Thanks for Stopping By!

WELCOME! I'm so happy you came to check out my little corner of the world! If you're not already a follower I hope you choose to follow Real Housewife of Maine as I have a lot of fun projects, recipes, and book reviews on the way! If you're already a follower, welcome back!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Have You Ever Swam Through the Trees?

Okay, so here's the thing. I'm not athletic. Not at all. Usually, my attempts at sportiness end in some sort of injury and/or humiliation.

And yet that doesn't stop me from trying. My complete and utter lack of coordination and skill usually doesn't stop me from doing ridiculous things. Case in point? Yesterday I participated in the inaugural Dynamic Dirt Challenge held at Pineland Farms here in Maine.

The Dynamic Dirt Challenge is exactly what it sounds like -- a race/obstacle course that involves getting dirty. Very dirty. (Those of you who follow the Real Housewives of Orange County may recognize this type of event, as Gretchen, Tamara and Heather participated in one earlier this season.) I figured if the Botox crew could do it, so could I.

My friend Betsy talked a few of us into joining and we formed a team -- The Filthy Pink Pumas. We aren't old enough to be Cougars, you know. I started running, and was actually making progress until my already dysfunctional treadmill broke.

Training Tip #1: When training for a 4 mile race ON HILLS, be sure to add some incline to your treadmill. Otherwise, on the first hill, YOU WILL DIE.

As race day approached, I became more apprehensive. Most of the obstacles didn't look all that daunting -- except for the swamp and the culverts. I figured I could talk my way out of the culverts, and the swamp? It's Maine. How bad could it be?

Training Tip #2: Read the obstacle descriptions carefully BEFORE you sign up. The night before the race is not the time to discover that you have to face your most major fears.

Anyway, a few days before the race, the weather report did not look promising. The day of the race, the weather forecast turned to monsoon. In the 24 hour period leading up to the starting time, it rained something like 679 inches. We had buckets set up all over our dining room to catch the water, and roads were closed all over due to washouts. I figured the event would be cancelled.

I figured wrong.

At 9:40 am, our team took off to tackle the obstacle course. First obstacle? A waterslide down a large hill. With freezing water. 

Soaked, and shaken from the pileup at the bottom of the hill, we took off. Obstacle #2? The swamp. What would normally be about 6 inches of icky gunk was a thigh-high pool full of bullfrogs. I was doing fine until someone behind me mentioned leeches, and I took off like a shot. Probably the fastest I've ever run in my life.

The next few obstacles were fairly benign -- hay bales, a muddy trail through the forest, a steep drop to a stream. The organizers helpfully changed that obstacle, allowing us to go  over the bridge instead of through the river, since the rain had turned a normally placid stream into Niagara Falls. I figured I was in the clear. I figured wrong.

Training Tip #3: If doing an obstacle course, bring a life jacket. Or paddles.

Not far from the bridge cross, we encountered a lake. Now, there is not normally a lake in this part of the forest. There is normally a nice, groomed trail with some pine needles and maybe a happy little squirrel scampering about. On this day, though, there was a lake. A lake that, in some parts, was up to my neck. It was over some of my teammate's heads. As I backstroked through the trees in icy cold water, I reflected on the absurdity of it. It was 50 degrees out. I was wearing cat ears and leopard print socks. I was swimming in flood waters, and I still had about 2 miles to go to the finish line and the free beer and pizza that would be the reward for completing the challenge.

After the swimming, the remaining challenges felt as if they were harder. I almost skipped the climb over the stacked hay bales, but forced myself up and over. I did skip the culverts, since I decided that having a psychotic break in the middle of tube was not a good look for me. I managed the spiderwebs, the rope climb, and the random staircase in the middle of the field.

The last mile was the longest mile of my life. With every step I was convinced I couldn't go further. At one point in the forest, I had slipped and when I tried to right myself, I overcorrected and pulled a muscle in my lower back that sent stabbing pains up to my shoulder with every movement. My team pulled away, and I figured that I would just cross the finish line on my own, sometime around Tuesday evening.

But then I rounded the last corner and saw them all standing there. We were going to cross the finish line as a team. Exhausted, winded and in pain, I thought I was going to throw up, but Kimberly, one of my teammates, grabbed my hand and talked me through the last few yards of the course.

And then it was done.

And here's the point in these kind of stories where it gets inspiring, and you get the whole "I learned so much about myself spiel." If you don't want that, then stop reading, because it's coming.

The whole Dirt Challenge was part of my self-prescribed mission to get out of my comfort zone, to try new things and experiences. It was about as far out of my comfort zone as you could get. Did I enjoy the experience? Parts of it, yes. The camaraderie of the team was great. I loved proving to myself that I could do things I never thought possible (swamps? um, no) and going further than I ever had before.

And parts of it I didn't like so much. I hated the feeling of being SO out of shape in spite of all of the work I've done in the past few months. I hated being injured, and being the one to bring up the rear. I'm not exceptionally competitive by nature, but that felt pretty crappy. 

My team is already talking about doing it again next year, and I'm not convinced I'll be on the team roster. Part of me wants to spend time getting into better shape, to go back and prove that I can do it. The other part of me wants to let a sleeping dog lie, to just accept that I did it, treasure the memory and move on to something else. We'll see. Maybe when my back isn't throbbing and I've gotten all of the mud out of my ears, I'll feel differently.

If I do join up next year, though, I'm bringing my life jacket.

Photos courtesy of David Damon, Matt Tardiff and Monique Hebert.

Friday, June 1, 2012

50 Shades of Apparently I'm a Literary Snob

Hey there, been ahwile. Lots of reasons why, so let's just go ahead and say I'm back now and leave it at that. :-)

Anyway, so yeah.. This "50 Shades of Grey" thing. Like pretty much everyone, I'd heard about the book, and decided to check it out. After reading the description, reviews, rants, etc., on Amazon, I decided it's not for me.

But then my book club picked it for June, and well, I kind of had to read it. And my initial reaction? Yeah, spot on. I HATED it. It's not that I'm a prude (although after reading the book I realize I might be more than I thought).

The number one reason was that, well, the writing? Not so good. On Facebook the other day, I posted a mini rant in which I basically said that the fact that this book is SO popular and making SO much money is insulting to all of the writers out there who have spent years honing their craft, writing draft after draft only to get piles of rejection notices. And yeah, I fall into that categoriy, so it's easy to chalk my irritation up to sour grapes, which admittedly might be some of the story.

But honestly, even if I hadn't just spent four years and many thousands of dollars on a writing program, I would still feel this way. It just wasn't good.

Well, apparently my opinion raised some hackles, because someone indirectly (because it is Facebook, after all) called me a literary snob. Really? Huh? Hardly. I decided to prove my point by devoting today's post to some of my favorite books. Some literary, some not so much. But these are books inspired and entertained . . . and not one of them had an "inner goddess" or a "Red Room of Pain."

So here it is -- "Kristen's List of Favorite Books that Quite Possibly Make Her a Literary Snob"

1. The All Time Favorite - Gone With the Wind

The first time I read this, I was 15, and enthralled to the oint where I literally walked around the house reading it. I've re-read it about 15 times since then. I just love it. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor.

2. The Book that Made Me Want to Be a Writer - Little House in the Big Woods

When I was about 6 or 7, one of my relatives gave me a boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilders' classic books. I loved that set, and re-read all of the books over and over. But my favorite was the first, "Little House in the Big Woods." It made me want to be a writer when I grew up, and I can't wait to share it with my daughter.

3. The Book that Changed Everything - Bridget Jones' Diary

It's no secret that I love me some chick-lit -- and this is the original, the gold standard. I read it on a plane to Denver when I was 22, just starting out my "adult life" and I laughed out loud so much people thought I was nuts. I read each age thinking "finally, somebody GETS IT." Still a favorite today.

4. The Book that Made Me Glad to be an American- A Thousand Splendid Suns

Just yesterday I shared this book with a friend who has not read it yet, and challenged her not to be moved. This was a "read in one sitting" book, that made me cry and want to do something to help these women. I was never more glad to be an American, and a woman in America, than I was after reading this book, and appreciate that every day.

5. Books that Made Me Want to Write Better- The Cider House Rules, Poisonwood Bible, The Help

I put the three together because they all did the same thing: kept me up at night, turning the pages, wondering how the heck these people could write so well. Literally from the first page of "The Help" I was in awe -- I actually said to my husband "THIS is how you write." The others had the same effect. Good stories, amazing writing, and, in the case of two of them, pretty decent movies too.

So there you have it, the first installment of my Literary Snobbery list. Stay tuned next week for part 2 of the list . . .  a riding crop may appear, but only to be used in the traditional way.

In the meantime, what do you think? Literary snob? What's your opinion on "50 Shades of Grey"? What's your favorite book? I'm always looking for recommendations!

Until later . . .

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pinned Down: No-Sew Ruffled Tote Bag

So I've been seeing several versions of ruffled tote bags on Pinterest, and think they are the cutest. With a little one, even though I don't generally bring a diaper bag anymore, I still have to carry around wipes, clothing changes, snacks, random toys and found objects . ..  you know, preschooler "stuff."

After seeing several versions, all varying in complexity, I decided to make my own no-sew version of a bag. I have a sewing machine, but it usually just ends up frustrating me, especially when I'm trying to do ruffles.

To make my version of the bag you need:
Plain canvas tote bag (I got one at Hobby Lobby for about $3)
4 different, coordinating fabrics, cut into 3" x 24" strips (I used De-Lovely, from Cosmo Cricket)
Hot glue gun

After cutting the fabric using a rotary cutter, I "hemmed" the pieces using the glue gun. I folded over the short ends and adhered with glue, and then folded over about a quarter inch on one of the long sides and adhered with glue.

Starting at the bottom, I added a line of glue about 3-4 inches long (don't work too far ahead, since the glue will cool and harden). I adhered the unfinished edge of the fabric along the glue, gathering every few inches to make the ruffle. Continue to glue and gather across the bag, until you have a full ruffle.

Repeat the same process with the remaining fabric strips, hemming and gluing, overlapping each layer. At the top, I covered the unfinished edge with some recycled twill tape, and embellished with a rolled fabric flower. The whole thing took about 45 minutes.  In fact, it was so easy that I think I'll make a few more to give as gifts. They would be so cute as an alternative to gift baskets!

Until later . .. happy pinning!

Linked at:
Positively Splendid

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pinned Down: Best Stuffed Peppers Ever

Happy Monday! Hope your week is off to a great start!

So when I was a kid, my mother used ot make Stuffed Peppers for dinner every now and then. Her recipe was fairly traditional -- ground beef, rice, tomato sauce, cheese. They were delicious, and I loved them   . ..  so much that I added her recipe to my repertoire when I started cooking.

When I was cruising Pinterest, though, I found this recipe, boldly labeled the "Best Stuffed Peppers Ever." Curious, I pinned the recipe. I'm a sucker for anything called "best ever."

Then peppers and sausage went on sale at the Hannaford, and I decided to try them out. And holy moly, sweet fancy bananas . . . these weren't my mom's stuffed peppers.

Sorry, mom. I think I have a new recipe.

The recipe comes from the blog Cut Out + Keep, and calls for sausage instead of ground beef, and adds a delicious little spice called Sazon. Why I have never tried Sazon is beyond me. I found it in the international section of our sad little grocery store (which means it's probably not all that hard to get, since I actually had a hard time finding coconut milk at that store a few weeks ago). It's made by Goya, and has a nice little kick to it.

The only change I made to this recipe was to use regular Italian sausage instead of the hot, since the hot tends to be mean to me and aggravates my reflux issues. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter . .. and as the blogger says, total pleasure overdose. These really were the Best Stuffed Peppers Ever.  Here's how they looked:

Looks delicious, no?

Of course, the picky little one wouldn't touch these, so we had plenty of leftovers, which were just as delicious the next day. So I would call this another Pinterest winner!

Until later . ..  happy pinning!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Obsessions this Week

Happy Sunday! Hope everyone is having a super wonderful weekend -- I got to spend some fun family time yesterday, and we're headed to a snow tubing park today to take advantage of the foot of snow that fell the other day. Fun!

So here are my obsessions this week . . . and two of them are actually rather housewife-y. Go figure.

Purex Crystals
So I have a front loader washing machine, and if you have a front loader, you know about "the stink." Something about the design of the machines makes it easier for mold and fungus to grow in the machine (eew) causing the machine to stink -- which makes your laundy stink too. I clean my machine every other week with bleach, but I still notice an aroma, particularly on my towels. Maybe I'm just super sensitive?
Anyway, these little miracle crystals have pretty much solved the problem. A capful of these babies tossed in the wash (in the drum -- not the fabric softener or soap dispenser) makes everything smell nice -- and it lasts. Love!

Big Oven

Have you discovered Big Oven yet? It's kind of like, another favorite. Users submit recipes, other users rate them, you can store your favorites . ..  it's a super resource when you're like "What the heck do I do with this chicken?" I found a meat loaf recipe there last week that was A-mah-zing (as Penny on "Happy Endings" would  say)  . ..  especially considering I don't like meat loaf.

Considering the amount of snow we got this week, flip-flops might be a bit premature, but I don't care. I'm a flip-flop girl, and as soon as it gets near 50 degrees, I lose the socks and clogs and bust out the flops.
Last year I discovered Switchflops, and my life was changed. I probably have about 30 pairs of flip-flops (I'm not exaggerating) but with these, you really only need one pair. The straps are Velcro, and you can switch them whenever you want to match your outfit or your mood. And the straps are adorable (I have my eye on Carlouel -- it has a mermaid on it!) and vary from super simple to fancy-schmancy. Lindsay Phillips, the genius designer, has created several styles of shoes that all take the interchangeable straps, but my favorite are the Lulu. They are actually comfy -- I wore them for hours walking around Epcot last summer and didn't feel like I was going to die. I definitely plan to pick up a few more pair this year!

So those are this weeks obsessions . .. what are you loving this week?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blog of the Week: Chick Lit is not Dead

Chick Lit is not Dead

Like so many people, I fell in love with Chick Lit when I read "Bridget Jones's Diary" back in the late 90's. I actually read the now-classic on a plane from Boston to Denver, and literally lol'ed more than once. I was 22, just out of school, and thought "Finally, a book for me!"

Since then, I've read literally hundreds of books in the genre -- some better than others. For every Jennifer Weiner or Emily Giffin, there's a JW or EG knockoff, a book so fluffy and lacking in substance that I'm afraid it will blow away in a strong breeze.

And then the rumors started, the eye-rolling accompanied by the phrase "Chick Lit is Dead." No one wants books about girls about town, looking for love and happiness. No one wants pink covers and happy endings.

To them, I say "Whatever."

Which is why I LOVE this blog, "Chick Lit is not Dead." Liz and Lisa are awesome, highlighting the best in chick lit books and authors, proving without a shadow of a doubt that chick lit is not, in fact dead. It's just evolved.

I love this blog for so many reasons. The interviews, the highlights of new books, the insights into other thigns in the chick lit universe. If you like this type of book at all, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Review Friday: A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

My literary tour of the South continues this week with Joshilyn Jackson's latest, A Grown Up Kind of Pretty. Maybe it's just that we're in what feels like the longest, coldest time of the year here that's making me want to escape south of the Mason-Dixon line?

I read Jackson's Gods in Alabama a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and I'd heard good things about this book, so I was excited to read it. And I wasn't disappointed. A Grown Up Kind of Pretty is the story of three generations of Slocumb women -- Ginny, a matriarch at the age of 45, her daughter Liza, a beautiful, wild and troubled 30-year-old, and Liza's daughter, Mosey, who just turned 15. Ginny believes that trouble comes to the Slocumb women every 15 years, and her theory is proven correct when Liza suffers a stroke at the school picnic, and a tiny skeleton surfaces in her backyard when the willow tree is cut down.

Like the gnarled roots of the willow tree, Jackson weaves a complex story, equal parts mystery and family saga. Each woman tells her own story -- Ginny, and her desire to protect and heal her family while also finding love of her own; Liza, with a brain addled by the effects of a lifetime of drug use and the stoke, struggling to recapture her memories and communicate the truth to her mother and daughter; and Mosey, fighting the current of expectation from her mother, grandmother, and the small Mississippi town that had already labeled her as trouble before she even started kindergarten -- and trying to discover her true identity.

Jackson is a master of characterization, and she created three separate, but familiar, characters, that are familiar but not cliched -- and I loved them all. Despite the fact that their Baptist belt neighbors had dismissed the Slocumb women as whores, not worthy of kindness or forgiveness, Ginny, Liza, and Mosey actually demonstrate the Christian values of forgiveness, love, charity, and kindness more than anyone else. Some of their actions may fall within legal gray areas, but also beg the question of when is it okay to do wrong in the name of the greater good -- and when are appearances deceiving?

Jackson is a master of the clever turn of phrase, and some of her expressions and descriptions were laugh out loud funny. My only quibble with the book is with Mosey's chapters, which are heavy on teen slang and text-speak. While important for establishing character, I found it a little annoying at times -- maybe I'm just showing my age? At the same time, I found myself most engaged with Mosey's sections of the story, perhaps because they were the most action-oriented and revealed the most about the mystery of the skeleton in the yard and Mosey and Liza's backstory.

Minor quibbles aside, though, I loved this book and highly recommend it. Ginny, Liza, and Mosey will stay with you long after you finish the final page . . .I was actually sad to see it end.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pinned Down: Monogram Wreath

Morning all! Happy Thursday! Thursday mornings are always a little rough for me, since I usually stay up late to watch "Revenge." Seriously, if you aren't watching that show, you need to be. As much as I love my reality shows, "Revenge" is a reminder of why good scripted shows -- with actual actors -- will always be king.

Anyway, today I have another Pinterest-inspired project to share. Like a lot of people, I like to change my doo decor every few weeks, but wreaths are so expensive. I have a few things that I rotate throughout the year, but needed some new ideas.

I found this idea on Pinterest a few months ago, and loved it. And when I started to work on this project, I loved it even more. Super simple -- this took less than an hour to make!

Cute, no? The original version had more rolled fabric flowers, but I went with a simpler version.

To make this wreath you'll need:
1 18-grapevine wreath
1 chipboard letter (I got mine at Hobby Lobby)
Burlap (about 1/2 yard)
fabric (about 1/4 yard; I used a fat quarter)
glue gun

First, cut the burlap into a strip, about 2 inches wide, and wrap it around the letter, securing it with hot glue. This was one of those times that I wished my last name was an easy letter, like U or C, but I managed.

Next, make your rolled flowers. If you don't know how, there are a gazillion tutorials out there on how to do it. I simply cut a strip of fabric, folded it in half, knotted one end, and then rolled the fabric around the knot, twisting as I went. Add a few drops of hot glue every so often to secure the flower. Once you're happy with the flower, add your embellishments. I used some buttons that I stacked for interest, but you could use almost anything.

Finally, arrange the monogram and the flowers how you want on the wreath, and secure with glue. Add a ribbon for hanging, and voila! A pretty, easy wreath. You could adapt this wreath for the different seasons using different fabrics--I'm thinking about making a brighter version for the summertime.

The only problem I found with this wreath is that I have to hang it inside my mudroom. Fabric and chipboard + late Maine winter/early spring is a recipe for disaster. I'll have to come up with something else for outside.

Until later . . . happy pinning!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Win a Book!

Among my many hats, I am a virtual assistant for a wonderful author, speaker and coach, Felicia Slattery. Felicia is awesome, super talented, and great to work for . . .and her new book is being released today.
While you can certainly buy a copy on Amazon, you can also enter to win one on Goodreads. Just follow the link below, and you could hvae a copy in your hot little hands for free!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

21 Ways to Make Money Speaking by Felicia Slattery

21 Ways to Make Money Speaking

by Felicia Slattery

Giveaway ends March 07, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinned Down: Baked Cheesy Chicken Penne

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. I stayed up way too late watching the Oscars last night--which was kind of pointless, since the only nominated movies I actually saw were "The Help" and "Bridesmaids."

Anyway, today I have another recipe to share that I found on Pinterest. This one came from Real Mom Kitchen (have I mentioned how much I love that site?)

The recipe on Real Mom Kitchen is a modified version of a Martha Stewart recipe, and the version I made is a slightly different version of the already modified one. (Follow all that?) First of all, I cut the recipe in half, since making the whole giant pan is just too much for us. I also cut out the sun-dried tomatoes, since I forgot to buy them at the grocery store, but added in some broccoli florets instead, since chicken, cheese and broccoli are among the 10 things that my 3-year-old will eat. Here's how it looked:

Looks yummy, no? My husband pointed out that it's basically souped-up mac'n-cheese, but call it what you want, it's delicious. Creamy, cheesy, with just enough texture from the chicken and veggies. And best of all, the world's pickiest eater actually ate -- and liked it. So I'd call this a winner!

Here is the link to the original recipe. It's a great way to use up leftover chicken, and you could actually make a double batch and freeze one for later.

Off to get more coffee now . . . so until later, happy pinning. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Obsessions This Week

So with the kids home for February vacation, and other life emergencies, I haven't keep up with things as much as I like. Hate it when that happens!

Anyway, I'm back on track now, and here are the three things I'm obsessed with this week:

When I saw this pink blush in Sephora, I was like, no way . . . too pink, too sparkly. But then the super helpful salesgirl convinced me to try it, and I am SO glad she did. This stuuff is awesome . . . the perfect pink, not too bright at all. Plus it smells like watermelon, which is kind of cool.

When I was a kid, we lived for a short time in this really cool house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. While that was cool in and of itself, one of my favorite parts of that house was the fence in the front yard, which was hidden by beach rose bushes. All summer long, I could smell those roses, and to this day, the smell of beach roses is one of my most favorite in the world.
This candle is one of the closest to that scent I've ever found. I don't usually like Yankee Candle's floral fragrances -- too overpowering, and I usually prefer basking and/or fruit scnets -- but I just love this one.  I bought several, since YC has a tendency to discontinue the scents I actually like.

Fishtail Braids
So this is one of those deals when I went, well, duh! I've been seeing fishtail braids everywhere, and thought they were super complicated. Glamour magazine had a tutorial in this month's issue, and I tried it out on my stepdaughter the other day. It's actually easier than French braiding, and looks so cute. Now I wish I hadn't cut all of my hair off a few weeks ago . .. sigh.

Here's another easy tutorial if you want to try it.

Have a great week! Until later!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Everyone Has a Breaking Point

Last week, I tweeted about how I was not watching Whitney Houston's funeral, because I don't like funerals.
Someone that does not follow me, that I do not know, and wouldn't know from a hole in the wall, decided to respond by questioning my upbringing and my understanding of funerals.
Um, no, I just do not like them.
Anyway, this reponse raised the proverbial hackles. How dare someone who doesn't know me question how I was raised, and my faith? I furiously typed a response, but then erased it. No need to start a fight with someone who is just one of the millions of whackadoodles yelling on Twitter.

It was easy for me to ignore this tweet. Imagine, though, if that one message was multiplied by 100, and accompanied by e-mails and comments on my blog. I might be able to ignore it for a while, dismiss the "haters," delete the messages.

But for days, months, even years? I'm not so sure.

I bring this up because yesterday I followed the Dooce "meltdown" on Twitter and her blog. Long story short, someone tweeted about Dooce, someone else replied in agreement, and Dooce snapped. She told them both to bleep off, an understandable reaction from someone who has just.had.enough.
Throughout the day and evening, tweets were flying, Dooce posted on her blog about the subject, and people came out of the woodwork to congratulate her for standing up for herself. Dooce herself appeared to be the internet equivalent of a barnyard rooster, strutting around like "check me out, I'm bad."

Here's the thing. I get it. I get that you can only ignore hate for so long. Negative comments questioning everything from your choice in hairstyle to how you raise your children to how you handle your marriage would wear on anyone. Dooce has done an admirable job, from what I can see, not responding to those who do not appreciate her blog, lifestyle, and opinions. And I also understand that she is under considerable strain these days.
But you know what? While I understand that everyone has a breaking point, I also understand that when you put your entire life on display, sharing every thought and feeling and home renovation project on the internet, where it can be seen by millions of people, you are opening yourself up to all sorts of criticism. You have to have a thick skin to blog the way Dooce does. I'm not sure I could handle hundreds of people commenting on my bathroom decor or how I talk to my kids every day. I get upset when a stranger makes a comment about my daughter at Target -- I can't imagine a whole crowd of know-it-alls making judgments in writing.
That being said, I don't agree with how Dooce handled the situation yesterday. Perhaps my reaction comes from personal experience. I told someone to bleep off once. Those two little words did more harm to that relationship, and several others, than you can even imagine. For years, I've had strained relationships with several family members because I couldn't hold my tongue anymore. Granted it's different than dealing with strangers, but the lesson is the same. You might momentarily feel better, but there are better ways to stand up for yourself, ways that don't make you appear confrontational, angry, and yes, offensive. A clever turn of phrase, blocking the user.. . .anything but resorting to playground antics would have been better.
I know that Dooce doesn't give a rat's behind what I think of her. She doesn't care that I think her behavior after telling those people where to go and what to do there was immature. She doesn't care that if it were, me, I would take a break from chronicling my every move for the blog for a while, and focus on healing myself and deciding what to do about my marriage, without the prying eyes and opinions of millions of people who haven't been in her shoes for the last decade.

In fact, she might just give me the middle finger and tell me to go scrapbook something.

And really, at the end of the day, all this incident really did was bring more traffic to her site, and get her more followers. As a new blogger, I suppose I could take lessons from Dooce. I could respond to the nutjobs on Twitter who think it's their job to teach me what a funeral really means, getting attention for a millisecond in the Twittersphere.
Or, I could just ignore them, like Dooce did for so long.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review Friday: The Lost Hours by Karen White

In a continuation of the "Read what's on my shelf" thing I have going on, I read Karen White's The Lost Hours a few weekends ago. Seriously -- I started this book on a Friday night and finished on Sunday morning. The only reason it took me so long was that I had to go to a wedding that weekend. The book is THAT good.

Like Saving Cee Honeycutt, last week's review, The Lost Hours is set in Savannah. It's a very different Savannah than CeeCee's world, though . . . less whimsical, more filled with dark secrets that have affected several generations of three families.

In the beginning of The Lost Hours, Piper Mills is reeling from the death of her grandfather. Orphaned as a child, Piper was raised by her grandparents in one of Savannah's grand old houses. A former equestrian champion, Piper had been severely injured in a competition six years earlier, and after her grandfather's death, struggled to find her place and purpose in the world.

The story begins after the funeral, when Piper receives an envelope with two letters, written by her grandmother Annabelle some 70 years earlier to a mysterious friend, and a key. In searching the house for more information about these items, Piper discovers a blue infant sweater in an old trunk, and remembers burying an old box in the yard with her grandfather. She digs up the box, and finds pieces from a scrapbook, a charm bracelet, and a mysterious newspaper clipping from 1939, about an unidentified Black baby found dead in the Savannah River.

Intrigued, Piper begins searching for answers about her grandmother's past. This brings her to a horse farm outside of Savannah, owned by her grandmother's former best friend. Posing as a geneaologist researching the family for a friend, Piper ingratiates herself with Lillian and begins to learn shocking truths about her grandmother's early life, and the history of her family and Savannah.

To say that I loved this book is an understatement. At first, I wasn't so sure -- Piper was so miserable in the early chapters, so depressed and bitter that she was unlikable, and I wondered if I could get through another 300 pages of such as sad sack. As Piper explored her grandmother's story, though, she grew and changed, and became far more sympathetic.

The mystery of the baby, and why Annabelle and Lillian did not speak for more than 70 years is intriguing, and that story kept me turning the pages. I wanted to know what happened, and each time I thought I had it pieced together, a new piece of information emerged that forced me to reconsider my theory. And when the answer is revealed in the final pages, it's shocking, yet completely satisfying and true to the characters that White had created. In fact, the story has a "happy ending," as much as such a tragic tale can, but it didn't feel contrived or rushed.

Like the last two books I've read, I can't believe I let this one sit on the shelf for so long -- and that I've never read Karen White's books before. I'll definitely be adding more of her books to my "must-read" list.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pinned Down: Taco Pizza

One of the best things about Pinterest isn't all the great ideas (which of course, are awesome) but I also love that it's introduced me to some amazing blogs and websites that I might not have otherwise discovered.

On of these sites is Real Mom Kitchen. If you aren't visiting this site regularly, you should. It's one of the best sources of simple and delicious recipes I've found in a long time. Like the name says, it includes recipes that are easy for real, busy moms to follow. The ingredients are easy to find, kitchen staples, and most of the recipes only take a short time to prepare.

One of the recipes I found there was for Taco Pizza. We all love tacos and pizza here in the Real Maine House, so what's better than combining the two?

The recipe on RMK suggested using crescent rolls for the crust, but I used a regular pizza crust. I pre-baked the crust for about 10 minutes, then topped it with refried beans, seasoned taco meat, cheese, black olives, tomatoes, and green onions. A few more minutes in the oven, and voila . . . here's what it looked like:

It's kind of a mess, since the kids helped me, but that's half the fun right?

It tasted oky, but was super thick and holy moly, did I get heartburn after eating it. I think if I were to do it again, I would use salsa or taco sauce instead of the refried beans, and shredded chicken instead of the beef. But it was fun, and a different take on regular 'ole tacos or pizza.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting Up on My Soapbox: Chris Brown edition

I had intended to post today about a recipe I found on Pinterest, but something in my Facebook news feed got me fired up instead, so I'm going to take a break from the regularly scheduled programming to jump up on my soapboax.

Last night, Chris Brown performed at -- and actually won -- a Grammy. As almost everyone knows, a few years ago, the night before the Grammys, Brown beat his then-girlfriend, Rihanna during a vicious argument.

Now, personally, I didn't care for Brown's music before the incident, and I don't care for it now. And whether or not he deserves to be rewarded is a discussion for another day.

What I will say, though, is that there are some people who just do not understand the gravity of what he did, and have turned it into some sort of joke.

This morning, a friend posted this link on his Facebook page. Are these girls serious? Really? Because they find this person physically attractive, they would accept -- and in some cases -- welcome abuse?

Girls, this is not funny. This is not cute. What it is is disrespectful to the thousands of women (and men) who are living with abuse, or have gotten away from abuse, in their relationships. People have been permanantly scarred, physically and emotionally, and even died at the hands of people they loved. Your asinine tweets about how you would "let Chris Brown beat me" trivialize an important issue, and contribute to the cycle of abuse that plagues our society.

And honestly? I think that if Chris Brown, or anyone for that matter, were to actually beat you, you'd be singing a different tune. If you don't believe me, take some time to read the stories of women who have been in abusive relationships, and learn about the terror they experience at the hands of their significant others. Ask Rihanna. When her face was bruised and bleeding, I'm sure the last thing she was thinking was that her boyfriend is sexy.

As a society, we all have to work together to end domestic violence. And the first step is to educate girls, to teach them to respect themselves enough to stay away from abusers, no matter how handsome or charming they may be. Even if you think you're kidding, sending messages like these are telling abusers that it's okay to hurt others. Is that really what you want?

If you are experiencing abuse, or know someone who is, there is help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a good place to start.

Stepping off the soapbox now. We'll return to normal tomorrow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Obsessions This Week

It's Sunday again . . . did everyone have a fabulous week? I've had a crazy busy week -- lots of fun projects.

So let's get to it . . . Here are my obsessions this week.

Finally! Cougar Town is coming back! Bust out the Penny Can and Big Carl for one of the funniest shows on TV.

Full disclosure-- I am probably the worst gardener on the planet. Like seriously, seriously bad. And yet, every winter I get it in my head that I'm going to have a garden. I'm trying to talk hubby into building me a raised bed. I told him there would be fewer weeds so I might not get bored with it. We all know how this is going to end.

I love, love, love Lilly Pulitzer . . . and this may be the year that I finally invest in one of her adorable tunics. The perfect summer dress.

Those are this week's favorites . . . now off to go look at seed catalogs.

Until next time . ..

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review Friday: Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

So I've been working through my bookshelf, reading all the books that have been sitting there all lonely for a while. And this book? I cannot believe that I let this much wonderfulness (yes, it's a word) sit there undiscovered for so long.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is Beth Hoffman's debut novel, and I hope that she has many more stories in her. The story starts in Willoughby, OH, where 12-year-old CeeCee is watching her mother go insane. Her father is an alcoholic traveling salesman who drinks and works to avoid his daughter and unraveling wife. CeeCee's only friend is the elderly Mrs. Odell, a next door neighbor who is everyone's dream grandma.
When CeeCee's mother, Camille, dies after being hit by an ice cream truck, salvation comes in the form of one Tallulah "Tootie" Caldwell, CeeCee's great aunt and one of the nicest people alive. Aunt Tootie brings CeeCee to live with her in Savannah (one of my most favorite places in the world!) where CeeCee meets a wonderful cast of characters, including Odetta, Tootie's kindly housekeeper/cook, and Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, an eccentric neighbor who enchants CeeCee with her exotic tales of love and adventure.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is not all southern charm and eccentricity, though. Set in the late 1960's, an undercurrent of racism runs through the city, and CeeCee, having grown up in the desegregated north, learns about humans' capacity for cruelty to each other. CeeCee also has to come to grips with her mother's mental illness and depth, and defining the relationship with the man who was her father by genetics only.
This book is everything that I want in a novel. An intriguing story, likable characters, and a good pace that keeps you interested without glossing over the "hard" stuff. I can't wait to see what Beth Hoffman comes up with next.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pinned Down: Endless Green Onions

Have you ever seen something on Pinterest and gone, "Well, duh!"

When I saw the idea of putting green onions in a jar of water on the windowsill, I literally did a facepalm. See, I'm ALWAYS either forgetting to buy green onions, or throwing half of them away because I don't need the whole bunch.

So having an endless supply right there? Yeah, I'm all over it.

It's quite simple. Just take a bunch of green onions, trim them down so there are just a few inches of green above the white and put them in a jar. Add enough cold water to just cover the white part, and they will grow back. Simple. And they grow fast, too.

Here's a picture of mine:

I've had these for about 6 weeks now. You have to remember to change the water every few days, or it gets icky, and a few times I've had to trim some stalks that get too long before I've had a chance to use them. But this actually worked -- yay Pinterest!

Monday, February 6, 2012

For the Record, Crow Doesn't Taste That Great

So I had big plans to devote today's post to a big Patriots Super Bowl win.

So, well . . . that Betty White commercial for "The Voice" was great, huh? And how about Madonna?

Anyway, since I was so super confident about what I was going to post, I didn't really plan anything else for today. I did do some other stuff over the weekend, though . . .

On Saturday, we went to a wedding reception for hubby's beautiful niece and her new husband (Congrats Sylvie & Andy!). They eloped in Jamaica last month (lucky ducks, escaping Maine to the sunny Caribbean in January) and had a nice party this past weekend for all of their well-wishers.

Of course, I forgot my camera. My sister-in-law, the bride's mother, is one of the most creative and talented people I know (although she'll never admit it) and did a beautiful job with the party and creating keepsakes for the happy couple.

One idea that I absolutely loved was the "Shell Wishes" jar. While in Jamaica, she and Sylvie collected shells from the beach and brought them home. Guests were asked to write their wishes for the bride and groom on the shells, which were then placed in a large glass vase. Great idea for a trip memento, and a nice replacement for the typical boring guestbook. I wish I had been able to take a picture of it!

Before the game on Sunday, I took the mini-me down to South Portland for some shopping. We hit A.C. Moore to get some supplies for a couple Pinterest products I wanted to try. I hate to say it, but I'm pretty much over A.C. Moore. They hardly ever update their stock -- I've been looking at the same scrapbook papers and stickers literally for YEARS -- and they had hardly anything different. They also had nothing that I was looking for. Really? No chalkboard paint?

Maybe it's just our store that has some issues, but I really think that A.C. Moore needs to up their game a bit. Thankfully, we're taking a trip out to Ohio next month, and I can get a Hobby Lobby fix. I'm making my list now.

Anyway, that's my rant. Anyone else have a problem with their local craft stores? I know I can go online, but I just hate paying for shipping.

I've got some good stuff coming up this week . . . a yummy Pinterest recipe, some book reviews, and hopefully, an inspiring organizational makeover. So until later . . .

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Obsessions This Week

Since I'm a "real" housewife and all, I thought I'd take a page out of Mr. Andy Cohen's book and do my own version of "Three Things I'm Obsessed With." So without further ado . . .

I love this Sephora glitter nail polish. I've tried other glitter polishes, but the chunky glitter never comes out, you know? You get one or two lonely little sparkles -- not full on bling. This stuff is different. It actually has glitter. I've got it on my toes, over olive green polish and it looks super cute.

How cute is this jacket? I need another jacket like I need a hole in the head, and I can't justify the $100 right now (and I'm also not 7 feet tall like the model), but I love it.

Are you watching Revenge? If not, why? Seriously, this show rocks -- and new episodes return this week. We're finally going to find out who was shot on the beach in the pilot, a mystery that's been building for months. If you haven't been watching, you can catch up here. It's addictive -- and the clothes and houses are to die for.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pinned Down: Cinnamon French Toast Bake

So, like just about everyone in the world it seems, I'm obsessed with Pinterest. If you don't know what Pinterest is, you're missing out. Big time.

Anyway, since this is the "launch" week of this blog, I'm introducing another to-be-regular feature: Pinned Down.

See, here's the thing. A lot of people pin like crazy, with hundreds or even thousands of ideas on their boards. But how many people actually DO the stuff they pin?

I figure that if I'm going to spend THAT much time on Pinterest each week, I should spend at least some time trying out the great ideas I find. And I'll share the results here. At least once a week, I'll post one of the ideas that I've tried . .. good, bad, or ugly.

So here is the first one . . .

Cinnamon French Toast Bake from Oh My Sugar High.

So I saw this pin and thought "Yum!" I'm all about breakfast casseroles in general, and as soon as I saw this pin, I thought it would be perfect for Christmas morning.

Usually, when I make a recipe for the first time, I follow the directions to the letter, and then take notes for adjustments the next time. Well, in a case of poor planning, I only had 4 eggs on hand, instead of the 5 that the recipe called for. Turns out that was a good thing, 'cause I think one more egg would have made this too "eggy." I don't like anything too "eggy."

Anyway, this smelled incredible while it was baking, and when I took it out of the oven, it drew the kids away from their Christmas toys. Here's how it looked:

Yum-O. It tasted as delicious as it looked. The kids loved it, probably because it was super sweet.

It's not something that I would make every day, but it's perfect for brunch or a special occasion. In fact, I made it again for a girl's night at my house, and there were almost no leftovers. And the leftovers were still good. The little one gobbled them up for breakfast the next day.

The best part (or maybe the worst?) is that thanks to this pin, I've discovered Oh My Sugar High and I've already saved a bunch more recipes to try.

Until the next time . . .

Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review Friday: The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel

So as part of my blog revamp (or vamp, since I never really had much to start with) I’m going to have some new features. The first is “Book Review Fridays” . . . hopefully I’ll have a book each week to review here. Here’s the first: The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel (9780553385595): Sarah Addison Allen: Books

I’m a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen’s books. I loved “Garden Spells” and “The Sugar Queen.” I love how she brings her characters and their stories to life, and how the small North Carolina towns where the stories are set are characters as much as the people are. She’s a master of magical realism, making you believe that these amazing things –books appearing right when you need them, friendly ghosts in the closet – are totally normal.
So I wanted to love “The Girl Who Chased the Moon.” I really did. I bought the book a little over a year ago, and then I got a Kindle and was so enthralled with my new toy that I forgot about all the unread books in the pile next to my bed. But I just finished reading this epic 500-something page book for my book club, and wanted something a little lighter. And like the mysterious happenings in one of her fictional towns, this book just spoke to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it.
“The Girl Who Chased the Moon” is the story of two women in the town of Mullaby, North Carolina. Emily Benedict is a 16-year-old, recently orphaned who has come from Boston to live with her maternal grandfather, the 8-foot giant Vance. Julia Winterson, Vance’s next door neighbor, is also a recent arrival in Mullaby, having returned after an 18-year absence to take over her deceased father’s BBQ joint. Julia has no intention of staying in Mullaby; she’s saving money to return to Baltimore and open a bakery.
Mullaby is a town of secrets, though, and as Emily gets to know Julia, she learns more about her mother, Dulcie, who left town after she was blamed for the death of one of her classmates. Dulcie was a queen bee in town, who tortured Julia throughout their high school days. Julia responded to the bullying by cutting herself, and the night before she was to leave for reform school, she shared one night with Sawyer, the most popular boy in school that altered the course of her life forever.
As Emily digs into her mother’s past, she’s fascinated with glowing lights that appear in the woods behind her grandfather’s house every night – even though everyone tells her to ignore them. Her mother’s past haunts her as well, when she starts to have feelings for a boy in town, Win Coffey, against the wishes of her grandfather and Win’s family.
Like Allen’s other books, the story is gentle and sweet, and the characters are quirky and likeable. But the story felt predictable, and the ending was just a little too tidy for my taste. Food plays a role in all of Allen’s books, and she does an amazing job of incorporating all of the senses into her descriptions – I defy you to not crave some barbecue and hummingbird cake after reading this book. But unlike her previous books, I just didn’t feel satisfied with this one. It felt rushed and incomplete, like an underbaked cake.