Friday Faves: Creating Good Habits

One of the good things about being 52, aside from not being 53, is having a handle on what makes you tick.

I’ve got to tell you though, for about the first 40 years on this planet, I had no idea what made me do the things I did and feel the way I felt. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why therapy was created. After about a dozen years of staring at my bellybutton on Jennifer, my therapist’s, couch, I have a pretty good idea why I can’t really cry (except during The Blind Side) and what made me think having hella kids was the right move during my 20s and early 30s.

Last month, I brought up to Jennifer how I couldn’t seem to knock things off my to-do list — everything from not finding a significant other to getting rid of the pile of clothes on top of my washing machine (I couldn’t decide what to do with it, vacilating between selling the mound — like my son’s fairly new and outgrown Vineyard Vines dress shirt and a pair of NWT denim Bermuda shorts from Old Navy I thought would be cool but instead just made me look like a dork or donate). And then where to sell and/or donate? Or should I just give the whole pile to my cleaning lady and let her send it all to a church in Honduras.

I relay all this to Jen, who does a really good job at not rolling her eyes while I’m looking at her, and she starts to say something about habits — which intrigued me. I am a very habitual person. I was a committed smoker for about two decades — because how could you not end a meal or enjoy a cocktail without a cigarette? And for a long time, I’d brush my teeth after dinner so I wouldn’t eat before bedtime. They were things I didn’t even think about.

Later that night, I found myself heavily stalking writer and happiness guru Gretchen Rubin’s website, in particular posts about her book Better Than Before, which is all about habits. She says, “Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40% of our behavior almost daily, so if we change our habits, we change our lives.”


I downloaded the book and listened while walking the dog and driving out to Penn State, and was really inspired to adopt habits that would help me accomplish goals and check things off my list. Rubin says that when it comes to habits, there are four types of people, and after a quick quiz, I learned that I was an Obliger. I need accountability in order to make me do things, and that’s totally true (except sometimes, even letting people down doesn’t stop me from rampant procrastination).

One of the biggest things that have helped is Rubin’s suggestionto eliminate decisions. Like, I know when I wake up, I am going to go downstairs and meditate for 10 minutes and then write in my journal. I used to lie in bed and wonder what to do when the alarm went off early, and sometimes just snoozed until I had to get up to get my 16yo off to school. Now, the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I am heading downstairs to sit on my couch in the dark listening to my meditation app and surrounded by animals licking themselves (Airpods help).

In the last two weeks I have:

  • Pitched a piece to the Washington Post
  • Signed up to take a class with a writing teacher I’ve been stalking for years
  • Gotten rid of household items that have been cluttering the corners of my not-so-new-house for 3 years
  • Meditated 20 days in a row
  • Gone on a date
  • Donated the pile of clothes

I also love Rubin’s Happier podcast, which she does with her sister (Liz Kraft, a tv screenwriter) and Liz’s podcast Happier in Hollywood. I now refer to Rubin as “Gretch,” which is what her sister calls her, and tease her while listening to her podcast.


I’ve done a few rounds of this meditation app’s courses — guided by Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe’s amazing Australian accent — but then found solace for a while in more woo-woo loving kindness meditations. What I love about Headspace is that there’s nothing to think about, you just continue on the course you’ve chosen (currently I’m working on Prioritization, before that: Productivity) and press play. For accountability junkies, the app also congratulates you for your streak. Recently, I’ve even been doing some of the sleep meditations — there’s tons to choose from — while listening to the storm coming from my sound machine (see below). It’s quite lovely.

iHome Zenergy Sleep Machine

I’d been using my iPhone as my alarm for the last year or two, but hated having it right there next to me, tempting me to get lost in its hypnotic blue light when I was up at 3 a.m. Then, Jennifer the Therapist told me about this baby, and I bought it the next day. The sound options are amazing. I do not love the light situation although I kind of like being awoken by the soft “Dawn” whitish/bluish light that accompanies the sounds of waves crashing on the beach and seagulls squwaking. You can try to adjust settings on a Zenergy app, which is not very good, but gives you the option of waking up to the various sounds, the radio or connect via bluetooth to your phone. Just don’t do what I did when I pulled it out of its box, which was to immediately cut the wire for the radio antenna off the back of the machine. It annoyed me and was weirdly impulsive and unusual for me. Maybe the universe didn’t want me listening to any more NPR.

Killing Eve

ARE YOU SO EXCITED for everybody’s favorite cat-and-mouse duo to return this Sunday? I cannot wait and if you haven’t yet watched Season 1, start bingeing today.

Get in the Groove


Finally, I just discovered In the Groove, a A Lifestyle Destination for Age-Defying Women, and — with articles like “20 Stripe Tshirts You Can Wear All Season” and “Welcome to the Vagina Revolution!” — I have a feeling there are some long and deep internet rabbit holes I’m about to fall into this weekend.

Friday Faves: InstaPot Banana Blueberry Oatmeal

I am a gadget person. When something new comes out and everybody is talking about it, I have to have it. Just ask my kids about my AppleWatch.

Around this time last year, the InstaPot seemed to be everywhere. My friend, Dan, was always talking about what he’d cooked up in his pressure cooker (he’s very inventive with beans and sweet potatoes) and it was all over my Facebook feed (mindreaders that they are). Also, a food writer I really like, Melissa Clark — whose sheet pan dinners are in constant rotation in my oven — had just come out with a cookbook of InstaPot dinners (Dinner in an Instant).

Naturally, I needed one.

Finally, for Mother’s Day, my two older kids got me one, and even though they’d spent their hard-earned money on the appliance, that did not prevent them from rolling their eyes and joking about how I’d never use it.

And they were kind of right. I’ve experimented with a few dinners, but nothing really stands out for me to tell you about. And once, I used the InstaPot to make jammy eggs (but using the stovetop is much simpler and you don’t have to haul anything out from a shelf in the closet).

But the one thing I make consistently — maybe once a week — in my InstaPot is oatmeal. It’s pretty much the same recipe I used to make in my slowcooker overnight, but instead of 8 hours, pressure cooker oatmeal is done in about 30 minutes.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even use a recipe anymore (and I always need a recipe). I just throw everything into the pot and seal the lid. It makes a bunch so I keep it in a container in my frig to eat for breakfast and force it on my 16yo, which triggers a different kind of eye rolling.

I always do blueberries and bananas, since I am a creature of habit. But you could do apples or other kinds of berries. I toast up some unsweetened coconut to sprinkle on top or add a dollop of plain greek yogurt.

It’s all very yummy and filling.

My friend, Susan, keeps raving about her new air fryer, so guess what I have my eye on for this Mother’s Day?

InstaPot Blueberry Banana Oatmeal

1c. steel cut oatmeal

4c. almond milk

1 glob coconut oil

1/4t. nutmeg

3/4t. cinnamon

2 ripe bananas

1 pint blueberries

4 swirls of honey (or 5, depending on how sweet you like it)

Mush bananas and add rest of ingredients to pot. Set porridge mode for 12 minutes. Enjoy!

*To slow cook, mush bananas, add rest of ingredients and set on low for 7 hours. Yummy waking up to the smell of oatmeal waiting for you in your kitchen.

Got an InstaPot recipe to recommend? Please do in the comments below! You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter to see what other things I am in love with at any given time (which is changing all the time, except when it comes to Game of Thrones, to which I am dedicated).

Friday Faves: All. The. Food.

This was a fast week for me as I spent Tuesday and Wednesday driving the four hours to/from my daughter’s big state university. She’s a graduating hospitality major and one of her classes this semester is to work with a team to plan/budget/execute a themed dinner at the school’s restaurant, which they refer to as a “living lab.” It requires a lot of planning and meetings to discuss everything from creating centerpieces to marketing and promoting to developing a chocolate mousse recipe to serve 140 people and clever ways to plate all the dishes.

After hearing so much about the class all semester, it was fun for me to see and taste the final results. I also got to meet a bunch of her hospitality pals and even the professor, who I’d heard so much about. When do you get to meet your kid’s professor?

The next day, my daughter gave an extensive campus tour to her brother, who’s a high school sophomore, where he got to see new dining halls and dorms, classrooms that accommodate a couple of hundred students and the giant mountain lion statue that’s literally referred to as a “shrine.” He even got to see some lacrosse guys walking to practice, which — for a total lacrosse bro — was way more exciting than dorms and dining halls.

Obviously, no college visit is complete without the obligatory trip to the grocery store, which we did so she could load up on healthy dinner fixings, like zoodles and bags of cauliflower rice. Her friend, Michael, came along to do his own shopping, and I laughed when he met up with us at the end to pay and saw his cart full of boxes of mac and cheese and a super-white loaf of bread. “I’m so excited to have some real food,” he said as he lifted his bags into our car. (#boys)

But that food shopping, along with my own weekly haul, had me thinking a lot about what we are obsessed with eating right about now.

Trader Joe’s Miso Soup

So good. I can’t believe it took me a year to find this out.

I actually had two of these 32-oz. cartons in my lazy susan forever and during a recent purge of expired items from those shelves, saw that these were pooping out this month (or maybe last month, but don’t tell me kids who think my food safety parameters are a little soft). The 20-somethings were all home last weekend, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to use the broth and whip up one of our staples, Chinese Brothy Noodles. In the past, we’ve used chicken broth, and it was always yummy. But the Trader Joe’s Miso Soup made the soup AMAZING. I want to make again next week. (Tip: I used almost two cartons since the noodles absorb a lot of the liquid and we liked ours a little more broth-y than noodle-y.)

Trader Joe’s Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips

Mouth-puckering goodness.

My favorite section at Trader Joe’s, hands down, is their new product section. I am a sucker for all the stuff they come up with (truly, I am a marketer’s dream), and always stop to admire their ingenuity. My daughter came home with these last week and they are really dangerous, both in terms of the way they will make your mouth pucker and that you won’t be able to eat just one.

Wegman’s Farro

Finally! Wegman’s is carrying a big bag o’ farro.

If there’s anything I’m more obsessed with than Wegman’s, it’s farro. Have you tried it? It’s got a nice texture, with a little heft, and I throw it into salads or maybe eat it with an egg on top. But I could never find farro at Wegman’s, until now when I grabbed it while shopping with my daughter this week. (Tip: while it’s fine cooked in water, it’s even better when you let the farro simmer in chicken stock or bone broth. I make a bunch to keep in the frig and eat throughout the week.)

Bon Appetit Jammy Ramen Egg Recipe

Bon Appetit’s Jammiest Ramen Egg recipe is perfection.

I’d pinned this recipe a while ago and finally got around to making it last night for dinner and wish I’d stopped to take a picture before I devoured it. I put the perfectly cooked — not too hard, not too runny — egg on top of some smashed roasted sweet potato and quickly-sauteed baby spinach, and it was delicious and filling. Super hard boiled eggs freak me out for some reason, but cooked this way the yolk is still soft and a little runny like poached eggs but maybe a little easier to make.


My 21yo daughter was watching this HULU original last weekend and eventually, the rest of us drifted in and started watching Friday night. The creators, who are in their 30s, star in the comedy playing dorky middle schoolers set in 2000, with other middle schoolers, and even though it sounds improbable, it totally works. It’s funny and awkward and poignant and often wildly inappropriate. My older kids are just a bit younger than these kids, so we could relate to the music, gel pens and Calico Critters. (Tip: Do NOT watch Episode 3 with your kids, even if they are adults, you will all be mortified.)

Reagandoodle & Little Buddy

If you know me, you are aware that anything I know, I learned about on CBS Sunday Morning. It is the highlight of my week and one of my greatest joys is when my kids come in and sit to watch with me when they’re home. My 16yo came in to where I was watching it not long ago as the trumpet began to play its theme song at the start, and said, “Now I know it’s Sunday.”

We all saw this story about this boy and his dog recently, and are now thoroughly obsessed with them and follow their exploits on Instagram. Once you watch, I bet you do, too.

Happy Friday!





Friday Faves: Grab Bag Edition

This week’s assortment of things I love run the gamut from happy, to sad, to life-changing. This also seems to be the rhythm of my life, where every day I’m not sure into which emotional basket to dump my state of mind. Some mornings I wake up and pour all the rainbows and unicorns in my head into my Everything is Awesome container, while the following morning, I’ve got to scrape out the dark, sticky goo of despair into the All is Lost bucket. I really wish I was the kind of person who could be a little less extreme. How I long to be even-keeled.

Here’s what I love:


The trailer for the 8th and final season is everything. I have been committed to Game of Thrones since Episode 1 and cannot wait for the season premiere next month. In the meantime, watching it reminded me that I couldn’t remember one thing that happened last season (was that, like, 2 years ago?), so my daughter and I started re-watching last night and were reminded Daenerys Targaryen’s badassness. #shallwebegin?#cansomeonegivemeadragonplease?


Better Things

I think I’ve referenced the season premiere of my current favorite show about 20 times in conversations this week, and I know, already posted the trailer the other day. But I love creator/director/writer/star Pamela Adlon’s HONESTY about being a 50-something year old woman. How our bodies change seemingly overnight. It’s like a science experiment but it’s happening right there, in your mirror. I feel sorry for women who are so freaked out by it. It’s just life (she says fanning herself through gritted teeth). I already watched the first episode twice (once with each of my 2 daughters) and can’t tell you how lovely and real it is.

Color WOW Spray

COLOR WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray Slays Humidity and Prevents Frizz

I bought this after seeing a video while scrolling through Instagram of Hoda Kotb raving about this hair product, which I know is pathetic and just what the man wants us to do, but what can I say? Hoda could sell me goat cheese (Note: I hate goat cheese). I don’t know about you, but after about 15 years of heavy duty coloring, my hair ain’t what it was. It can be puffy and frizzy, especially when it’s humid out. So you spray this stuff on and blow your hair dry with a brush (read the directions) and it lives up to its name: WOW. Can’t wait to try it if it ever gets warmer than 35 degrees here in New Jersey.

Leaving Neverland

Okay, here is the very sad part of my recommendations this week, but I cannot recommend this 4-hour HBO doc enough (plus the hour-long Oprah follow up). I worried at first I’d feel like a voyeur, looking for all the unsavory bits and pieces of these 2 men’s relationships with Michael Jackson. But Oprah says it best when she interviews them, “This has nothing to do with Michael Jackson.” The sexual abuse of children is rampant and we need to know what it looks like, how it happens and how its perpetrators gain their victims’ silence. You will leave Neverland with all of your questions answered, including what he did to them. Also, and this part is staggering, ONE IN SIX MEN HAS BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED OR ABUSED. I think that’s why it’s so important to watch and talk about, to help lift the shame from them. Honestly, I can’t stop thinking (and talking) about it. Also, THE WORLD NEEDS OPRAH BACK.

Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs

Let’s leave each other on a happier note this Friday. To all my dog lovers, here’s something that is one of my most favorite fave:

If You Are Holding This Book

You may not agree, you may not care, but

if you are holding this book you should know

that of all the sights I love in the world —

and there are plenty — very near the top of

the list is this one: dogs without leashes.

Finny Doodle sans leash, pretending to be a good boy.


Friday Faves: What I’ve Read So Far in 2019

Can I read 30 books this year?

One of my goals for this quickly passing new year is to read (or listen to) 30 books. Ambitious? Perhaps. But if you saw the stacks of books filling the nightstand next to my bed, you might be inclined to agree that I need to pick up my reading pace if I am ever going to make a dent in the piles (which just continue to grow because I have a book-buying problem).

One of my tactics is to set aside one hour to read each night before I go to sleep, which is generally scheduled from 9-10 every night. Ideally, I close the book at 10, turn on my sound machine, and go to sleep. In reality, there’s far more time wasting — last minute slides down internet rabbit holes, perhaps I sit down before my intense magnifying mirror and start shaving my face* — before my light actually goes off. But I’ve been pretty good about the reading part and have found it much more relaxing falling asleep with a head full of whatever I’d just been reading vs. the local Fox 5 10:00 news, which had been my falling asleep routine for years (I’d set my TV timer to go off at 11).

Besides being a little more calming than news of rape, murder and whatever Donald Trump’s been up to, reading an hour a night has really helped me stay on task and get through the books on my nightstand.

Another strategy has been joining book clubs. So far, I’m up to three: the big, unruly one I’ve been a part of for years where there’s wine and side conversations about kids and menopause inevitably crop up; a smaller group of women who meet to discuss usually more challenging fare over lunch or dinner; and a no-strings-attached book club at my local independent bookstore where a group of strangers gather and have excellent conversation focused on a book for an hour. I’m what Gretchen Rubin refers to as an Obliger, so I know I need accountability if I’m going to get things done and committing to a book club (or three) seems to be working for me this year. I’ve also been selfishly pushing fellow book clubbers to read stuff I already own (shhhh).

Here’s what I’ve read so far this year:

Circe (Madeline Miller) : Here’s one I read that had nothing to do with book clubs and was all about my love of Greek mythology and the notion of a witch living on an island. This is a lifestyle I could get behind. It’s a reimagining of the story of Circe, daughter of Helios the Sun God, and features cameos from all your favorite mythological characters: Hermes, Dedalus, the Minotaur and the wandering Odysseus. Plus, she transforms rapey dudes into squealing pigs which, in this #MeToo era, is an interesting idea. I immediately bought the author’s earlier book, The Song of Achilles, which is now living on the pile but I can’t wait to dig into Helen of Troy, Trojan Horses and all that good stuff.

Educated (Tara Westover): I know. Everyone’s already read this one. My big book club read it for January and it prompted wonderful discussions and kept the dozen or so of us on topic for most of the night. I was reluctant to read at first, because the story sounded so much like that of The Glass Castle, which we all read 100 years ago. But I liked getting a peek into what life was like living off the grid on a mountain in Idaho with a crazy dad, brother and enabling mother (spoiler alert: not amazing). It made my large, dysfunctional family seem like The Waltons in comparison. I’d also listened to a bunch of the book via Audible, and loved the narrator. In fact, I couldn’t shake the feeling like I’d heard her voice before and then about half way through, realized it was the same woman who narrated the unsettling My Year of Rest and Relaxation and kept waiting for her to say something really snarky. But there’s no snark in Educated. Just a compelling reminder of what we are all capable of achieving and how complicated families can be.

Warlight (Michael Ondaatje): From the author of The English Patient, here’s the first line of this novel, set in post WWII England: In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. Atmospheric. Memorable characters. More contemplations on family and finding solace sometimes in those to whom you are not related. Maybe even forgiveness. I also listened to about half the book during a long drive, which challenged my ADD given its lack of real action. Read for my small book club and chosen by my friend who is an admitted Anglophobe who gobbles up any book taking place in or around the Great War. We also liked that it was on Obama’s list of favorite books in 2018.

Asymmetry (Lisa Halliday): Everybody is talking about this book, so when my local bookstore advertised it as their first ever book club pick, I had to sign up to read, but then walked into the meeting last week and said, “Somebody, please tell me what this was about.” One hour later, all the pieces had fallen into place and made me want to go back and reread (which a few of the women there had actually done). The internet, and an interview with the author, helps.

Scoop (Evelyn Waugh): I think I started this at the end of last year, but read the bulk in 2019, like, a day before my small group met to discuss in January. The send up of early 20th century Fleet Street journalism had been on my list for a while, and I’m glad to have read it but it probably won’t make my list of favorites at year end. A few interesting things: it’s where Tina Brown plucked the name “Daily Beast;” in some ways, (some) journalism seems to have swung back in that direction — where journalists less cover the news than create the news; and very interesting lesson in reading something under the lens in which the era it was written. Waugh is incredibly racist and uses some incredibly offensive language describing people of color and Jews. But then my fellow reader stumbled across this article, which helped us keep the book in perspective.

Next in my 2019 lineup:

The Female Persuasion

American Marriage

The Book of Help

The Library Book

Just Kids

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Follow me on Goodreads, which I’ve begun to dabble in recently. We can compare notes. As always, I want to know what YOU are reading, so please share. Also, if you want to borrow anything I’ve written about (or would like to peruse my sagging shelves), please come take your pick!!

Happy reading!

*WARNING: tread lightly with that micro trimmer! I went in to remove some hair right inside my nostrils and before I knew it, there was nothing left. For, like, a week I could see straight up to my brain. Lesson. Learned.

Friday Faves: Mac & Cheese for a Crowd

I came downstairs a few weeks ago wearing maroon leggings, a black sweater and new trucker hat with our high school’s pirate logo, and my daughter looked me up and down and said, “Who ARE you?”

She was having trouble finding her mother — the one who favors all-gray ensembles and rarely wears hats — underneath the lady-of-a-certain-age standing in front of her decked out in our high school’s colors.

She hadn’t realized that nowadays, with her little brother playing on the football team, we take game day very seriously around here.

And since I’ve guzzled the high school football KoolAid, that also means I’ve started to embrace things like manning the ticket table at a BBQ and pitching in for pasta parties.

In the past, that would mean I’d bake these chocolate peanut butter crowdpleasers. But now that I’m a committed Football Mom, I even volunteered this week to make a pasta dish for the pasta party, which I considered the ultimate act of love for my baby football player since I don’t really have a go-to pasta recipe (and certainly not one to feed 40 hungry teenagers).

I went on Pinterest and threw ideas out at him while he ate his dinner but whenever he said, “That sounds good,” I’d check how many ingredients were called for in the recipe and then say, “Next.” This was not an occasion for impressing anyone. Just feeding them.

I scrolled some more and asked, “How about mac and cheese?” and he gave a happy shake to his head. I bypassed recipes that called for four different cheeses and any kind of seasonings, and then the word “Velveeta” caught my eye, and I knew I had found just what I was looking for.

So that’s how I found myself yesterday cubing four pounds of the weird, unrefrigerated cheese product to melt into a quick roux of butter, flour and a ton of whole milk. You pretty much pour it over your macaroni and throw it in the oven. I baked it halfway then pulled out and added some shredded cheese on top because, cheese.

What I loved about this recipe was that the site automatically adjusted the amount you need of each ingredient for the servings you’d like to make because, math. I plugged in 50, made four boxes of pasta and it filled up 2 big disposable lasagna trays.

Are you going to make this for your book club? Probably not. But for pasta parties, tailgates or block parties, it’s a home run — or a touchdown (I learned that this year).

 Mac and Cheese for a Crowd (Serves 50)

4 pounds elbow macaroni
3/4 pound butter
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 pounds Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 1/2 package (8 ounce size) shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the macaroni until al dente as directed on package. Drain and evenly distribute amount long, shallow pans (I USED 2 13.5 x 9 5/8 x 2 34 disposable Lasagna pans).

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the margarine. Stir in the flour until smooth. Add the salt and pepper and slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, until smooth.

Stir in the Velveeta cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni in the pans to evenly coat (I MIXED IN POTS BEFORE POURING INTO BAKING PANS TO COAT THE NOODLES). Sprinkle the shredded cheddar over the top of the macaroni (8 ounces per pan).

Bake the macaroni at 350 degrees F for one hour or until bubbly in the middle.

Got any good pasta party recipes up your sleeve? Share! We promise we won’t make it if our kids are on the same team!

Also, follow me on Facebook and Instagram. On occasion, I Tweet, too.


Friday Faves: Get Organized

Greetings to all who haven’t had enough of me since the dawn of my Blogging Renaissance earlier this month.

A few weeks ago — as summer wound down and it seemed my time running a beach share to 20-somethings looking for a place to escape the city’s heat and eat all my food, was just about up — I started dreaming about giving my house a good scrub. After Labor Day had come and gone, I stripped all the white slipcovers off my Ektorp chair and sofa and let them dry out in the sun on my patio, and pulled everything out of our refrigerator and scoured the inside. We’re talking shelves AND drawers getting worked over with soap and hot water in the sink. It felt good rinsing away a summer’s worth of detritus stuck to the bottom of my deli drawer.

My neighbor, Liz, told me she’d just rented one of those carpet shampoo machines for, like, $25 at a nearby supermarket and was raving about all the dirt she pulled out of her rugs. I took a long look at the wall-to-wall carpet I had installed in our TV room before we moved in three years ago, and was horrified to see how stained it had gotten in that short of time. It didn’t help that our Crown Prince — Finn, the 18-month-old goldendoodle — had just enjoyed some kind of rawhide bone that left sticky white crumbs embedded in the carpet’s fibers all over the room.

So I decided that’s what I’d do with my upcoming weekend, rent the shampooer and go to town on the three carpeted rooms in my house. I told my pal, Dan, the exciting news, and he was like, “Do yourself a favor, just hire a professional who knows what they’re doing. It won’t cost that much more.” And because he gave me permission to do that, I found a guy who could come a few days later.

AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE. For $140 (plus tax), this guy cleaned three rooms (total!) and it was like I was living in a new house. I’d cleared a bunch of things out-of-the-way for them to get to as much carpet as possible, piling it all up in my living room, and after they left I decided I loved how everything looked a little less cluttered and spent hours moving things around. I think that day I walked about 18,000 steps, according to my Fitbit.

That, and my recent break from drinking wine every day, has ushered in a period of organization and productivity. As such, I’ve found a few items to be super-valuable in the effort to keep me on track, which is really like trying to herd a cat or, better, that dog from “Up.”

I get distracted a million times a day by stupid squirrels.

Here’s how I am trying to stay focused:

Best Self Co: This wonderful 13-week journal has kinda become the boss of my life. It not only helps me set goals but then has space  to break down the steps needed to achieve those goals. There are monthly, weekly and daily sections with areas provided for assessment, like “What was the biggest lesson you learned this week?” and “What were your 3 big wins for the week?”. My favorite feature though is on the daily pages, where there is a section to list 3 things your grateful for both in the morning and at the end of the day. It’s been particularly nice (and validating) to feel gratitude for not drinking. Finally, for clarification and further motivation, the BestSelfCo website has lots of helpful videos. My only complaint is that after I ordered it — and had a bee in my bonnet to start living my new, more productive life — it took forever for it to arrive. Do yourself a favor and order it on Amazon.


Pens: Obviously, if I’ve got this sweet, new planner, I need the proper writing utensils with which life changing entries are to be made. I’m the kind of person who likes other people to do the dirty work of figuring out what’s the best of anything, so am obsessed with The New York Times’ Wirecutter site. From dehumidifiers to cat beds, they’ve vetted all the options and come up with what they think is the best. Good enough for me. It helps me with the overwhelming FOBO I struggle with. My winners? This one, which is really fine, and this option that makes a little thicker line. I take my writing implements very seriously and think it’s a highly individualized preference, so here’s the complete list of Wirecutter’s favorite pens for you to waste time looking at. 

Command hooks: The night after my rug cleaning, herein known as THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE, I went into a frenzy clearing out piles that took up corners in my office and finally hanging a picture that had been propped against a wall since a friend gave it to me for Christmas. Nine months ago. I couldn’t figure out where I wanted to hang it and in my fugue state, it occurred to me it would look cool hanging from the bookcase in my office. I inspected the IKEA particle board piece and considered the damage a small nail would do and then I was like, “Duh, use a Command Hook!” Pretty much, everything else in my house is adhered to something with one of those magical doohickeys. I use them to hold garland I drape all over the place at Christmas, and to hang all the doodads I have hanging in the wall gallery in my office. If I could, I would use a tiny one to hoist the lovehandle on my back up to join the rest of my body that it has slowly drooped away from.

#amwriting podcast: If you fancy yourself a writer of just about anything — fiction, memoir, poetry, romance, parenting features, maybe even cookbooks — the writer/author/journalists who host this motivating podcast have something to make you want to “get your butt in your chair and your head in the game” (their tagline). I listen while I walk the dog around town and when I’m driving to Costco, or some other glamorous destination. As is the case when you spend an inordinate amount of time listening, or watching, folks, you start to feel like you know them. It’s the same way I feel about Joe and Mika and the lamentably absent Sue Simmons, a News 4 staple in New York for years. God, I miss her sassy self. Anyway, Jess and KJ — my podcast friends — REALLY motivate me and make me want to be a better, and more productive, writer.

La Croix Cerise Limon (aka Cherry/lime): This has absolutely nothing to do with getting organized, but it has been quite nice during this dry period I’m in. It’s in a fancy, skinny can, reminiscent of all those skinny seltzers I drank on the beach this summer, minus the self remorse.





Blue Diamond Dark Chocolate Almonds: Also, a girl needs chocolate, and since one of my goals in my planner is to lose weight, this is a pretty low-sugar indulgence that keeps me sane while also not getting in the way of me shedding some of this menopausal layer I’ve acquired of late.






Blinc Micro Trimmer: Do you have a teenage boy who’s got a facial hair situation? Not whiskers, per se, but more of a fuzz covering his morphing face? Do I have a fun tool for you, provided that teen will sit on a stool in your bathroom and let you have it, which my guy inexplicably does. I’ve mowed the equivalent of a small kitten off his cheek and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to hack through that long, legit Shaggy stubble protruding from the bottom of his chin. I’ve also mowed my own cheeks, upper lip and nostrils and have tidied up some unsightly hair on an older child’s back. Honestly, it’s as satisfying as clean carpets, and a lot cheaper. You can get it at Amazon or run over Arch Brow Bar in Shrewsbury, NJ and you’ll be defuzzing everyone in your family by tonight.






Any must-haves i need to get and stay organized? Or good treats to make my dry spell even better? Please, share share share below!

Friday Faves: What to Watch

The Emmy’s are this Monday and you know what that means: all my TV viewing over the last year is finally going to pay off. Even though I haven’t read or written as much as I would have liked to, I’ll feel validates Monday night when I’ll have watched pretty much every show and nominated actor announced during the show.

If you’re looking for something to start watching this weekend, my suggestion is to find a run down of all the nominations, and just pick something that appeals to you. Chances are, it will be excellent. (My faves: Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime), Killing Eve (BBC) and The Handmaid’s Tale (HULU)).

This summer, I watched a few shows that I can’t stop talking about (hello, GLOW) and finally caught up on the remaining four seasons (read: 40 hours) left of a show I had given up on a few years earlier but suddenly, it felt strangely relevant and necessary to plough through to the end (also: it was worth it).

GLOW (Netflix): Let it be known that I am easily influenced by advertisements. This holds true for wanting to wear Candies high wooden heels when I was, like, 11, and succumbing to the non-stop trailers promoting Season 2 of GLOW every time I signed into Netflix. In the case of the latter, falling prey to ads was an excellent decision. Watching me teeter around with high heels on my baby feet in 1979, not so much.

Okay, what can I tell you? I was afraid this was going to be all T & A, as the show’s title refers to the Glorious Women of Wrestling and is set in the 1980s. Wrong. Instead, you get tons of girl power, layered characters developed so beautifully over the course of the 10 half-hour episodes in each of the two seasons. And if nothing else, just watch it for all that 80s hair and leg warmers.

Ozark (Netflix): How, you wonder at the end of the first episode of Season 2, is this family going to get out of their very terrible predicament alive? How are they going to go the 10-episode distance? The family in question, headed up by parents Laura Linney and Jason Bateman, have landed in the Ozarks after the drug cartel he was laundering money for discovered his partner was an informant and that’s when the shit hits the fan. Again, with the amazing character development, especially Linney and the remarkable young woman who’s running the titty bar they bought to run their dirty money through. She is a force. All I have to say is, much like how Man Men shook out in by end, it’s the women you need to keep your eye on in this show.

The Americans: As I mentioned earlier, I’d given up watching this when I determined it was one of those shows that demanded my attention. I couldn’t multitask (translation: troll Facebook on my phone) and expect to follow what’s going on. So I chose to move on until friends started raving about the last episode of this FX series about a couple of Russian spies in the 1980s (A theme? Maybe.) to pose as an everyday married couple living outside D.C. with their two kids and running a travel agency. On the side, the two run around in a lot in disguises duping government workers into divulging top-secret information and knocking people off in a variety of ways over six seasons. Kerri Russel’s Elizabeth Jennings is a badass.

When the series first started in 2013, it seemed like a quaint throwback to Reagan-era issues. I mean, the Russians at that time seemed about as threatening to our country as Boris and Natasha. Fast forward six seasons and now, it could not be more relevant. In fact, every time I hear a crazy story in the news lately about the UK spy poisoning or this story about the recent Russian defector, I can totally picture Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhyss pulling this stuff off. Couple in all the other Russian stuff in the news (election tampering, social media skewing), and I’d say this show became more and more like Homeland over time. Weirdly prescient.

But the biggest challenge facing this husband and wife spy team, is the choice between family and country. They grapple with it season after season and the final episode of the series paints a clear picture of which they choose. Wonderful.

Sharp Objects (HBO): Did you not watched this 8-episode miniseries this summer? Well, call out of work next week because you have some bingeing to do. Spooky. A soundtrack bursting with moody Led Zeppelin and a cast headed up by Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, the final episode TOTALLY nails its landing. Make sure you watch it until the last credit rolls off your screen. Then call me if you need to freak out.

Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix): My girls and I were scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch this summer when we saw that Season 2 of this super-charming 6-episode series featuring the totally goofy Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, had just dropped. We squealed and sat back to enjoy watching him eat his way through New York, Buenos Aires, Ireland, South Africa, Venice, and Copenhagen. We come for the adventures, all the different types of food he tries and all the friends he makes along the way. But we stay for the Skype session with his parents, Max and Helen Rosenthal, at the end of every episode. Squeeze in Season 1 while you’re at it, and travel along to Bangkok, Saigon, Tel Aviv, Lisbon, New Orleans and Mexico City. What I really love the most about Season 2, is that Phil makes it a point to emphasize that it’s through travel that we get to meet people from all walks of like, which helps us expand our own views and gives us new angles to look at things. Plus, food. Here’s Season 2’s trailer, just for fun:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor (Amazon Prime): About three minutes into this lovely documentary on Mr. Rogers that my daughter and I went to see this summer at a local arty movie theater, she leaned over and whispered, “Are you crying yet?” Of course I was. Now, you too can start weeping as you watch and remember just how wonderful and special Fred Rogers was, as it has recently been released on Amazon Prime to rent for $5.99 (SO WORTH IT). Honestly, I think if everyone in the world watched it, it would be a strong reminder of just what it means to be a human being moving with love and compassion through this world. “The greatest thing we can do is to let somebody know is that they are loved and capable of loving,” you hear Mr. Rogers say and it just about sums it all up. Plus, Henrietta Pussycat and Lady Elaine Fairchild. Talk about blasts from the past. Revisit your childhood (and your children’s if they’re old enough to remember) and watch it tonight.

Disenchantment (Netflix): Probably the opposite of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, this new cartoon series from Matt Groening is The Simpsons meets Game of Thrones and the perfect show to watch with your teenage son. At least it was for me, but I’ve got it easy because often my viewing tastes are akin to that of a teenage boy. But if you love The Simpsons, and I totally do, this 10-episode series is right up your alley, with an elf who’ll remind you of Ralph Wiggum and a demon who steals every episode. The clincher: Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson voices the anti-princess Princess Bean who’d rather die than get married and just wants to live life her way. Also, she’s a bit of a drunk.

Anything else I NEED to watch? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday Faves: What I Read This Summer

When my kids were young enough to come to the beach with me every day, but old enough to get themselves to the pool or spend the day trying to sell friendship bracelets up by the cabanas at our club, I’d squeeze in a lot of reading. I’d sit in a circle on the beach with my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and after we’d finish talking about funny things the kids did or our latest concerns about what the kids were watching or eating (we were young mothers, of course), we’d pull our books or newspapers out of our beach bags and quietly read alongside each other in the sand.

A few times, we all headed to the family cabin in the Poconos, and I am being very generous with the term “cabin.” It was pretty rustic — think outhouse and no running water — and had been furnished with the hand-me-downs of extremely frugal people. The kitchenware was mismatched and the stacks of bedding kept in a trunk in the living room had been worn thin with use. But despite its lack of creature comforts, the cabin sat a short distance from a lake that we’d ride our bikes around at dusk in search of beavers building dams and once, a mama bear and her cubs crossed the road right in front of the cluster of cousins that had zoomed ahead of the grownups. We’d drive over to the falls and slide down the rushing water into the cold dark pool below and eat a picnic of sandwiches and chips perched on the flat rocks overlooking the water flowing downstream. But in between adventures, we’d make our way out to the porch looking out over fields of foxgloves and teepees the kids had fashioned out of long tree branches, and settle in to read. With no TV to watch and still in that blissful era before iPhones and Instagram, the kids would pull out the latest Harry Potter of Captain Underpants and join us in the shade. 

Nowadays when I go to the beach, there’s a lot more talking than reading and I’m as guilty as the next guy of looking at my phone and falling down long and twisty Internet holes. So, it was nice this Labor Day to sit quietly with my older two kids (so far, the biggest of my readers) under the beach umbrella and read for most of the afternoon. It helped that both my daughter and I were finishing books that we were loving and couldn’t put down. That’s how I felt about (almost) all of the books I read this summer: they kept me coming back and I was sorry for (most) of them to end. Which, to me, is all you can ask for of a book.

Less (Andrew Sean Greer): It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year and was what I had been (reluctantly) finishing up on the beach on Labor Day and I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you are turning 50. I think Arthur Less’s story will resonate with anyone of us who has lived a life. Less is a struggling novelist who decides to avoid his former lover’s pending nuptials by accepting a series of invitations (teach a course, be up for an award, celebrate somebody else’s 50th) that set him traveling across the globe. Here’s my favorite exchange.

Less smiles. “My birthday is in one week.”

“Strange to be almost fifty, no? I feel like I just understood how to be young.”

“Yes! It’s like the last day in a foreign country. You finally figure out where to get coffee, and drinks, and a good steak. And then you have to leave. And you won’t ever be back.”

AUDIO: My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Ottessa Moshfegh): A lot of times I will listen to the audio version of a book and become convinced that simply reading it would never have been as good (that was my experience with Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure). Such is the case with this story of a 20-something woman living in Manhattan during the summer of 2000 who decides to escape the sorrow in her life by spending a year asleep. Enter the wackiest, prescription writing NYC shrink and whiny best friend, and the narrator does a terrific job giving each character a distinct voice and personality. The final line of the book is everything. Haunted me for weeks.

Pachinko (Min Jin Lee): It took me until about two-thirds of the way through this generational saga set in Japan, which focuses on its Korean refugees beginning in the 1930s, that Pachinko wasn’t the name of a major character in the book. “When are we going to meet her?” I kept wondering as I looked at the illustration of the woman on the paperback’s front cover (it is not a spoiler to tell you that pachinko is a Japanese pinball game). Loved learning about the splitting of Korea and how kind of horrible the Japanese were to them when they fled their country and how displaced the Koreans were in their new home. Good insight into what it must feel like for all those refugees wandering around the globe, forced from their homes and unwanted in other countries. Hard to imagine.

The Woman in the Window (A.J. Finn): Fast. Fun. In the “Gone Girl” vein of unreliable narrators. Made me glad that for all the red wine I drink, I steer clear of prescription meds. It makes you see things. Maybe.

Calypso (David Sedaris): What can I say? I’ve loved Sedaris since I heard him on NPR reading his “Santaland Diaries,” when I pulled into my driveway and then sat, laughing as he threatened to have some mouthy kid — waiting on-line to see Santa — killed, until the end. This new collection of essays seems to have more of a thread running through the pieces than his other books, which I really liked. It kept a lot of the stories in context. One of the most alarming is the tale of a lipoma he had removed from his back and what he did with it. Strange and hilarious. The piece about his sister, Tiffany’s, suicide remains heartbreaking, no matter how many times I read it.

Look Alive Out There (Sloane Crosley): More collections of essays and maybe funnier than Sedaris, I am completely obsessed with Crosley and have wasted way too many hours stalking her online and reading everything she’s written. To wit: “Around this time, I began dating a younger and emotionally unavailable man who was completely wrong for me in every way but anatomically. So I fell for him.”

Gilead (Marilynne Robinson): The exact opposite of every book listed above, this slow contemplation of life and religion — written as a letter by a man at the end of his to his son — is no page turner. But it’s a beautifully written exploration of the relationship between fathers and sons and the inner workings of an Iowa preacher nearing death. Heavy.

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie): Don’t be imposed by its size, this is a compelling, but dense, story of a Nigerian woman’s experience moving to the United States and a lot of comparisons between Black Americans and Black Non Americans (her labels). There’s also love and tons of humor. Plenty of the book is also set in Nigeria, which I loved getting a glimpse into and am fascinated by black hair politics and how long it takes to create those elaborate braids you see some black women wearing. I fell down such a deep Internet hole investigating the author and have watched both her Ted Talks (“We Should All Be Feminists” and “The Danger of the Single Story”) multiple times and find her utterly charming and sassy. I was so obsessed with her, I even Googled how to pronounce her name.

Would love to know what YOU read this summer and what you’re planning to read this fall! If you are like me and have a book-buying problem ( I have SO many piled up next to my bed rn), I highly suggest (if you are local) that you use River Road Books as your official pusher to get your next reading fix (the only compensation I receive from them for that plug is great conversation when I go in to browse). 

Also, if you are tired of having to come find me, may I also suggest you sign up to have me come to you? Subscribe in the box below and my latest posts will appear magically in your inbox. Voila!!


Friday Fave: Too Much TV

There’s a weird amount of amazing things on TV right now. Like, I don’t even know how I get anything done.

With the weekend upon us, I wanted to share the shows I’ve killed lately, in hopes that you, too, would share what you’ve been loving.

  • Better Things: Two seasons on FX. Comedy. Louis CK had something to do with it but please disregard because then you will miss falling in love with Pamela Adlon, who created and wrote. She plays a single mom to three girls and my daughters and I LOVED it. Like, obsessed, especially with the Season 2 finale.
  • Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: One season on Amazon. Eight episodes about an hour each. Late 1950s NYC comedy scene and the young, Jewish housewife who’s trying to break in. Written by Gilmore Girl creator Amy Sherman-Palladino who cast the amazing Tony Shaloub as the dad. Really wonderful and, as is her wont, dialogue galore courtesy of Palladino.
  • Somebody Feed Phil: Six, one-hour episodes on Netflix. He’s the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond but my girls don’t know what that is. They just think the nerdy Jewish dude who travels and eats his way through six different locations is hilarious. We binged it last weekend. Now, I totally need to go to Thailand and Lisbon (he also goes to Israel, Vietnam, New Orleans and Mexico City). Fun.
  • Poldark: Three frothy seasons on PBS. I mean, what’s more fun than a period Masterpiece Theater piece with a cute guy galloping around the Cornish seaside? The main guy’s from The Hobbit and any time he appeared sans shirt, my daughter and I would yell, “Hunky Hobbit”! I mean, we thought we were funny.
  • The Crown: Two seasons on Netflix. Like, duh. Everyone loves it. This season, we get to see what a PIA Phillip was back in the day. Big Daddy doesn’t like to be anyone’s subject. Especially his wife’s.
  • Victoria: Two seasons on Masterpiece Theater. Speaking of which, turns out good old Albert didn’t much like taking a back seat to his queen, either. Just started back up on PBS last weekend so there’s plenty of time to catch up. Plus, you can help me bring Victoria’s hairstyle back. I used to call it my “Jane Eyre” look, but now it’s “The Vicky” or “Queen.” Now, all I need is a crown.

Okay, not quite sure what I should start watching next. Please, by all means, give me some suggestions!!

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