Category Archives: Literature

Splurges February 2017

I realized this week that I went a little overboard in splurging on items recently. It’s time to tighten the belt. And then some.

The good news is I have no regrets on what I’ve purchased.

Besides what is shown in the pictures, I also splurged on a cute white and blue striped button-up top from Target and a fancy haircut.



I bought Maria Semple’s latest book because I loved Where are you Bernadette so much that I wanted to treat myself with this book for my upcoming vacation. Nothing makes me happier than hopping on a plane with a new book.

It is a splurge because I rarely buy new books unless the author is my friend. I just can’t afford to buy new when I read so much. It would break the bank for sure.

However, I did also buy a great book on author marketing:

Some of my other worthwhile purchases:



The Nutribullet has rocked my world. I always thought smoothies were sort of lame and for super health conscious workout folks, not wine-guzzling book nerds like me. I am reformed. I love my Nutribullet smoothies with a deep abiding passion. So easy. So good. So good for you.

My standard smoothie has:

  • Handful of spinach
  • Teaspoon of peanut butter
  • Teaspoon of Chia seeds
  • Teaspoon of hemp heart powder
  • Teaspoon of no sugar, no carb vanilla protein powder
  • A few ice cubes

Mr. Dudley

After reading about this pepper grinder and going through a million cheap ones, I was out to lunch with my husband at an Italian restaurant and when the server asked if we wanted pepper I said, “Is that a Mr. Dudley?”

She looked at me like I was cray-cray until I told her to look on the bottom. Sure enough it was a Mr. Dudley. She looked impressed (at least in my own mind) and said, “Um, that’s the first time anyone has ever asked me THAT!”

So Mr. Dudley it is! Sold. I went home and ordered one online despite the server’s offer to slip me the one she had for $20 (she was kidding. sort of)


Anyone who knows me or who has been to my home knows I’m a total freak about religious art and Mexican art so I found my spirit animal at a scrumptious St. Paul restaurant called Burrito Mercado.

This place has everything I’ve ever wanted in Mexican religious art. I’m lucky I got out of there with only this one piece. (So far.)


On My Nightstand


I’m just going to apologize right off the bat for this post. My book situation is out of control. Pure chaos. Overflowing with library books, books I’ve bought and books I’ve borrowed. For some bizarre reason, all of the books on my waiting lists at the library all decided to come in at once. Several are in the exact same genre of the novel I am writing: girl crime reporter, so they are really considered research.

I have included pictures of them all (see the second to last picture for an idea of the chaos), but I will briefly give a summary of those that I have already read. I  read and loved Foreign Tongue by Vanina Marsot. I recommend it to all Francophiles.

Am currently reading Villa Mirabella from one of my favorite authors in the Italian-American fiction genre, Peter Pezzelli. For some reason, possibly that the main character is a man in his 30s, I keep losing interest in this one.

The one that has me completely caught up in the character’s world is Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. One of my bookclubs chose this and I borrowed it, so I am making it priority one so I can return it and let someone else in bookclub borrow it. (My second bookclub meets this week and I will have a new book from them, as well, just to add to the madness!)

I also finished “Which Brings Me to You” By Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott. I must say the whole concept of a book based entirely on correspondence was intially a complete turnoff, but the writing is so wonderful I ended up completely engrossed and loved the book. I can’t wait to read more by Baggott.

I also read Becoming A Writer (Dorothea Brande) and On Becoming a Novelist (John Gardner). Both were so-so, I guess. I also read Mark Bittman’s Quick & Easy Recipes and copied down a few of them. Behind that book in the picture you can see some photocopies I made of recipes from the French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. I think I copied about 5 of them for future reference before turning the book back into the library.

The other books on my nightstand (Cheri and The Things They Carried and the New Yorker anthology) are all books I bought, so I may not get to them for quite some time since I have to read the library books which have due dates first!

Wednesday/On My Nightstand/In My DVD Player

On My Nightstand/In my DVD

Apartment Therapy — Fiona at  La Vie en Fifi wrote about this recently and I am ripping through it after picking it up at the library yesterday! (although you are supposed to take 8 weeks to do the action plan). I’m taking notes and enjoying it enormously.

A Gate at the Stairs by Laurie Moore — This was on my library “wait” list for ages, but finally it is my turn. I started it last night and can’t wait to get back to it.

Parenting Without Fear by Paul J. Donahue  — this is a library book that may not be exactly what I was looking for when I saw the title … we’ll see

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman — a friend loaned me this one

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson— My SIL loaned me this. I’ve been excited to read it for awhile. Misadventures with Andi also just posted on this.

Reading Lolita in Tehran — another thrift store buy I just barely began before I got a library book in. So far, it seems like it is going to be really good.

The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte — I adore this author and snatched this up at the thrift store.

In my DVD Player

Paris with Juliette Binoche — such a great story and beautiful scenery and inspirational style. i loved this movie.

On my nightstand/Wednesday

 The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo    — Very cute book. I cherry picked it however. I’m not big into the history of France or Chanel’s personal history. I just wanted to glean some style tips from it, so I skipped the historical parts. Oh well.

Your Carriage Madam by Janet Lane — got this out-of-print book from the library on recommendation of Marsi. I’m only a few pages into it, but love it so far. I’m already improving my posture.

Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann — This is actually the current book I’m reading (along with Your Carriage Madam). It reminds me of Tana French’s Likeness is an odd way as it deals with inclusive groups of friends viewed by outsiders.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness — I saw this book on The Evening Reader’s blog and ordered it from the library.

Franny & Zoey by J.D. Salinger — Of course like people across the world I now want to re-read this.

The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte — I adore this author and snatched this up at the thrift store.

Reading Lolita in Tehran — another thrift store buy I will wait to read.

Brava Valentine  by Adriana Trigiani — I am trying very hard to wait to read this until my bookclub does.

Leone’s Italian Cookbook — my Italian father sent to this me as a surprise gift in the mail. (it’s off to the side)


The Human Stain by Philip Roth — Some of you might have seen this book in my last posting. I returned it to the library without reading it. I do that sometimes when a book doesn’t immediately grab me and I happen to have a big fat stack of good books to read.

On My Nightstand/French Style

Leone’s Italian Cookbook — my Italian father sent to this me as a surprise gift in the mail. It has this great story in the beginning about how this Italian woman living in NYC dreamed of opening a restaurant but her husband didnt’ think it was appropriate. She was such a good cook, however, that he left one morning saying he was having some friends over from the opera that night and could she make dinner? Sure, she said. How many people? 50, he said. No problem.

Well, one of the diners was Caruso and by the end of the night (which was also her birthday) he had talked her husband into allowing (how archaic right?) to open a restaurant. The first one was in her living room. A few years later, after it had moved to a separate location of course, they were serving 6,000 dinners a night!

The Human Stain by Philip Roth — I glanced at the beginning of this and now am wondering if I have read it before. But it is one of those must reads at least once in your life so I’ll give it another glance before back to the library. (You would think a “must read” would leave more of an impression, though, right?)

Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann — Another library book. It is falling apart and doesn’t look like it has been checked out since the 1940s. However, I am already caught up in the story, which so far is about a rambunctious makeshift family of kids who lived next door with their grandparents.

The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte — I adore this author and snatched this up at the thrift store last week.

Reading Lolita in Tehran — another thrift store buy I will wait to read.

Brava Valentine  by Adriana Trigiani — the only thing keeping me from devouring this is pretending it is not there. My bookclub meets next week and it will be my turn to introduce the book. I will probably start and finish it that day!

French Style by Veronique Vienne — I must say that despite different reviews on the French Chic board and the exorbitant cost of this out-of-print book, I loved this book, which got through interlibrary loan. For those who don’t have access to it from a library or who don’t want to spend $100 on a book they haven’t read, here are a summary of the parts I loved and copied down into my journal. One section has stuck with me for the past few days — the idea of discovering your silhouette. This has really made an impact on me and how I plan to dress. I’d be curious about your thoughts on these excerpts. Also, what do you think of the wardrobe “must haves” at the end. She includes black jeans (?) and a Hermes scarf.

EXCERPTS: This begins with some rules Vienne gave on how to dress like a French Woman. I paraphrased no. 2, it said something about wearing the wrong things like white shoes, satin gloves and plastic jewelry. I am a former journalist so if you see this … it usually means something was ommitted in the quote. I tried to do this whenever appropriate, but may have missed a few.



1. Don’t wear clothes that wear you. Do learn how to walk. When you enter a room, people should feel the undertow. Use the muscles in your hips and your thighs. The more calories you burn when you walk, the taller you look.  French Style flatters people, not their clothes.

2. Don’t add finishing touches … when you have all the “right” accessories, you look like a matron. French Style is improvisation.

3. Don’t expect your mirror or your scale t0 tell the truth. Do ask your friends for tips, advice and addresses. Expect your older sister to be brutally honest. Her candor can be more effective than a crash diet. French Style — people talk about it.

4. Don’t buy overpriced basics. Do go bargain hunting. Wear secondhand paint-splattered jeans, thrift shop T-shirts and authentically frayed-at-the-edge plaid shirts. French Style is good champagne, costly perfume and a great haircut.

5. Don’t go by the book. Do check the real fashion scene. Take public transportation. Watch kids and teens at the mall. Linger in restaurants or cafes. Notice how people walk, sit and talk. French Style is Street Smart.

6. Don’t look “expensive.” Do admit that you long for a rich husband, a millionare aunt, a generous trust fund, a country estate in Provence. But never forget your own worth and never wear clothes that you cannot afford. French Style is your most precious asset.


To dress like a French Woman, don’t try to look like a model – try to be a role model. Think of the next generation; give them something to aspire to. Try to imagine yourself thorugh the eyes of those who don’t know you, as well as those who adore you. Think of looking your best as something you do for your own sake and for the sake of everyone around you …

The following will help you see yourself in the way others see you: Imagine walking down the street: the choice of a silhouette is your most important decision. Determine how you want to look from a distance. Ask yourself: who is this elegant woman coming toward me — and what is she wearing? A roomy jacket with slim pants? A sinuous and flowing dress? A tailored and slick suit? Trust that first impression it defines you.

(NOTE: HERE IS WHAT POPPED INTO MY MIND — the silhouette and style I want to define me, a stay-and-work-at-home mom):

the perfect jeans, the little heels, the casual but subtly sexy blouse, the casual tote, the nonchalance of it all


with the unique jacket and messy hair — effortless elegance

(Now back to the book:)

What’s French? be different … lots of bracelets … black with navy … iron your T-shirt … understate … large loop earrings … cleavage … improvise …

Choose a role that matches your personality: like a good actress, put on a costume that fits your character and enhances the situation. Do you want to make an entrance? Wear a red suit. Do you want to be a team player? Wear a navy blazer. Do you want to be the belle of the ball? Wear a glamour dress.

Fashion is a language. Use it to communicate your intentions. Present a consistent image. Don’t change your style all the time. Take a lesson from men. Wear the same type of outfit all week long and select accessories that are unmistakably yours.

(NOTE: Check back at my blog and My French Corner’s blog on Monday — we are beginning a weeklong dual series called: “1 sweater 5 Ways” that will demonstrate this philosopy. Now, back to the book)

“I’ve got nothing to wear”

This timeless expression is the one and only fashion concept a woman every needs. Less is more. Spareness is the essence of style. …

To dress with flair, the French woman reads all about it in fahsion magazines — and then forgets it all. But beware. There is a difference between ignoring fashion altogether and choosing to disregard it. It’s the difference between cool and boring, crisp and bland, polished and dull. Remind yourself that you’ve got nothing to wear, but don’t dress negligently. Elminate superfluous and excessive detail. Get rid of the pretension. Simplify …

Learn to be surprising, not obvious. Dress as you normall would — and then take off a thing or two: remove your earrings and slick your hair back. Take off your jacket and throw a sweater over your shoulders. Remove the logo from your jeans … hide your hair under a hat, a scarf or a turban.

Le Shopping

Unlike the American woman who loves to save money, the French woman loves to spend it, but sparingly. She compares value, not price, and calls any purchase that delivers what it promises a bargain. She gets as much pleasure dropping some change on a cheap-and-chic necklace as she gets splurging on a costly luxury. Money well spent is money that buys a sense of worth. The more expensive items test her self-esteem more than her sense of style.

She reviews the contents of her closet and makes a wish list – but leaves the list on the kitchen table. If you can’t remember what you wrote down, you probably don’t need it.

… French women have created a new fashion aristocracy – timeless clothes that are a must for every wardrobe. More than simply basics, these purebred classics are carefully selected and treasured by their owners. They are always in style, never to become outmoded:

— the supreme black turtleneck
— the definitive raincoat
— the reliable pair of black jeans
— the essential Hermes scarf
— the oversize white T-shirt
— the must have red gloves

— the versatile, fringed cashmere muffler
— the single strand of pearls.


On my Nighstand update

 Here’s a little update for those who like to read.

As some of you know, a few weeks ago I was starving for a good book when I suddenly had a plethora of books to choose from. Maybe it was this abundance of books that has made me soo choosy, but I started reading two books this week and put them down. Actually since both are library books I returned them.

I loved Julie Kramer’s first book “Stalking Susan” but when I picked up her second book, “Missing Mark” I was bored to tears.

I don’t think I mentioned this in my last post, but I also received “In the Woods” by Tana French. I was haunted by her book “The Likeness” and still think about it, but this one just didn’t grab me. I got to page 34 or so and decided I just didn’t want to read a book that began with the murder of a girl. I’ve read enough of those and, in fact, written enough true stories as a journalist about this to have had my share for awhile. In addition, the storyline and main character wasn’t as compelling to me as the heroine in The Likeness.

So those two books were returned to the library without me finishing them.

On a happier note, I finished and adored “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and eagerly await the sequel. I am very far down a list at the library to receive it.

I also really enjoyed Zoe Heller’s “The Believers.”

I just started “Sarah’s Key” which was on my nighstand in my earlier post and so far so good.

Any good reads you would recommend?

So far in the past year, I would have to say these are my all-time favorite books I have read:

(Keep in mind I do have a bad memory and these are just ones I remember off the top of my head.)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Likeness by Tana French

The Twilight series (yep, all of them) by Stephanie Meyer

*** Today I am heading to the library to pick up a copy being held of Nina Garcia’s The Style Strategy, a less-is-more approach to staying chic and shopping smart. I really liked her Little Black Book of Style, so this should be fun.

On My Nightstand/At the Movies



After complaining that I didn’t have a single book to read, I scored the jackpot. I had three library books I had been on the wait list for come in. I am reading the top three books in the order in which they are due back. I absolutely am enthralled by The Hunger Games. It is one of those books that makes me want to hide in my room all day and read. It is a futuristic, apocalpytic type novel. Very well written.

Missing Mark is the second in a series by a former TV reporter. I loved Julie Kramer’s first book, Stalking Susan, so I expect this one will be equally as enjoyable.

I can’t remember where I heard of The Believers, but I think it may have been a book recommendation in the New York Times.

Sarah’s Key is a bookclub pick for this month by one of my SIL’s. It is set in Paris and deals with the holocaust. I picked it up at the thrift store and can’t wait to get to it, but I need to get the library books read first.

I’ve seen Reading Lolita in Tehran so many times at the thrift store I finally picked it up for $.60. I’m not sure when I will read it because I am patiently holding back from reading Brava Valentine as long as I can resist. I am going to feature it for my other bookclub next month because it is my turn to choose the book.


On the film front, I have recently watched and enjoyed both these films on Netflix:
The Devil Wears Prada
The irony is that 9 times out of 10 the book is better than the movie, but in this case I didn’t like the book, The Devil Wears Prada, but thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Even my husband was laughing. Meryl Streep was amazing and Anne Hathaway could not be more lovely. Plus, there was — of course — the clothes!

On My Nighstand/In My DVD Player

002On My Nightstand

Brava Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. Regular readers  know I am reading this and what a huge fan I am of this author.

How to Have Style by Isaac Mizrahi. I actually cranked through this the first day I got it. Great ideas.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. This has been recommended and mentioned so many times in my world, including by a published author friend of mine I respect, that I feel like I must read it. I think the final straw was reading it was one of the best books of the year on NPR’s website.

The Believers by Zoe Heller. I could be wrong, but I think this was also on a year-end best books list. Maybe NPR again.

Can you see or feel my joy around the world that I have a stack of good books to read again? I was starting to get depressed about it and then Wham-O, my library list came through. I always have about 10 books I am waiting for and this week, three came through!

In my DVD Player

I’m sure all the regular readers are sick of hearing this, but I am still cranking through the Battlestar Galactica series and get sooo, soo happy everytime a new disc from Netflix comes in the mail. Ah, the simple pleasures in life in the frigid midwestern winters!

And seriously, I don’t care how poor I get, I will NEVER give up my $14 a month subscription to Netflix, it SAVES my life during the winter.

This week we watched on instant play: Food Inc. which makes me want to go buy my own cow and chickens and keep them in my backyard and Blindness, based on a book I gave away after only reading two chapters. Now I wish I would have read the book, because I really liked the movie!

On my nightstand/Nov. 19

On my nightstand


Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (not shown, it is now on my dh’s nightstand!): I finished this book on the place last weekend. We are discussing it at my bookclub meeting tonight

The Road by Cormac McCarthy — I started this in Sedona and it has completely captured my imagination, but I have set it aside because I just had a bunch of library books I ordered come in.

Dreaming in French by Megan Mcandrew — I began this last night. I can’t wait to get back to it. It is about an American couple transplanted in Paris told from their daughter’s viewpoint (so far that’s what it is about!)

The Likeness by Tana French — I think I heard about this by The Evening Reader’s  blog (see righthandside). Looking forward to starting this, as well.

The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio  by Terry Ryan — my OTHER book club picked this last week for this month. Will have to get going on it. I have either already read it or tried to read it in the past. I’m sure I will remember which when I get started on it.

Slam by Nick Hornby — once again set aside until my library books are read.


We just finished the last episode in Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica last night. (on netflix). Now on to season 2!

I will be hitting the movie theater sometime this weekend for the second Twilight movie, even if I don’t know what is called off the top of my head, I’ll be there!


So far, I’ve been offered two opportunities to post on here for pay and turned them both down. The first was a while back and was about plastic surgery. The second came yesterday and they wanted me to write about — get this — crotchless panties. No thank you. I will, however, post something for pay in the future if I think it will be relevant or interesting or at least nonoffensive, to you, my readers. Thanks for understanding.

On my nightstand/Monday, Oct. 19th




On my nightstand

 One less thing to worry about by Jerilyn Ross. My mother, a wise, wonderful, intimidatingly intelligent woman mailed this book to me on Saturday as a gift. I’m almost done. I’ve always been a bit of a worrier, but now have actually —  for the first time in my life — been having panic attacks. (a whole ‘nother issue I should probably write about someday)*. Anyway, I’m marking up this book like mad and almost finished reading it. It deals a lot with anxiety connected to fluctuating hormone levels and then treatment with cognitive therapy and other methods (just getting into the treatment part of the book).

When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson. I can’t believe I actually got back to this book. Finally. I finished all my library books and now am waiting for more on my request list to become available.

My next bookclub book is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, but as I am something like no. 700 on the waiting list, so I know it is not going to become available before bookclub. Has anyone read it? Is it really worth seeking out or should I just skip it?

* One thing that has changed that has probably affected my anxiety level is ever since the weather became cold, I have stopped doing something I love — walking. I think just by starting to walk again every day, it can make a big difference for me. So this morning, during the short “kid-free” time I have three days a week (I have two hours to myself) I walked to the library to return some books that were due. It is about a mile round trip. In my big walking days I used to think it was the wimpy walk — the big one was down to the shopping area south of here. But it really feels good to just move my body again. I have been trying to spend this time working online or running errands, but I think it is crucial to use it to walk if it will help this anxiety I’ve been feeling.