4 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, Keeping House, Minimalism, plant based, Sustainability

The Sustainable Home by Christine Liu

4/5 stars

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 4.13.06 PM

Several years ago, I was a homeschool mom blogger and I took on the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge for Lent.  Basically what you do is fill up 1 bag a day of stuff to donate (or discard) for each of the 40 days of Lent.  I felt so much lighter after I got rid of that stuff.  It was so much easier to keep my house clean.  So I just kept going with it.  It has made us be more intentional with what we bring in to our home and what we purchase.

Over the last couple of years, I have become more and more aware of how much is being wasted in our society.  The rate at which we are redecorating, stores that sell fashionable items for dirt cheap, all of this is contributing to waste.  What are we going to do with it all?  It won’t decompose.  Where on the planet will it all go?  We are depleting resources by continually creating these things.  The working conditions of the people making these products is often deplorable.  I want to be more intentional and so when I saw this book available on Netgalley, I knew I wanted to get my hands on a copy.

Christine Liu does a great job of explaining the global issues of consumerism and materialism.

Then she goes on to explain the benefits of a decluttered space with useful and meaningful items.

Which space would you rather work in?

I used to admire the one on the left, but think that was not where someone actually worked, it was just a design space.  I have found that when you get rid of what you don’t need, you can have a workspace like the one on the left.

Christine Liu gives a practical guide to how to decide what to keep and what to toss and gives suggestions on what to do with the things you decide not to keep.

She then goes into energy consumption in the home and making your home more energy efficient.  She discusses using plants in the home.  She goes into detail about being sustainable in the kitchen, from diets that sustain the planet to growing your own food to how to store your food to what to do with food waste.  There are recipes for several plant based meals.  She gives advice on clothing that is sustainable for the planet and what to look for.  Christine Liu advises getting higher quality pieces that last longer.  There is advice on caring for your clothing and laundering your clothing.  She also discusses bedding and has a recipe for making your own room spray.  From there she goes into being more sustainable in the bathroom from skin care and body care recipes and ideas to hair care and water usage.  Ms Liu also discusses greening the workspace, dining out, going places and taking action.  This is an extremely comprehensive guide to living a lifestyle that is better for the planet as well as our bank account.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.



homosexuality, opinion, Personal

Sexuality: I Don’t Want to Go Back and What We Can Do

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 10.30.38 AM

Twenty years ago, on October 12, 1998, a young gay man was attacked, chained to a fence in the middle of nowhere, beaten and tortured and left to die.  He suffered for six days from severe head injuries before finally passing away.

I have been haunted by that story for twenty years.  I can not stop my mind from imagining his pain, his fear.  I can not stop myself from thinking of the pain of his parents and family.

He was killed for being the way that God made him.

For twenty years, his parents were afraid to lay his ashes to rest.  They were afraid the grave would be destroyed.  Finally, on October 26, 2018, his ashes were put to rest at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

It feels a little like healing today as I search for images of Matthew Shepard and find images like the one below, and not just images of the fence where he was left to die or of his sad face – the face of a young man who felt so maligned and misunderstood by our society.

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 10.35.54 AM.png

A couple of weeks before Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, a new show had aired on NBC.  A show about a successful, attractive gay man who lived with his female best friend, they had an egocentric flamboyantly gay neighbor and a rude, self-centered, substance abusing wealthy socialite that also hung around with them.  At the time that show aired, my husband volunteered at our local firehouse on Thursday evenings and I had a standing call with my best friend.  Our phone call started before the show, with conversation, but while the show was on, we only talked during commercials.  We did that for years.

Will and Grace was our show.  But it was also the show of countless other people and it had a huge impact on our society.  When Facebook really took off, about ten years after Will and Grace had first aired and three years after it went off the air, most of my friends posted equal signs as their profile picture, showing their support for same-sex marriage.  Eight years later, the Supreme Court of the United States passed Marriage Equality – allowing same sex couples to marry.  We celebrated by taking our kids to the Pride Parade in NYC that weekend.

Will and Grace went off the air in 2005, but last year, the political climate was such that, they were afraid we were going backwards, away from acceptance and inclusion, and they brought the show back**.  I was thrilled because now I get to watch it with my girls.  Last night, I watched Episode 4 of Season 2 (10), an episode in which Will and Grace spend a rainy day reading through a box of letters they had written to each other.  They discover that Grace has not read a letter that Will wrote her because she was so devastated after he came out to her; she finally reads the letter and realizes how he felt like the world would hate him.  The wonderful actor, Eric McCormack, who plays Will did a great job of just staring off into space.  Remembering.

It made me remember what it used to be like.Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 11.09.52 AM

When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone who was homosexual.  In the 80s, we used to use an expression “that’s so gay” and one night my parents asked us if we knew what that meant.  I was 11 or 12 and my parents were glad that we said it meant “lame”.  A few years later, my parents explained to us what it meant.

There was a boy that I grew up with who loved to come over and play with my play kitchen when we were little.  As we got older, our friendship changed, of course.  We stayed close.  When we were in high school, a girl in our class had a crush on him and kept asking me to talk to him for her and see if he liked her.  I would ask him and he would joke around.  I never knew what to say to her, until one day, I told her that he was gay.  I didn’t even think about it, it just came out and as soon as it did, I realized it was true.  It didn’t take long for that rumor to spread through our high school.  My friend was so mad at me by the end of the day and he was so scared, which I did not understand at the time.  He didn’t come to school for several days.  We didn’t talk again for years.  He was teased mercilessly, he was physically assaulted and I later found out that he was hospitalized more than once for suicide attempts.

I don’t want to go back to that.

Another boy in our high school class did commit suicide because he was afraid to come out.  I don’t want to go back to that.

My best friend, who I met in high school and who was my best friend at Rutgers when we were in college, who served in my wedding party and is my younger daughter’s godfather, was teased and tormented physically, mentally and emotionally for being different when we were kids.  I am so grateful that he has found a wonderful partner and been married for several years and has a happy and thriving life and career.  But there was a time when he thought his future would be bleak, where he felt like he was an abomination to God, where he felt like he was wrong, that there was something wrong with him, where he wanted to go to be reprogrammed.  I was the first person he came out to and that was huge and an honor I took very seriously.  It took a tremendous amount of courage for him to come out.

Because of my best friend in college, I knew many other people who struggled with coming out when we were in college.  I sat up many nights holding people’s hands, listening to them, telling them it would be ok.  I was there the night the football team came to the dorm, drunk, and started chanting outside the windows of gay students, asking them to come out and get their asses kicked, telling them that would make men out of them.

I don’t want to go back to that.

My girls grew up with gay uncles and gay aunts.  When she was three, my oldest asked me why Uncle (my best friend) wasn’t married and I told her that he and Uncle (his partner, who is now his husband) loved each other just like they were married and that satisfied her.  I never explained it again to my kids.  They just understood.  Love is love.

When I started working at the library, ten years ago, there was a flamboyantly dressed openly gay high school boy that would come in.  He felt free to be himself.  I did hear that some kids teased him in school, but that enough other kids had his back.

My kids now have friends who are all over the spectrum of sexuality.  Gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans.  Kids feel comfortable coming out.  They feel comfortable being themselves.  I struggle sometimes with kids who are gender confused, I feel as though saying, “I feel like a boy today, call me Micah” and then a short time later, “I feel like a girl today call me Erica” is fodder for people who think sexuality is a choice; I feel like they will use it to validate their argument.  I do understand gender confusion, but I also understand how we got to this place of acceptance and inclusion and I am so afraid of going backwards that I don’t want to give conservatives any ammunition.

Sexuality is not a choice.  As the pastor of our church has said, sexuality is like eye color or handedness, it’s determined by God.  Maybe to make us more tolerant of those who are different from us.

If sexuality were a choice, my childhood friend would not have been suicidal.  The young man I knew in high school would not have committed suicide.  My best friend would not have chosen to be different, he didn’t choose this life, he didn’t choose to be different and to live in fear for his life for years before the world became more inclusive.

A woman I work with is a very conservative Christian and she loves to talk about a man she knows who was gay but was reprogrammed and is now straight and has children.  But, she says, you can tell that he was gay because he is a little effeminate sometimes.  It makes me sad that he couldn’t be himself and I just hope it works for him.

When my grandfather was a little boy, he was left-handed, but as a young boy in Catholic school, the nuns thought that was an abomination against God and made him write with his right hand.  His knuckles were slapped daily and repeatedly with a ruler as a punishment if he dared write with his left hand.  He was punished, made an example of.  Until his dying day, he wrote better with his left hand.

At one time in our country, the Bible was used to defend slavery.  At another time in our country, the Bible was used to condemn interracial marriage.  The Bible was used to support segregation and Jim Crow laws.

I don’t want to go back to a country where slavery is legal, interracial marriage is forbidden or segregation is allowed.  And I don’t want to go back to living in a country where young people are beaten, chained to a fence and left for dead because of their sexuality.

If you agree with me, PLEASE GO VOTE!

** The tribute to Madonna and what she has done for the gay community was beautiful and so touching and so true.

Being a Librarian, Personal

What No One Tells You About Being a Librarian

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 10.37.39 PMI’ve loved books since I was a child.  My mom used to tell me to put my book down and go play outside and I would just bring the book and hide in the trees and read.

I’ve always loved bookstores and libraries.  I loved being around all the books.  I loved the quiet.  I have fond memories of singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in the children’s program I attended as a three year old.  I had a wonderful relationship with the children’s librarian in our town library and she used to order me books about pioneers because she knew I loved them.  So, it seemed a natural fit to want to be a librarian.

What You Expect

I thought I would spend my day discussing and recommending books, helping people find the information they needed, purchasing books, cataloging books, creating displays with books and maybe, if I was done with all of my work, I would don a pair of those reading glasses on a chain around a librarian’s neck and read quietly at my desk until another patron needed help.

Yeah, not so much.

Hardly anyone reads books anymore. In the ten years that I have worked at the library, our circulation numbers have steadily declined as more and more people use e-readers.  I seldom get to recommend books to patrons anymore, as they are using Amazon for that.  One of the reasons I started the bookstagram was to share posts on our library social media pages as a way both to reach patrons and because I had a need to discuss books that was not being met at work.

Everyone uses the Internet. Ten years ago, people would come in looking for information on everything from eating a healthier diet to starting a business to Fodor’s travel guides to how to build a shed to legal documents and forms.  Now they no longer come to the library for those things, they look online.  The information online many times is much more up to date.  There is an abundance of healthy recipe blogs.  There is a plethora of information on starting your own business.  You can see someone’s reviews of restaurants and hotels and travel excursions on Yelp.  You can access the most up to date information on legal documents and download forms from the internet.

We still buy books, but not as many as our budget was cut for many years and has now stabilized, but still there is not as much room in the budget or necessity to buy books when so many patrons use e-readers.  We still catalog the books we buy and create displays relevant to monthly events or literary themes (creating displays is one of my favorite parts of my job!)

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 10.39.28 PM

What You NEVER Expect

Librarians need to be part social worker.  Libraries are a free service.  Everyone is welcome, which is lovely and we provide a wonderful service.  But this means you will deal with a lot of mentally ill and mentally disabled people, which can be rewarding but it can also lead to burnout.  You will have to sit closely to someone that has soiled themselves and help them use the computer.  You may have to deal with someone who comes to the library in pajamas and slippers and meows at you.  You may have to deal with someone who is angry with you for shushing them and so they stick their library card in their mouth, withdraw it slowly and want you to take it and scan their number so they can add money to their account or check out materials.  You may have someone throw a small display set of foreign language DVDs across the room because you asked them to refrain from using their cell phone.  You may deal with people who think they are in another time period and work with historical figures and if they sense you don’t 100% believe they just got off the phone with JFK or Ronald Reagan, they get very agitated.  Patrons may invite you to their birthday parties and confront you about why you didn’t attend.  You may have homeless people seeking shelter and begging for food or money from patrons; which puts you in a sad quandary of what to do–you can’t kick them out in the cold, there are few shelters for homeless men; if you give them food or money, they will always ask for it and you may not want to set that precedent.  **All of the above has happened to me personally at the library.**

Something that has never happened to me but I see routinely on message boards is that drugs are sold in library bathrooms.  I can not tell you how many times I have seen that someone was busted for selling drugs in a library bathroom or that a patron came out of the bathroom and said that they thought there was a drug deal going on in the bathroom.  This is not just in inner city areas.  I have heard of drugs exchanging hands in bathrooms in suburban and rural libraries, in affluent communities and in middle class communities.  And that leads to the whole issue of…will people feel safe coming to the library?

If you work in the Children’s Room, you will be a babysitter.  In many towns, after-school care ends in 5th grade, but parents don’t feel comfortable having their 11 year old go home alone after school, so they tell them to go to the library.  If they come alone, that’s great.  They usually sit quietly and do their homework.  I usually have projects waiting that I can ask for their help with if they seem bored (of course, they don’t have to help, but many of them LOVE to help because it gives them a purpose).  Many kids, however, will come in a group and they will get rowdy and start talking loudly and causing a scene.  If you ask them to leave, they have nowhere else to go since their parents don’t want them home alone.  You will more than likely hear from their parents if you ask them to leave.  Their parents will not understand that putting Mentos in their Coke on the table at the library was not allowed.  Their parents will not understand that they were loud, that you asked them repeatedly to quiet down, to not sit on the tables, to not swing their backpacks and hit other kids, to not run in the library, to not swear loudly, to not throw things, to not push each other, to not eat in the library, to not shout across the library and to not make-out (this is more for kids in 8th grade and up) in the library.  ***All of these things have happened to me in the library.***

You will also have parents who drop off kids under the age of 10 (as young as 4) because they don’t have childcare; the kids will hang out in the library, usually with siblings, for hours.  You will have parents who don’t pick up from programs.   Depending on how long and how frequently this goes on, you have the quandary of whether or not to call Child Protective Services.  We have an Unattended Child Policy that is displayed in the library and periodically emailed to all patrons so that we can not be held accountable should these kids get hurt or worse, go missing.  But you do worry.  ***All of these have happened to me in the library.***

People don’t understand that you can’t get involved with their private information.  Librarians can not get involved with people’s private information – their social security numbers, any kind of personal documentation.  But people don’t understand that.  Some don’t understand how to use a computer, but need to fill out unemployment applications, pension applications, job applications, tax forms, relief aid forms, etc. online and don’t know how to use a computer, so you are put in a situation where you can’t help someone who really needs help or you jeopardize your job in order to help them.

Librarians are NOT tax or legal experts. Almost every single shift I get asked to help with either tax or legal issues.  I am neither a tax nor a legal expert.  I can’t tell you what forms to fill out or if this is what you need to win a lawsuit.  I can’t help, because if I do and things don’t go right, I run the risk of you coming back and blaming me.  Same goes for not being able to help your kid with their homework beyond basic help or helping them find a book that might have the answer.

Lonely people love libraries. We have quite a few patrons who are lonely.  They are widowed or widowers or live alone and many of them come to the library and are happy to just sit among others and read the newspaper or a book and have a casual chat with the librarian if she is not busy.  But some people are not satisfied with that, they want more, they want the librarian to talk to them for hours, they want attention, they want to feel like someone cares.  And we do care.  But we also have books to catalog, displays to create, programs to organize, people who need assistance on the computer, etc.

Libraries are no longer quiet places of study. Libraries have had to re-invent themselves in a time when people use e-readers rather than checking out books and search the internet as opposed to asking the librarian for help.  Libraries have become meeting places.  On any given day we can have social workers and medical advisors, attorneys, financial advisors and accountants meeting with patrons at tables.  In the afternoons, our tables are filled with tutors meeting with students.  It’s not quiet with all of those different voices talking -even at low tones – at the same time.

There are wonderful things about being a librarian – like helping people and possibly finding a book for someone that will make them love reading.  But, like any job, there are a lot of difficult things and being a librarian is not for the faint of heart.  It takes a certain armor and strength to be a librarian.  Every day is different and you never know what will happen until it happens.  Burnout rate was not high for librarians years ago, but now that the role of the library has changed, burnout rates are much higher with many librarians not working in libraries after 12 years.


5 star reviews, Personal

Springsteen on Broadway

10/5 stars

When I was a little girl growing up in New Jersey, I was aware that everyone made fun of the state–the armpit of America.  People thought the state was all factories and refineries and pollution and cities that had been destroyed by race riots.  I come from a hard-working, blue collar, Catholic Polish and Italian family.  I went to Catholic school and in 1984 when I was 12 years old, I could not wait to get the hell out of there.  There was a song that would come on the radio and I would dance around my little bedroom thinking that this guy understood, he got it.  I didn’t know then that he was from a town just 35 miles away and that he, too, was from a hard-working, blue collar, Catholic (Dutch, Irish and Italian in his case) family.  But the stories, the sound, the feel…it was what I had known my whole life.  Some of that music felt then and feels now as though it was being played inside of me.  The following summer, my cousin’s neighbor slept out all night in Colonia, NJ and got tickets to see Bruce at Giants Stadium.  In New Jersey, that summer, that was the biggest thing going.  One of our own had made it big and we all wanted to go out and cheer for him.  My cousin, her friend and I stood our little 13 year old bodies on top of our seats and screamed our throats raw and clapped our hands bloody and it was the best night of my 13 year old life.  Still stands out as one of the best nights of my life.  I was hooked.  The next day, I scrounged up all my money and went to the record store and bought every Bruce Springsteen cassette tape I could afford.  I listened to them in order, starting with Greetings.  I spent weeks just listening to Greetings before I moved on to the Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, absorbing it, just drinking it in.  My family and friends thought it was crazy that I had all these tapes and I had not even unwrapped them yet.

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 9.25.02 AM

When Springsteen on Broadway was announced, I put in for a code and didn’t get one.  Second round, nothing.  Finally, when they announced that Bruce wanted every single person that had applied for a code to get one and to have the chance to see the show.  I got a code.  My husband and I could not get seats together and we paid more for the seats we got than we have ever paid for a concert ticket before.  But it was worth it.  Worth every penny.

Bruce is a master storyteller.  He gets to that part that is human experience, that we can all relate to in one way or another.  His dad, quiet and stoic, dark and angry, never feeling that he got the love from his dad that he wanted so he emulated his dad to feel close to him.  He talked about a dream that he had where he knelt beside his dad and watched the man onstage perform in front of 80,000 screaming fans.  He said he wished his dad could have seen this.  The woman next to me and I both had our hands over our mouths so that we wouldn’t sob out loud.

He talked about his mom and how proud and happy she was.  How hard she worked.  How she was always smiling.  He sang a song called “The Wish” which is on Tracks, an album I have owned for twenty years and listened to countless times, but it never stood out to me until he sang it last night after talking about his mom.

If pa’s eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true
You couldn’t stop me from looking but you kept me from crawlin’ through

He talked about being a young man, moving out of Freehold.  He talked about his sisters, his friends growing up, the tree that had stood in front of his house when he was growing up.  He talked about meeting Ron Kovac and he talked about getting drafted and the guys he knew who had died in Vietnam.  He said he often wonders who took his place, because someone did.  He talked about his relationship with Patti.

He sang songs, raw and acoustic in between the stories and it worked beautifully together.  But the stories are what told me that I was right about him.  That he was the man that I had always thought he was.  A man who cares about family and where you come from, a man with integrity.  A man with great soul.  He talked about how he has tried to figure out his story and our stories and it’s been a service that he tried to provide over the years and that he could not have done it without the fans.

My one criticism of this performance is that the tickets were priced exorbitantly high.  I don’t think it was necessary to price them that high.  I think they could have been more reasonably priced.   I would just see him more as a man of the people, if he had more tickets in the $75-150 range and nothing over $300.  It does bother me to think of how much money he has and that he would charge these prices.  But, I do not regret having spent the money because the show was awesome!

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.


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?





4 star reviews, Book reviews, Cookbooks, Health, plant based

The China Study Cookbook: Revised and Expanded by LeAnne Campbell

4/5 stars

I have been a vegetarian for more than 30 years.  In the last few years, the emphasis on healthy whole foods, plant based diets and organic foods have really made being a vegetarian so much easier.  About a year ago, my daughter introduced me to a vegan vlogger Ellen Fisher and her sister Hannah McNeely, who is also an ethical vegan.  I love their videos and they have inspired me to eat less dairy and less eggs and less fish (I am not quite there yet as far as finding enough dinner recipes that my whole family likes, but I am completely vegan 3-4 days a week and vegan until dinner the rest of the week).

A few weeks ago, Ellen mentioned The China Study in her video and when I saw this cookbook pop up on Netgalley, I knew I wanted to check it out and hopefully find more dinner recipes!


Eating a whole food, plant based diet greatly reduces risks for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

One of my concerns about going completely plant based is protein.  As a vegetarian, I rely on eggs and fish for some of my protein (legumes, seeds and nuts provide some as well).  What I learned from this book and others, however, is that Americans consume too much protein and that actually increases risk of cancers.


The first recipe I made from this book was Dominican Rice and Beans with Fresh Salad, which the author says is her sons’ favorite meal.  We liked it a lot, although this style of cooking greatly reduces oil and salt and that was a big hit for us in terms of flavor.  We added some hot sauce, but we really wanted to add salt.  So that is something we need to think about in terms of how we want to adjust – do we want to add salt or get used to using less salt?  I have gone salt-free before and it takes a while but eventually I did get used to it and found the food flavorful enough.

The second recipe I made was the Baked Tofu which used coconut aminos and we found to be perfectly flavorful and one of the best recipes we have ever used for baked tofu.

I was eager to try some of the baking recipes, because I always want baked goods but am always trying to eat healthy.  I made the Blackberry Lemon Tea Cakes (I subbed raspberries because our raspberry bushes were thick with fruit).  We also tried the Almond Topped Blueberry Coffee Cake.  We found both to be very good, but to taste a little healthy, which we actually appreciated because it gave us the sweetness we craved without feeling overly decadent.

I have also tried some of the salad dressings, as I am trying to get away from my kale massaged with oil and salt and garlic.  I liked the Lemon Tahini dressing and the Asian Ginger dressing.  I have to get the ingredients for the Mango Azteca Dressing so I can try that one.

If you are interested in reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes and are open to eating less salt and oil and more whole food plants, then you should check this book out.  Yes, some of the food is slightly less flavorful than what you may be used to, but you will undoubtedly feel better eating it.

Book reviews, Personal

On Empty Nesting: Time for My Interests

A year ago, I was really struggling with the idea of my girls growing up and having lives of their own, separate from me.  I’ve talked to several of my friends about it and they felt the same way.  For so long, so much of my time and energy – both physical and emotional – was invested in my kids and it was sad to know that was coming to an end as my girls are now 16 and 18.  They will both be taking college classes starting next month!

In the last year, however, I have realized that now is actually my time.  My time to pursue things that I am interested in – it’s not about what the kids want or giving them a particular experience – it’s about what I want.  I love to read and I love being part of the bookstagram and book review community–I get so many great recommendations and I love talking about the books I love with people who also love them!

I have also realized that now is the time for my husband and I.  It’s our time to do things together that we want to do.  We’ve always sort of done that, but now we can do it on a larger scale and more often because we don’t need babysitters!  It’s kind of like dating all over again!  We went away from Wednesday, July 4 through Friday, July 6, just the two of us.  We rented a tiny house in the Catskill Mountains.  We had no wi-fi and decided to make it an internet free time (we did check texts and text our kids).  We cooked at the tiny house, went on long walks and hikes, read books, sat by a fire and my husband played guitar.  It was wonderful and romantic.  We have another getaway scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

IMG-2297My husband and I also took on a challenge this year to go on 9 hikes.  We have had so much fun with this!  We have discovered some local trails that we never knew existed.  My husband has been talking to people and scouring the internet for new hikes to go on.  We walk and talk and sometimes just walk in silence.  My blood pressure just literally drops when I get into the woods.  I physically feel different, better, more calm and at peace.  Last weekend, we went out for an amazing vegan brunch at Seed to Sprout in Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ and then went to Cheesequake State Park.  My husband planned the whole thing and it was a beautiful, perfect day!!  The weather was perfect, the trails were quiet, the smell of sassafras was strong, we sat in a grove of cypress trees for a half hour, just taking it all in.

We are realizing that we can pursue our interests now – garden tours, vegan brunches, hiking.  As much as I miss when my girls were little and we did everything as a family, I am enjoying this time that I get to pursue things that I am interested in.


Book reviews, fostering dogs, Personal

Fostering Dogs: Our Experience

I was nervous about fostering dogs.  Let’s face it, when you are bringing an animal into your home, you never know what can happen.  Would they bite us?  Would they be wild and unruly?  Would they get out of control?  Were they housebroken?  Would they try to run away?

But, there are a lot of dogs in shelters who are euthanized every year because no one adopts them, and that breaks my heart and I knew I wanted to be part of a solution.  So, we took the risk.  And, I must say, our mentor from Colonel Potter did a great job or reassuring us that she would be there for us and help us through any situation.

We got the call on a Monday that there were two dogs in a veterinarian’s office about 40 minutes away, they had been rescued from a shelter and brought to the vet and Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue needed someone to pick them up.  They were calling us for one, but we agreed to pick up both dogs.  Two male cairn terrier mixes.  We didn’t know if they would be housebroken or not, but the vet said they were sweet.

By Thursday of that week, Colonel Potter had sent us food from Chewy; collars, harnesses and leashes from Amazon and they had arranged for us to pick up two dog carriers at Petsmart.  We spent Thursday getting ready.  We bought treats, toys and water bowls for the dogs.

On Friday morning, my daughter and I made the trek (which should take 40 minutes but summer in NJ on a road that lead to the beach…and it took much longer getting there).  We went into the vet’s office and the vet tech came out and went over both dogs’ care with us.  Then she brought us around and introduced to each and helped us get them in their crate and we were on our way.

I drove and my daughter was in the passenger seat.  One of the dogs cried quite a bit and my daughter did her best to comfort him while keeping him in his carrier.

When we got to our house, my daughter carried the crying pup, in the carrier to our backyard and I stayed by the car with the other dog.  My daughter walked the first little guy around the yard on a leash as Colonel Potter stipulated and he did his business, then she brought him inside and into her bedroom.  My other daughter came out at that point and helped me carry the carrier for the other dog to the backyard, where we walked the other dog on his leash around so he could do his business.  The Rescue wanted them kept separate for a few days.

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 7.59.57 PM

Each of the dogs hung out in each of my daughters’ (they are 16 and 18) bedrooms for the first few days.  They sat on the girls’ laps and got A LOT OF LOVE.  They ate in there and slept in their crates in the girls’ rooms.

After a few days, we introduced them in the backyard and they did great!  So the next day we let them hang out together and they were fine, so they were allowed to roam the house (this is just what worked for us).

Both of the dogs we got were housebroken, although one had one accident even though he had just been brought outside.

Feeding was difficult.  They didn’t eat well the first few days and we were concerned and added a bit of wet food to their food and eventually they did both eat their food.

They were not interested in toys and did seem a little unsettled, even though they laid down and cuddled with us.  I don’t think they were completely relaxed.  My mother, who has been involved with New Life Boxer Rescue, said in her experience it takes months for a dog to relax in a new home.

We got to know both so we could make recommendations to the Rescue.

We did get attached and I think they did as well.  But we knew they were going to good homes.  We did cry, we did worry about them.  But the new “moms” messaged me and sent me photos and told me how the boys were doing.

It was hard saying good bye, but our family has discussed it and we are all looking forward to our next foster.  We want to help save dogs from euthanasia and the more people willing to foster, the more dogs can be saved.  We found the experience fun and rewarding. Even though these boys only lived with us for a little while, we will talk about them for years to come.

There is something so rewarding about changing this:

to this:

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 7.59.57 PM

The first is the dogs’ shelter pics, the second is the one on the right a few days after he got to our home.

I felt like these guys had had it rough and were able to relax a little with us, like we were a spa vacation and they knew it.

For more information on:

Why we decided to foster dogs

Why We Chose Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue

Our Experience Applying to Foster Dogs

Personal, fostering dogs

Colonel Potter Cairn Rescue: Fostering Dogs Part III

When we decided that we wanted to get involved with a dog rescue, initially I wanted to get involved with a rescue that works with mixed breeds.  My friend’s sister is very involved with Rawhide Rescue.  I have heard so many great things about them from her and had strongly considered fostering for them, but because of my allergies, my husband and I decided that we should work with a cairn terrier rescue.

There are several cairn terrier rescues and we ultimately decided on Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue because I emailed the different groups and the woman from Colonel Potter responded and answered all my questions, whereas the other groups never responded (I am not saying this as a slight to them, they might have gotten busy or the email may have landed in a SPAM folder).

Colonel Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue is extremely well-organized and well-run.  I did not understand the amount of work that goes into a dog rescue until we got involved.

There are people who spend hours every week looking through animal shelter websites for cairn terriers and cairn terrier mixes.  There are people who spend hours every week reaching out to municipal shelters and reminding them if they get a cairn terrier in, please call Colonel Potter.  There are people who work to develop a relationship with puppy mill owners so that if they have dogs to surrender, they will call the rescue.  There are people who coordinate picking up the dogs and bringing them to a VCA Animal Hospital (almost every dog spends several days at an animal hospital before entering the foster program; the vet evaluates them for any issues, grooms them and makes sure they are up to date on shots, heartworm and flea and tick meds).  There are people who find fosters who will be willing to house the dogs and people who arrange transportation – sometimes several hundred miles of transportation is needed.  There are people who volunteer to drive 100 miles one way to get these dogs to their foster home.  There are people who go through the applicants of foster homes and adoptive homes and make phone calls and do home visits to make sure the people would be good pet owners.  And, of course, there are the people who open their homes and hearts to the dogs until they can find their furever home.

Applying to Foster a Dog

Colonel Potter does a wonderful job of outlining the expectations and policies of fostering on their website.  I read them and went over them with my husband and daughters to make sure that everyone understood the policies.

Then I filled out an application online that asked things like if we owned our home, if we had a fenced in yard, if we had other pets and asked for veterinary and personal references as well as what kind of experience we had with other pets and how many hours a day someone is home.  It was actually quite similar to an application to adopt a pet.

I submitted the application and while it was being reviewed, I was asked to join two yahoo groups – one for policies and one where other people involved in fostering cairn terriers share information, etc.

I was kept informed as to what was going on with my application.  I was told when references were being checked.  I was told when I passed each phase of application review.  They emailed me a question, I can’t remember what it was.

Then I was told that we would have a home visit.  There is a sheet on the website to help you ready your house for a dog–making sure cleaning products are out of reach, electrical cords are out of reach, poisonous houseplants, etc.

A very nice gentleman contacted us and said he would be doing our home visit and asked when would be a good time.  We set it up for a Sunday morning.  He arrived on time and gave us some more paperwork on dog-proofing your home and Colonel Potter’s policies.  Then we sat down and chatted about our dogs and his dogs and our family’s life and when we are home, when we are not home, what our lifestyle is like.  Then he and my husband took a walk around our backyard – we have a fenced in yard and he wanted to make sure the fence was secure and there were no hazards.  Then we showed him around inside and he took some photos of each room to put in our file.  As he was leaving, he told us that he did not see any issues and would be putting in a good word.  I got an email that evening that he had done just that and we were awaiting final approval, which may take a while.

I think the entire approval process took between 2-3 weeks and then we got the news that we were approved!  They told us that fortunately there was not a lot of need at that point, that all of the public service messages to spay and neuter dogs and not to give dogs as gifts, etc. had worked and right then there was not a lot of unwanted homeless dogs.

A few months later, we got a call to foster a dog who was in another foster home but was not getting along with some of the other animals in the home.  We asked a few questions – was the dog housebroken? what was their temperament like? etc. and during that time, someone became interested in adopting the dog.

Another month or so went by and we were called to foster two dogs.  It was an unusual circumstance as both dogs were coming from Brooklyn were there had been an outbreak of canine influenza, and even though neither dog showed outward signs of canine influenza, the rescue felt it best to keep them both quarantined for the requisite 21 days.  Since we did not have any other pets to possibly be affected by the canine influenza, they asked us if we would take one of these dogs and we decided to take both.

In case you don’t know what a cairn terrier looks like, this is our Oliver.  Cairn terriers are sweet, spunky, sassy.  Typical terriers, they pack a lot of personality into a sturdy little body.  They have the spunkiest little walk with their tail raised, they kind of strut.  They are fun and playful.  They are a small but sturdy dog.  We adore the breed.