it means to be beautiful.

Come on Disney. You can do this.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Good Ideas...For Someone Else.


I have more ideas than I know what to do with or that I have the actual skills to put into action. Every day I think up new stuff that someone else ought to do, so I thought I'd share a couple.

1. I want someone to start a blog where for a set period of time, say, two weeks or so, they try a new diet plan and report on it everyday and say what they ate and what it was like and how they felt and if the diet works. For example, they could do Paleo for a couple weeks, then try a vegan diet, then maybe do Atkins, then South Beach, then Weight Watchers and then go all raw for two weeks. I would be totally fascinated by a non-biased, experimental, almost scientific approach to trying and reporting on these diets. It could probably even be turned into a pretty interesting book at the end of a year or so. Reasons why I won't be doing this? I am lazy and totally undisciplined and could never stick with any crazy eating plan for more than like a meal at a time.

2. Somebody needs to write a children's book that teaches kids about privacy. As in, leave Mommy alone when she is going potty. Please. I seriously cannot go to the bathroom in peace. Between my daughter and the cat, because the two of them have actually teamed up with the common goal of not letting me poop in peace, I will never, ever have a moment's privacy. I really need a book that teaches my daughter about this. I'm not even kidding, the other night we were out in the yard and the cat was pooping in the flower bed and she was all up in the cat's business. Maybe we could title the book "Let Me Poop in Peace!!" The alternate title could be "Get Out of the Cat's Ass."

3. Most women hate their nipples, especially after childbirth. You know how they have vaginal rejuvenation surgery? They need nipple rejuvenation and nipple reduction surgery too. I have a friend who says after nursing her son her nipples look like Ipswitch clams. Lots of other women think their nipples are too big or weird looking. In fact, all the women I know are way more self-conscious about their nipples than their vaginas. If someone could come up with a nipple fixing cosmetic procedure they would be a gazillionaire.
Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Have Fun With Your Friends Like You Did When You Were a Teenager


“Forever Young, I want to be forever young…” – Alphaville, 1984.

Although my grown-up friendships are profound and fulfilling, I sometimes long for the excitement and adventure of my teen years when everything I did with my friends took on a sense of thrilling urgency. I miss both the innocence of adolescence and its experimental sort of naughtiness.  Back then I lived in a world that buzzed with anticipation. I survived middle school and emerged butterfly-like from puberty, and my burgeoning independence intoxicated me. 

Everything was fun. 

But you know what? Life is intoxicating now too. Everything is still fun.

There is absolutely no reason that we can’t bring a little bit of that teenaged excitement back into our lives once in a while no matter how old, fat and wrinkled we’ve become (or not). It simply takes a little imagination and some courage.

Forget  the dry dinners out and stuffy cocktail parties of adulthood. Here’s how to have fun with your friends like you did when you were a teenager.

Spend a day at the mall. 
Yes, you may do this already, but going to the mall as a grownup isn’t the same as it was when you were a kid. Back then we used to wander around the mall for entertainment, not to run errands. Leave your to-do list at home, bring your best friend and roam freely, arm in arm. Try on fancy dresses for which you have no occasion. Get free makeovers at the MAC counter. Buy a new tube of Clinique’s Raspberry Glace. It was your first lipstick. They still make it and it still looks pretty. Share a soft pretzel and a cherry slushy and giggle at all the crazy, racy toys in Spencer’s. Bonus? You don’t have to find a payphone to call your mom to pick you up when you’re ready to come home.
 
Go to an amusement park, a fair or a boardwalk. 
Ride the rides, win at skee ball, get an old time photo taken because you always wanted to do that and your parents would never let you. Go nuts on the Gravitron, pig out on carnival food and then scream your way through the Haunted House before you conquer the bumper cars. Be as silly as you can. Walk an invisible dog or buy that turd bird you always wanted. Wait, why did you want that, anyway?

Have a sleepover. 
Sleep in the same bed and stay up all night talking. Make popcorn and binge on a late night John Hughes marathon. Wonder if you’re more Amanda Jones or Watts. Swoon over Andrew McCarthy. Cry, laugh and tell secrets.

Scare the hell out of yourself. 
Teenagers love a good scare. Since they don’t have real world fears yet -taxes, high deductibles, mortgages, threats of layoffs at the company and you know, actual scary stuff, they like spooky thrills to get their hearts racing. Share supernatural stories with your friends, go on a ghost tour, get lost in a corn maze together. Take a walk or a drive through a graveyard at night just like you did in high school. Even better if it’s foggy. Wear all black and sit amongst the gravestones and listen to Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. Then, go home and watch the movies that terrified you as a kid: Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, Prom Night.

Sneak out.
Sneaking out as an adult doesn’t have the exact same sense of danger as it did when you were fifteen. You can’t get caught and get grounded now after all, but find a good friend and take a walk at night. Be careful, of course, and use the good sense you probably didn’t have when you were younger. For old time’s sake, find your way onto a golf course, run screaming from the security guards and get soaked by the sprinklers.

Roller skate
Put your hair in a side ponytail and slip on some pin-striped Jordache jeans and hit the roller rink for an afternoon or evening of retro fun. Eat crappy, roller rink pizza (oh the memories of that taste). Ask the DJ to play some 80s classics so you can shuffle to The Romantics, The Scorpions, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Billy Ocean and Yes. Couples skate to Phil Collins. Yeah, you know you still remember all the words to “Against All Odds.”

Get tickets to see your favorite band.
Wear cheesy tee shirts, sing every song at the top of your lungs and sneak your way up to the front row so you can make eyes at the lead singer. Scream and yell, whistle and dance your butt off. This is way more fun as an adult because you’ve outgrown your adolescent self-consciousness and you don’t have to worry about what the hot guy you like will think about you acting like a nutcase in public. You married him and he already knows you’re nuts. Even better than that is now you have no curfew. You can stay out as late as you want and you don’t have to call your mom at ten to check in. On the way home, be sure and stop at the greasiest 24-hour diner you can find for a late night grilled cheese, fries and milkshake. Don't you dare even think about calories.

Cast a Spell
My friends and I totally, okay, desperately wanted to be witches when we were in high school. It’s a little embarrassing to admit now, but at one point we wanted to start our own coven. Mainly this was because we wanted to magically make the boys we liked fall madly in love with us. It was silly and it was fun and as adults, we could still use a little mysticism. Bring some mystery into adulthood. Believe in magic again. Cast a love spell or two. Be careful though. Remember what happened to those girls in The Craft.

Throw a bonfire party.
Good news. You don’t have to wait for someone’s parents to go out of town. Get the red Solo cups ready because it’s party time. Back in high school, all sorts of legendary debauchery happened at bonfires. They were a really big deal and bonfires can still be fun. Use that fire pit you put in last summer, invite a bunch of friends over, put some REM on the boom box and let the fun begin. Start a game of Truth or Dare, have a Dead Milkmen sing along, roast some hot dogs and make s’mores. If you’re feeling really wild and you’re single, Spin the Bottle might be in order.

Make a photo album.
Not on Facebook or Instagram. I’m talking a real photo album, with actual prints that you have to get developed. Take a bunch of pictures with your best friends. If you’ve known each other since high school, maybe recreate some of your best memories all over again and document the hilarity. When you get the prints, arrange the pictures on the sticky pages and cover with the plastic film and give the albums as gifts.

Go thrift store shopping. Buy funky vintage outfits.
Remember back in high school when no one had any money and twenty dollars seemed like a fortune? Remember how many outfits you could get at the Goodwill for ten bucks? And cool stuff too! Nothing has changed. You can find a lot of surprising second hand treasures. Get together with your BFF or a group of girls, dig out your old Cure tee shirts and clunky Mary Janes and go pop some tags! Hit every used clothing store and yard sale in town and make a day of it. Then go out that night wearing your funky, (not-so) new outfits. You always wanted to be cool and dress like Iona from Pretty in Pink when you grew up. Here’s your chance.

Go Swimming at Night. Naked.
No further explanation needed here. Skinny-dipping at night is the best. REM even wrote a song about it.

Hang Out at the Bookstore.
Some of my greatest hours as a teen were spent hanging out with my friends at the bookstore. We’d gather armfuls of books and find a quiet corner where we’d sit on the floor and flip through romance novels until we found dirty parts. We’d creep ourselves out in the occult section and fantasize about cool clothes with fashion mags like Sassy. We’d read funny books like The Joy of Sex, cookbooks, anything really and then we’d head over to the cafĂ© for an iced hazelnut latte with extra whipped cream, feeling a little smug that we were grown up enough to drink coffee. You know what else? It’s okay to read trashy books and Young Adult novels as a grownup too, so go ahead and get that V.C. Andrews series. 

Make Mischief, Rebel a Little, Indulge, Experiment.
This is what made being a teenager so much fun. Our lives were thrilling because we had few responsibilities, we felt free (but not too free that it was scary) and we were brave enough to buck authority once in a while. We experimented with everything from our own identities, to what music we liked and how we dressed and it didn’t matter. Trying new things was like our job in life, yet somehow, as we grow older and take on more adult roles like mom and dad and branch manager, we lose touch with our wilder, younger, braver selves. The good news is that we can always find a balance. We can bring adventure back and as an adult it’s even better. No curfews, no worries about getting grounded and yay, no drinking age to worry about. Plus, everyone can drive now, so way easier. Have fun, but caution. You can now be charged as an adult, so no stealing your neighbors’ mailboxes, k?

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