Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Movie Review: “Florence Foster Jenkins”

   Florence Foster Jenkins
   Rated PG-13

Based on a true story, Florence Foster Jenkins was a wealthy, New York socialite born in the late 1800s who loved singing, gave musical performances and generously supported the arts. Unfortunately, she was a terrible singer.  Her adoring husband, St. Clair, carefully vetted the audiences and made sure Florence new knew about her lack of talent. What happens, though, when she gives a performance at Carnegie Hall to the general public?

Florence Foster Jenkins is a sweet, funny movie that defines love. Florence’s love of music yet her inability to see the truth about her own talent is touching, as is St. Clair’s devotion, despite his indiscretions. If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming, but complex film, Florence Foster Jenkins is the one for you!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: “I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do)”

  I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do)
  Mark Greenside

In 1991, Mark Greenside’s then girlfriend wanted to rent a house and spend the summer in Brittany, France. Because Mark feared flying and didn’t speak French. he reluctantly agreed. While he and Kathryn fell out of love, he fell in love with Brittany and ended up buying a home there. I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do) chronicles his adventures which include hiring a contractor, opening a bank account and throwing himself a 50th birthday party.

Perhaps because I’m learning French, I have a renewed interest in France and it’s culture. It’s fascinating to read about French norms and customs, and Mark’s attempts to adapt to them. Despite being a fish out-of-water, he made lifelong friendships and carved out a satisfying life for himself.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Home: Decanting Shower Products into Bottles


Instead of labeling the bottle fronts, I labeled the bottoms
to avoid visual clutter


When I looked at the shower niche that contains my beauty products, it drove me crazy. The product bottles were all different shapes and sizes and some bottles overhung the ledge. What I wanted was matching bottles that properly fit into the space.

I found a very inexpensive solution at the beauty supply store where these soft, clear plastic bottles are sold for only 99 cents each. Before decanting products into them, I used a permanent marker to label the bottom of each bottle. Voila, now I have a serene-looking shower niche!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Style: Another Casual Outfit

Barefoot Dreams sweater, All Saints t-shirt, Splendid leggings,
Vince shoes, Azzedine Alaia handbag, Ray Ban sunglasses (old)
Calypso St. Barth necklace (old)

Like everyone else, I have days where comfort rules, especially when it’s cold outside and I don’t have anywhere special to go. This outfit is perfect for one of those days-it’s comfortable, yet I feel presentable enough to walk the dog or run to the grocery store.

This outfit contains separates from unusual places. I picked up the sweater at Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale, and it’s sold in the Lingerie department. To me, though, it doesn’t look like loungewear if worn with the right pieces. The t-shirt is from All Saints, which tends to sell edgy items, but somehow it works with the sweater and leggings.  Speaking of leggings, these Splendid leggings are amazing-they’re soft and cozy, yet thick enough and have enough spandex so lumps and bumps don’t show. To add a touch of youth, I added slip-on sneakers and aviator sunglasses while the handbag and necklace add a bit of polish. Just because I’m dressed casually doesn’t mean I have to look like a slob!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Giada’s Pan-Roasted Asparagus with a Crispy Fried Egg

A nutritious, tasty dinner

Despite my ubiquitous Facebook food postings, we tend to eat pretty clean, especially during the week. One of my favorite cookbooks for this type of food is Happy Cooking, by Giada DeLaurentiis. Her recipes are easy-to-follow, light, nutritious and delicious! I recently discovered her Pan-Roasted Asparagus with a Crispy Fried Egg, but it’s one we both love and in pretty heavy rotation this summer!

the ingredients

toasting the panic breadcrumbs in olive oil

the gremolata

because I don't like washing a lot of dishes, I used the same pan to roast the

Click here for the recipe

Friday, August 19, 2016

Four Star Finds: Sephora Argan Hand Mask

For more information on this product, click here

I once went to a presentation for a beauty product that showed close-up photos of a popular actress’s face and hands. While her face looked younger than her actual age, her hands looked like those of a much older woman. Since then, I’ve been pretty conscious of applying products to not only my face but also my hands.

This hand mask by Sephora is a fabulous buy-it contains 2 disposable gloves that are filled with anti-aging serum and products that promote an even skin tone. I simply wear them for 15 minutes, remove them and rub the excess liquid into my skin. The result is brighter and more younger looking hands! They’re so easy to use I’m wearing them as I write this post!

As always, I receive no compensation for endorsing this product.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Travel: Blueberry Picking

the ripe berries are very easy to spot

One of the quintessential New England experiences is blueberry picking, so we thought we’d give it a try. What a fun way to spend an hour or two! Unlike picking strawberries, which is pretty hard on your back, and unlike blackberries, which have thorns, picking blueberries is great! One simply walks down the aisles, picking (and perhaps sampling) the ripe fruit, which is often at eye level. The cherry on the sundae is that freshly picked blueberries are so much better than those sold in the grocery store!

Our adventure was at Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Massachusetts approximately 45 minutes outside Boston.  We paid a small entrance fee (which went toward the price of blueberries), collected and paid for our fruit and then went to the farm store where we treated ourselves to a slice of blueberry pie! What an awesome day-I can’t wait to go back next year!

For more information on Tougas Family Farm, click here. Before going, be sure to check their website to see if blueberries are still in season.

Kevin "hard" at work

the fruits of our labor-corny pun, but I couldn't resist

our treat after our "hard" work

Monday, August 15, 2016

Movie Reviews: “Jason Bourne,” “Star Trek Beyond” & "Bad Moms"

   Jason Bourne
   Rated PG-13

Jason Bourne, who now remembers his past, comes out of hiding when he is contacted by Nicky Parsons, who has uncovered evidence the CIA has started another Treadstone-like program.

For fans of the series, Jason Bourne is a continuation of the e-ticket ride. True to the earlier movies, but not cookie cutter, this movie is entertaining, action-filled and fun to watch!

   Star Trek Beyond
   Rated PG-13

The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is stranded on a hostile planet with a new enemy.  Will they perish or defeat this mysterious enemy?

I would never describe myself as a Trekkie, but I have become a fan of the series since it rebooted with Chris Pine and Zachary Quito. They and the other actors have outstanding chemistry, the stories are interesting and there is just the right amount of humor injected into the movies. If you’re looking to be entertained, Star Trek Beyond is movies you’re seeking.

   Bad Moms
   Rated R

I think any person who has raised a child can relate to this movie because despite our best efforts, we all, at times, feel like we’ve failed our children and that other parents are doing a much better job. Bad Moms highlights this idea when overworked, exhausted Amy and two other moms “snap” and rebel against their neighborhood’s mom rules!

Bad Moms in a complex movie-it’s entertaining but raunchy, and makes an important societal statement. Namely, that lawnmower parenting (parents smoothing the path for their children) doesn’t benefit either party.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: “Lily and the Octopus”

   Lily and the Octopus
   Steven Rowley

Ted and his soulmate, Lily, happily live together and have a comfortable routine-playing Monopoly on Friday nights, watching movies on Saturdays, etc.  The only problem is Lily is a 12-year old dachshund who has a tumor on the top of her head. To add to the matter, Ted believes her tumor is a malevolent, speaking octopus.

Though this book’s premise is odd, Lily and the Octopus is a bittersweet, touching read.  Not only is it entertaining, but also highlights the lessons we can learn from our pets (unconditional love, enthusiasm and living in the moment) and those we can teach ourselves (embracing life, forgiveness and acceptance). 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Home: Outlet with Surge Protector and USB Charging Ports

For more information on this outlet, click here

Because we’re such a digital family, we have quite a few devices to charge-computers, phones and iPads, so we thought it would be nice to have a built-in outlet with USB charging ports. Since we mainly charge our devices in an outlet on the kitchen counter, we couldn’t change to a built-in USB-compatible outlet because I couldn’t find one with Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) (a requirement for outlets in kitchen and bathrooms).

Luckily, there’s an even better solution available-a plug-in outlet with USB charging ports AND surge protection. Though it doesn’t look quite as sleek as a built-in outlet, our devices won’t be fried if there’s a power surge, and we can charge five devices at once! This outlet was a great addition to our household!

As always, I receive no compensation for this endorsement.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Style: A Better Substitute

Rebecca Taylor dress (sale), Pedro Garcia sandals (different color),
Oliver Peoples sunglasses, Azzedine Alaia handbag

The story of how I found this dress is interesting. The same style of dress in a blush embroidered fabric was available online, and I really wanted it.  I’m a bit hesitant to purchase from websites because the colors and textures are usually not as I expect them to be, so I waited until I was able to see the dress in person. I showed an associate a picture of the desired dress, but the blush dress was only available without the tie front.

She suggested trying on both it and a tie front patterned dress to see if I liked the color of the first dress and the fit of the latter.  After putting on the blush dress, I realized the color wasn’t right for me and that the fabric was too heavy for Boston summers. On a whim, I tried on the other dress, and it was perfect for me.  The pattern and color suited my skin tone, the fabric was the right weight and the cut was flattering to my body type. It’s interesting how our preconceived ideas aren’t always the best and how being open to other options produces optimal results!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cooking and Entertaining: Big Easy Barbecue Shrimp, Adapted

Big Easy Barbecue Shrimp

When I visited my California friend Carole, she had some of the ingredients and the recipe for this shrimp dish out on her counter. It looked so tasty that I made a point to ask if she liked it the next time I saw her. She and her family loved it, so I asked for the recipe and gave it a try. This dish is easy to prepare and tasty-perfect for a weeknight dinner!

Since dishes should suit individuals' tastes and preferences, I adapted the recipe a bit. I only prepared half the recipe, used peeled shrimp (since I prefer shrimp without the membrane), reduced the cooking time to approximately 10 minutes (until the shrimp were just pink) and doubled the hot sauce to make the shrimp spicier. It was even better than I expected!

the ingredients

Preparing the sauce

Ready for the oven! The clean up for this dish is easy, too

Click here for the recipe for Big Easy Barbecue Shrimp

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Four Star Finds: Soda Stream

I like my sparkling water with the highest level of carbonation

Years ago, I drank a lot of Diet Coke, generally 3 cans per day but gave it up by replacing it with flavored sparkling water. Despite recycling the bottles, it still wasn’t great for the environment. So when Soda Stream started selling water carbonators and flavors (for unsweetened sparkling water and regular and diet sodas), I was an early adopter. I use my Soda Stream carbonator every day, sometimes more than once. It’s easy to use and much more convenient and inexpensive than buying bottled sparkling water.

I’m now on my second Soda Stream, and love it even more than the first because the company refined the design and added an indicator that allows the user to see and adjust the degree of carbonation.  If you are a fan of soda or sparkling water, the Soda Stream is a fantastic product!

As always, I receive no compensation for this endorsement

Monday, August 1, 2016

Travel: Jabbawockeez Show in Las Vegas, Nevada

Photography during the show wasn't allowed, so I took
this picture  before the show

For more information on Jabbawockeez, click here

I love visiting Las Vegas-I don’t gamble, but think the hotels are beautiful, the shopping and restaurants are world class, and enjoy the shows. So when Kevin had a conference there earlier this year, I tagged along. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and the conference didn’t begin until Monday morning, so we decided to see a show. I had never heard of Jabbawockeez, but after walking past their shop, we decided it was the one.

Jabbawockeez is a hip hop dance crew who gained fame when they won the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew. The team works collaboratively-there is no leader, they choreograph the dances as a group and wear white masks to direct the audiences’ attention away from the individual dancers and onto the group as a whole. Their show was stunning-the venue was small and intimate, the music was energizing, and the dancers were mesmerizing! If you have a chance to see Jabbawockeez, I highly recommend doing so!