4 star reviews, Book reviews, Health, New Age

Tough Truths: The Ten Happiness Lessons We Don’t Talk About by Deirdre Maloney

4/5 stars

D1B60F47-AA60-41A9-9B70-5BD04AC04B50.JPGThis is a tiny little book.  It’s the size of my hand only about 100 pages.  You can read it in one sitting if you want.  I chose to read a chapter, digest it and then read the next.  My husband read it with me and we discussed it, which was interesting.

There were a lot of interesting things in here.  A happy person is happy at least 70% of the time.  Some of our unhappiness may stem from our beliefs about what we “should” do.  I really like that the author keeps it quick and to the point, with one simple example.  This book is easy to read and understand and easy to apply the principles of happiness to your own life so you can be happier.

My husband and I read this book together.  When he would get home from work, I would read a chapter and we would discuss it and discuss how it applied to ourselves individually and as a couple.  It was helpful to discuss this book with someone and to see their perspective on things.  This book really doesn’t take long to read so I recommend it to everyone because I am sure we would all like to be happier!

From the Publisher:

Let’s get down to it. Everyone wants to be happy. Seriously.

Happiness may mean different things to different people, and those different people may go about it differently, but in the end we all want it. We all want to feel good.

Despite this…despite us all working so hard to find it, the reality is that many, many of us aren’t happy. Or we’re not as happy as we could be be…as often as we could be. Somehow happiness, a simple concept we learned as children, has become an elusive and frustrating aspiration. And, far too often and without even knowing it, the thing standing smack dab in its way is us.

Tough Truths is a little book that packs a happiness punch, tackling the topic by giving the straight scoop on how we tend to contribute to it…and get in its way. It also provides specific tips, examples, and even one simple mathematical ratio to help you get to greater happiness.

Because, seriously, who doesn’t want that?

I received this book from GetRedPR, Deirdre Maloney and Business Solutions Press in exchange for my honest review.


5 star reviews, Book reviews, Cookbooks, vegetarian

Sacred & Delicious: A Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook by Lisa Joy Mitchell

5/5 stars

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

If you have taken a yoga class, you have probably heard of the term Ayurveda.  Ayurveda is ancient Indian wisdom regarding health and wellness.  It’s fascinating and dynamic and there are definitely things to learn from Ayurveda, in terms of food as well as other health and wellness practices.

Twenty years ago, Lisa Joy Mitchell, was struggling in her corporate PR position due to chronic health issues.  Doctors prescribed medications and even surgery, but Lisa chose to first try a 5-day detox program at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, which changed her life.

This book begins by explaining how we can have a sacred relationship with food.  Ayurveda recognizes food as energy, an expression of Divine Consciousness, the living power of creation.  “Each time we eat something delicious, there is the potential for bliss to bubble up inside us” which is a nice way of looking at food.

The book explains the basic principles of Ayurveda.  It explains the different doshas or body types and how we can tell if our body type is in balance or not.  The book also goes into detail on how we can eat for our body type.  The book then goes into digestion and foods that promote healthy digestion and how to incorporate those in your diet.  Next we learn Eight Guidelines to Eating Healthy:  organic produce, avoiding processed foods, avoiding cold foods and I was surprised at this, but avoiding fermented foods, which I have been told by other practitioners was important for a healthy immunes system.

One of the most interesting points of Ayurvedic wisdom surrounding food preparation is the cook’s inner state.  A happy cook, who cooks out of love will prepare food that is more abundant and enjoyable to eat.  Another piece of Ayurvedic wisdom that I find particularly true and something often missing in our modern world is that there should be a ritual around eating, having nice tableware, saying a blessing, having no distractions, etc.  I have often heard that you can lose weight simply by practicing that one piece of wisdom.

The book is color coded (which I LOVE!) for recipes for breakfast, soups, legumes, dals (sort of a thick bean stew), weekday meals, vegetables, salads and desserts.  We tried the roasted beet chips and the sautéed red cabbage, both were delicious!  I now make the tahini dressing regularly it is so delicious!  We also tried the red beans and rice, but I used black beans (sorry, we had A LOT of black beans on hand and I wanted to use them).

There are so many more recipes that I want to try–like the stuffed chard and the holiday dressing.  This is a beautiful book with enticing illustrations.  I am so happy to have a copy.  Thank you, Get Red PR and Lisa Joy Mitchell.  I received a free advance copy in exchange for my honest review and I am sure that I will make many recipes from this book in the years to come!



Book reviews, Cookbooks

Vegan 8 by Brandi Doming

3.5/5 stars


My Review:

How had I never heard of the Vegan 8?  Vegan recipes with just 8 ingredients?  Sign me up!!  I love simple meals and not having to buy tons of stuff just to make a recipe.  I had high hopes for this cookbook and I definitely found some recipes that I want to try such as the Pumpkin Pie Crepes and the Curry Chick Peas and Sweet Potato Rounds.

There seems to be a trend of making traditional recipes vegan and while I see where that appeals to the masses and I think it’s great if it gets more people to eat more plant based meals, it’s not really my thing.  I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years and I guess I have not followed the typical American diet for so long that it doesn’t appeal to me.  This cookbook is NOT whole food, plant based, even though it is oil free.  There are several recipes that call for bottled sauces and processed corn chips and things like that.

Although this book is touted as being great for people with food allergies, there is A LOT of recipes that have corn as a key ingredient.  I have a sensitivity to corn and I know a few other people who do as well.


From the Publisher:

Five years ago, popular blogger Brandi Doming of The Vegan 8  became a vegan, overhauling the way she and her family ate after a health diagnosis for her husband. The effects have been life-changing. Her recipes rely on refreshingly short ingredient lists that are ideal for anyone new to plant-based cooking or seeking simplified, wholesome, family-friendly options for weeknight dinners. All of the recipes are dairy-free and most are oil-free, gluten-free, and nut-free (if not, Brandi offers suitable alternatives), and ideally tailored to meet the needs of an array of health conditions. Each of the 100 recipes uses just 8 or fewer ingredients (not including salt, pepper, or water) to create satisfying, comforting meals from breakfast to dessert that your family—even the non-vegans—will love. Try Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffins, Fool ’Em “Cream Cheese” Spinach-Artichoke Dip, Cajun Veggie and Potato Chowder, Skillet Baked Mac n’ Cheese, and No-Bake Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake.


Book reviews, Cookbooks, Health, Personal, plant based, vegan

Back to the Cutting Board by Christina Pirello

4/5 stars

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 3.57.41 PM

When I was a teenager, I had an eating disorder.  Over the years, I have realized that I feel good eating certain foods and I don’t feel good eating others.  As long as I stick to the foods (vegetables, fruit, whole grains) that make me feel good, my eating disorder stays in the background.  Eating a little of the food that don’t make me feel good (processed sugars and carbs) I am ok, but if I have too much or too often, I get swallowed back up with my eating disorder.  So, I stick to a plant based diet and once in a while I go out to eat and have dessert or give in to a slice of pizza at a work function or indulge in some snacks at a party and I am ok.

I love to review plant-based cookbooks because, well, I am always looking for new recipe ideas!  Christina Pirello contends that “Getting back to the basics of cooking as you walk your path to wellness begins at the cutting board”.  In fact getting back to basics is what we need to do to get well.

Christina talks about the ingredients of healthy food and veg prep.  She gives readers on a path to wellness ideas for lunch and eating dinner in and what to do if you do go out to eat.  She talks about the five elements: earth, wood, fire, soil and metal.  I have found that the more attention I pay to getting back to the earth, the happier and healthier I feel, so I appreciated this section of the book.

She had a recipe for Burdock – a very nourishing, medicinal plant – that I am dying to try.

There are a lot of winter vegetable recipes, which I was really excited about as we go into winter and I know in the past I have gotten tired of the same old things.

We made the Carrots Osso Buco, which we thought was amazing and perfect for fall/winter.  I have never actually had Osso Buco because any time it was offered it was made with veal, which I did not eat even when I did eat meat.  So I was excited to try this version.  My husband has eaten his share of Osso Buco and said the taste was right on and it was very good.

I also made the Chickpea Farro soup because I love both chick peas and farro and am always looking for new hearty soup recipes and this one will definitely be on the list of soups that I make regularly!

This is a beautiful cookbook with lovely illustrations that will inspire you to make the dishes.

I received a digital ARC of this cookbook from BenBella books and Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book reviews, thriller

I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan

3/5 stars

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

In 1996, two ten year old boys went missing and were found – one dead, one near dead – in a shallow grave.  The detective was in over his head and a mentally impaired man was an easy target to take the blame for the murders.

Twenty years later, a friend of the boys starts a podcast to investigate what really happened after an investigative journalist brings up suspicion that the mentally impaired man did not commit the murders.

This book is told from three perspectives: Cody Swift, a friend of the murdered boys who has started the podcast to investigate what really happened; Jessy Paige, who was the mother of one of the boys and a prostitute at the time of their murders, now living a totally different lifestyle with a husband and teen daughter; and John Fletcher who was the detective on the original case and is now investigating a body found in the same area the boys were found.

I found this book extremely difficult to follow.  I did have a digital ARC, so it is possible that this was addressed in the published copy, but John Fletcher’s parts would go back and forth between current day and 1996 and it would take me a bit to figure out what time period they were talking about.  It would have been helpful if there had been some indication of what time period each section of the story was in, like maybe a 1996 or a Current Day separating the sections.

I thought it was interesting, however, how John Fletcher’s parts in the story were like a True Crime television series and Cody Swifts were like a transcript of a podcast.  The ending was a big surprise and a real WOW moment.

I would have given this book 2 stars because it was difficult to follow and it didn’t pull me in and make me want to keep reading.  BUT the ending was really good, so I gave it 3 stars.

I received my review copy from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.


Every Woman Has a Story

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 5.57.43 PM

I haven’t been reading novels.  In large part because of the Kavanaugh Hearings.  I can’t seem to tear myself away from watching or reading about it.  I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about it.  Because I am a woman and the mother of girls.  And because I think what happens here is very, very important.

I’ve started writing this post several times and every time, I stop and delete it.  I’ve shared this with family and with close friends, but never publicly.

I grew up in a suburban town. My family life was stable, my mom stayed home with us and my parents were devoted to us and each other.  We were close with our extended family.  I attended Catholic school and church every Sunday.

My first memory of sexual assault was in fifth grade.  We didn’t have a cafeteria in our Catholic school, but we did get a milk delivery.  The eighth grade boys were in charge of sorting the milk and each teacher would send one student to pick up the milk for the classroom.  One day it was my turn to pick up the milk.  You had to walk through the dark church auditorium to the tiny kitchen in back to pick up the milk.  Then you had to walk back through the auditorium with the milk crate full of small containers of chocolate or whole milk.  Normally, the teachers all sent their students at the same time.  But for some reason, one time I was alone, maybe my class was late or early.  I don’t remember.  But as I walked through the auditorium, I was grabbed by one eighth grade boy and my arms were pinned behind me, as two of his friends groped my breasts, first over my shirt and then they untucked my shirt.  I was fighting and kicking.  I honestly have no idea what happened beyond that.  I remember feeling like it was somehow my fault, that I had done something wrong and that if I told anyone, I would be the one who would be in trouble.  For what?  Developing early?  Wearing a bra in 5th grade?

It took me years to realize that there was nothing I did wrong and I could have told someone.  The reaction of the Republican Party to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony has only reiterated to me that I would be wrong to ever come forward.  That I did do something wrong.  That I did do something to deserve it.  That maybe fifth grade Catholic school girls are somehow asking for it.

I say my first memory of sexual assault, because there were others.  A male friend of the family who liked to push me against things and rub himself against me and feel my breasts when we were in junior high.  I felt dirty when he did this, but somehow as though it was my fault, as though I did something wrong.

There was the man outside of Grand Union who asked my friend and I to get him an Entenmann’s cake.  I didn’t think we should, but my friend felt bad for him and took the money, we got the cake, and when we went to give it to him, he whipped an afghan he’d had over his lap off and exposed himself to us.  I knew my parents would be mad at me for talking to strangers, so I never told them about that.

My dad’s boss owned a house in Ocean Grove, NJ.  One summer, when I was in high school, a friend and I walked up to Asbury Park from Ocean Grove.  This was in the 80s and Asbury Park was really pretty rundown.  A man outside of a bar started talking to my friend and I and he wanted to get a case of beer and sit on the beach with us, I said no and went to leave and he grabbed my shirt.  I managed to pull away and run all the way back to Ocean Grove.  I was not supposed to walk to Asbury Park, so I could never tell my parents about that one.

My husband and my daughters know about these things in my past.  I told my daughters these stories many times because I wanted them to know that if anything like this ever happened to them, that I would believe them, that it would not be their fault; that even if they were doing something that I didn’t give them permission for, that it still wouldn’t be their fault and I would still be there for them.

In the last two weeks, I have told my stories to many people and I have found that most women have a story.  Whether it is something that happened to them or something that happened to a friend or someone they know.  A girl at a dorm.  A girl at a party.  A girl who was too drunk to know.  A girl who might have been drugged.  A girl who accepted a ride home only to have a boy drive her to a desolate rural area and demand a blowjob or he would leave her there.  In the dark, late at night.  Before cell phones.  Even if these girls were at underage parties where there was drinking, they didn’t deserve to be violated.  Even if these girls were drinking, that didn’t give the boys in the room the right to violate them.

When I was in college, the whole “No Means No” campaign was something that was often brought up.  But what happens to the boys who don’t listen and do force themselves on girls?  Well, judges don’t want to “ruin the boys’ lives” so they give them lenient sentences.  What about those girls’ lives?  Are they worth less than boys?  What message does a lenient sentence send?

And what, right now, is the message that the Republican Party is sending loud and clear is that they don’t believe women and that women should not come forward when they are raped.

Christine Blasey Ford is a doctor and a professor, she is not some trailer park trash as the despicable Lindsey Graham has insinuated.  She is a woman who tried to put this behind her and when she found out that Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court she felt that she had to step up and I commend her for that.  The other women who have come forward, I am not sure how reliable they are.  I have read about them and I am on the fence with their credibility, but Dr. Ford is a different story.  She has not had a lot of lawsuits.  She is an accomplished woman who had a lot to lose by coming forward, yet she still came forward.

I wonder what these Republicans would say if this happened to their daughter?  Or if their daughter was groped in the church auditorium while getting milk for her class?  Would they say those boys were wrong?  Would they appoint those boys to the Supreme Court one day if those boys should have pursued that career path?  Or would they not believe their daughter?





Cookbooks, Health

The New Vegetarian South by Jennifer Brule

3/5 stars

IMG-0203.PNGAs far as Southern Vegetarian cooking goes, this book is great!  I forgot how much butter and cheese was in Southern food!  This book is not necessarily for the health-conscious vegetarian, but it is good for someone who wants to treat themselves once in a while with a rich meal with lots of gooey melted cheese and butter.  Everything in moderation, right?

We made the Charleston Country Captain and Vegetable Purloo, both of which were vegan.  My daughter made the fried okra another day and everything was delicious!!  It made me start thinking about planning a trip down South!

Book reviews, Skin Care

Pure Skin Care by Stephanie L. Tourles

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 6.02.06 PMI requested this book because my oldest daughter is very interested in skincare and making skincare products and because I don’t like any of us to use chemicals (yes, I am THAT mom).

This book has A LOT of recipes and A LOT of great information about skin care.  My daughter was especially impressed with the information on chemical exposure and your skin.

Some of the recipes are very simple, just one or two ingredients with explicit instructions on how to apply to your skin and how it works.  Other recipes required several exotic ingredients.  We have a good stash of essential oils; vitamin e oil, almond and jojoba, so we made a list of some essentials to buy: beeswax, shea butter, vegetable glycerin, cocoa butter.  We were able to make a variety of the recipes with what we had on hand and we should be able to make almost all of the skincare recipes by buying those four things on Amazon for about $40.

We had the ingredients to make the Mellow Yellow Banana Cream Mask which was very luxurious.  My younger daughter made the Peaches and Cream glow mask and thought it was perfect for summer.  We made the Salt of the Earth Body Scrub, which I felt worked great and looks really pretty in a jar on the display shelves in my bathroom!  I was most excited about the steams and had the ingredients for all of them — it was a difficult choice, but so far I have tried the Stress-Reducing Express Steam and the Restorative Herbal Steam (perfect time of year to gather leaves from our raspberry bushes and fresh mint!).  We also made the Hydrating Honey Scrub.  I love that all of these things used plants and natural ingredients and they all made us feel amazing!!  I am looking forward to making some of the foot soaks and experimenting with the facial lotions.

From Publisher:

4 star reviews, Book reviews, Childrens' Books

My Mixed Emotions by DK Publishing

4/5 stars

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 5.49.37 PM

From the Publisher:

My Review:

This book is packed with information for helping kids understand their feelings.  It describes the four main feelings: happy, sad, afraid and angry and then goes into details about when you might feel each of those things.  I think this book is good for all kids, but especially for those kids who have trouble expressing themselves.

I plan to read this to the kids in one of the library programs I am running this fall.  It would also be a great addition to a parents’ shelf in a children’s library.

Book reviews, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Last House on Sycamore Street by Paige Roberts


Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

My Review:

I really liked this book and would have given it 4 stars, but I am not sure that other people would like it as much as I did.  It’s basically just the real life of a young couple and their young son.  They buy a house, they unpack, they work, the husband’s parents babysit.  I enjoy getting a glimpse into how other people live and I often find that interesting and think we all have a story to tell…but I am not sure that someone else wouldn’t find that kind of boring and feel like the story drags.

The family that owned the house before them forget to get the mail forwarded and Amy and Rob end up finding out that family is having financial issues.  They also end up befriending the family that used to live there – which I found a little odd and unrealistic, but maybe I am just being cynical.  They end up realizing that the family that used to live in the house has some addiction issues and that puts Amy and Rob and their son Noah at risk.

It is a completely realistic and relatable story.  I would not be surprised if this has all happened to someone or if someday I hear a friend tell me this happened to someone they know and for that reason, I am giving it 3.75 stars, because 3.5 isn’t enough and although it was a 4 star read for me, I can see where it would drag in spots for someone else, so I can’t give it 4 stars.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Kensington Books for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

As intriguing as it is relatable, Paige Roberts’ compulsively readable novel delves into the secrets and ties that lie between friends—and neighbors.

When Amy Kravitz opts to leave Washington, D.C., behind in favor of a less stressful life in the Philadelphia suburbs, she has a certain kind of house in mind. And on a charming street in a
family-friendly neighborhood, she and her husband Rob find it. It’s a perfect brick colonial with plenty of space, a beautiful yard, and great schools nearby. The sellers, Julian and Grace Durant, are eager to make a deal. In an unexpected bonus, the Durants’ young son, Ethan, strikes up a friendship with Amy and Rob’s introverted four-year-old, Noah.

Soon, Amy is unpacking boxes in her new home and arranging playdates for Noah and Ethan. But as weeks go by, Amy suspects something isn’t quite right. Julian’s mail keeps arriving at their old address, and Amy can hardly miss the “Final Notice” stamped on the envelopes in big, red letters. Behind the
laid-back veneer projected by the Durants, Amy senses lives reeling out of control. But how much does Grace know, how much is she choosing to ignore—and is there more at stake in Amy speaking up or in staying silent?