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!

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.