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: 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 Faves: Things I’m Obsessed With This Week

Friends, I know. I am a terrible pen pal. Honestly, this is probably why I don’t have any friends from grammar school. I’m just not great at staying in touch.

But I’m trying to turn over a new leaf.  I’m going to attempt to lift this blog from the hot and humid ashes of New Jersey in July on a little more regular basis. I’m hoping this doesn’t go the way of my knitting career or the time I thought I’d learn to speak Italian. Let’s just say, I remain monolingual.

So while I’m figuring out how to tell you about my second child moving out of the house recently or the surgery I had on my old lady foot, I thought I’d share a few things I am ob-sessed with lately. Here they are in absolutely no particular order:

  • Melissa Clark’s new cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game. Historically, I’ve stopped actually cooking dinner — like, chopping or roasting — by this time in July. Usually by this point of summers past, we’re eating a lot of hamburgers or takeout. And I can’t tell you the last time I bought a cookbook and back in the day, I used to buy a lot of them. But with the interweb, I find there’s no need to pay for something when you can get it for free online. But this book is worth it and full of tons of great dinner ideas. So far we’ve made both the Harissa Chicken (you can get harissa at Trader Joe’s) and Sausage and Cauliflower (with cumin and Turkish pepper — which you can get at World Market) twice, but my 20yo has gone through and marked about a dozen other recipes with post it notes.
  • Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid. I’m on a reading roll and in under three days gobbled this slim novel that weaves a little magical realism with the story of a city under siege and the plight of refugees.
  • Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser. This is literally (okay, not literally) the Bible for figuring out how to make lemonade out of the lemons that life throws your way. I read it 8 or 9 years ago when my marriage was falling apart yet for some reason, it resonates even more now. The quote from Anais Nin in the book’s prelude says it all: “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
  • This Ted Talk video. 
  • This New Yorker cartoon.
  • Selina Meyer. I’ve been watching Season 5 of Veep and during each episode, think, “I need to write down some of these lines.” The things they say are off-the-charts hilarious and vulgar. But neither pen nor paper was required to remember this beauty, which I’ve used already on numerous occasions (if you don’t like cursing, please do not click).

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Best Audiobooks for Long Drives With Teens

It’s graduation season, so in preparation for my final journey eight hours south to the big state university my two oldest children have attended over the last five years, I downloaded a couple of audiobooks to help make the time hurtling down a major interstate pass as quickly as humanly possible.

Over those years of driving down for orientations, football games and settling kids in for fall semesters, we’ve listened to a number of excellent books but it’s been a challenge trying to find something that appealed to every passenger in the car.

Okay, let’s be real. When I first started visiting the school about six years ago, I picked stories that interested just me, as I’d come to terms with the fact that I would be the only one listening. I had three teenagers, after all (and one very cute 7yo).

I knew that all of the teenagers along for the ride would be reclining in the back of our SUV, thoroughly ensconced in whatever loud music was blaring from their white headphones. As soon as I turned the key in the ignition, the children would slip into their own worlds and spend the following eight hours intermittently napping and taking Snapchats of themselves — framed by whatever geotag we were passing through — while some misogynistic lyrics blasted into their young ears. (Okay, there probably wasn’t Snapchat six years ago but you get what I mean).

51ySC5A5-NL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_So I listened to Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken which, at about 8 hours long, was perfect for one leg of the trip. Not only was the story of overcoming insurmountable challenges incredibly inspiring but I also learned a lot about the Pacific theater part of World War 2, in particular Japan’s deadly attacks in China. Like, who knew?



61sHQfg18hL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_For an ensuing trip, I decided to really go for it and downloaded the second Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book (The Girl Who Played With Fire), which clocked in at 18.5 hours. This is when I discovered that some books are better to read than listen to. Number One, I do not have the attention span for all of that storytelling and it was so long I had to finish listening upon my return while driving to soccer and making dinner. And Number Two, while all those Swedish names of people and places were easy to differentiate while reading, you could tell by sight who or where the reference was, but listening was a whole different story. I couldn’t discern a Blomvkist from a Lundagatan and I have been known to speak the Swedish language.

413XudZK0tL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_Eventually, through some kind of miracle, the kids started listening along as we drove. We all enjoyed Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and while she totally embraces the “F” word, which probably wasn’t the most appropriate language for my elementary school child, I loved her kind of Smart, Girl Power message and figured that would outweigh some of the naughtier language. And honestly, that’s probably what kept the kiddies listening, thinking they were kind of getting away with something.

And our love for Tina set us down the road to listening to a bunch of humor audiobooks on long drives up and down the Eastern Seaboard. We loved Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please and Jim Gaffigan’s Fat Dad. We listened to both Mindy Kahling books and Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. Of course, Nora Ephron helped us pass the time during one trip with her essays from I Feel Bad About My Neck. And I discovered Mike Birbiglia listening to This American Life and downloaded his poignant and hilarious album Sleepwalk With Me. We seriously laughed our asses off.

41dfXsZcQDL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_We listened to some kid/teen-centric books as well. My little guy and I enjoyed Wonder driving down to move his sister into her new apartment one August and my two daughters and I adored Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Elenor & Park. Maybe a little too much.

But listening to books during long drives was not a novel (get it?) idea for my children. When they were young, I was always popping in a cassette – and later a CD – for us to listen to while driving. We loved Roald Dahl’s Magic Finger and Fantastic Mr. Fox and thrilled to Shel Silverstein’s slightly creepy, thoroughly wacky readings of his poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends.

One of my favorite family stories is the time we were all heading out on a long drive home from skiing and I popped in Mary Pope Osborne’s child-friendly version of The Odyssey, which was greeted by groans from the back seat. My oldest was probably around 12 or 13 and was way too grown up and cool to be subjected to his mother’s campaign to create lifelong readers in her children.

He grumbled and eventually settled down to hear about Odysseus’ struggles with wooden horses and one-eyed giants and as the first disc ended, I heard, “Wait, that’s it?” from that too-cool-for-school son in the back seat. Too old, indeed.

That same son – who, at 23, is an avid reader and counts East of Eden, which he read last summer while commuting, as one of his favorite books – was my travel companion for this weekend’s graduation festivities, so I kept him in mind as I perused iTunes to download stuff to listen to and kind of think I killed it.

tumblr_mav95sJmYi1rg9ssco1_250Driving down, my son, 19yo daughter and I listened to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – clocking in at 6 hours – and then couldn’t stop referencing the story throughout graduation weekend. We joked about the lovable yet often frustrating main character who has Asperger’s and mimicked the British-isms sprinkled throughout the story. I think the rest of our family, who was not in our car, was kind of annoyed by our going on about the story but yesterday, the graduate started reading it and I might encourage my youngest to do the same. Great story.

41diKbNSQSL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_For something completely different, our drive home was filled with the beautiful and profound thoughts on what makes a life worth living in the gorgeous memoir When Breath Becomes Air. An excellent contemplation of life and death written by a 36yo neurosurgeon before he succumbed to lung cancer and about 5 and-a-half hours long. Lovely.

My son and I listened to the end of Paul Kalanithi’s beautiful words and quickly followed up with a Game of Thrones podcast chaser to finish out our trip, thus balancing the heaviness of the memoir with the airy ponderings on the fate of Winterfell.

I will miss having a reason to trap my children with me for such large chunks of time and getting to listen to stories together. More than the stories – though I do love them – it’s the shared experiences I’ve enjoyed so much over the years. The inside jokes. The references to pet rats and dead dogs and sisters for sale.

However I will never miss I-81 or stopping to use sketchy restrooms in the middle of nowhere. Some experiences are best left in the past.

When I’m not driving up and down the East Coast, I write about being a mom to grown, and almost grown, kids. Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

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The Weird Science of Parenting

SWP_TextRemember What to Expect When You’re Expecting? I mean, c’mon. Who am I kidding? Of course you do. If you’re a mommy of a certain age, you knew that book like the back of your still-young hand. Like the recipe you used for your famous seven-layer dip. Like the sound of your own baby’s cry (okay, I knew what my baby sounded like but my lactating breasts usually presumed every cry — like, at the mall — was coming from my hungry baby). Anyway, you get what I mean. That book was the parenting Bible for those of us who gave birth before the Dawn of the Internet. Before you could just go ahead and Google “How to breastfeed” and find a host of videos to aid you in your efforts. Back in the day, we needed to work with diagrams and words to figure shit out.

Books not only taught me how to do things — The Silver Palate taught me how to cook and Martha Stewart taught me to, like, be a crazy housewife — they also helped me gauge just where I was in life. They helped make me feel a little less alone. A little less crazy.

Vicki Iovine’s Girlfriends’ Guides were good for that. She cut through all the “do this” and “do that” of What to Expect and Dr. Spock and was like “Who’d do that?” and “Did you really just do that?” She had chapters like“The Droning Phenomenon”: The inability to discuss anything but your baby for more than thirty seconds (wait, that was bad?) and “Husband? What Husband?”: Taking care of the big baby, as well as the little baby (wait, that was really bad)

My blogger friends Norine and Jessica, the truly evil scientists behind the hilarious Science of Parenthood blog, are about to join the ranks of books that make you shake your head and say “Yes!” with their newly published illustrated book Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations. Their funny cartoons nail the challenges and minutea of parenting and address everything from annoying play dates to poop. Yes, poop. Unlike What to Expect, Science of Parenthood tells it like it is in the parenting trenches and not how it’s supposed to be.

Although my own children are old enough now to be in charge of their pooping, I was reminded of little kids’ pooping preferences recently when I took my sister’s 4yo son to watch my 12yo son play lacrosse. After about 10 minutes of play, the little kid announced he needed to get to a bathroom and poop. Once there, he needed to take off not just his shoes but also his pants to perform the operation. Then, we sat and he asked me a lot of questions until the deed was done. As I cleaned him up and began explaining for like the 10th time why there was a light on the wall of the bathroom, I was reminded of this very astute scientific discovery.

Someone please remind me of this the next time I take my nephew to watch a game.

Poop happens (and usually when you least expect it).


Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks the book is pretty funny as Science of Parenthood  just hit number one on Amazon’s hot new parenting humor releases. Impressive for two self-proclaimed fake scientists.

It’s a super fun gift for the holidays, which you can pick up on Amazon or your local bookstore. All I know is that I can’t wait for them to start experimenting with teenagers. I’d be happy to help come up with some equations for that fun age group.

Go ahead and read a little bit more about Jessica (the artist) and Norine (the writer) in a little Q&A they put together for us below.

What’s Science of Parenthood all about?

Science of Parenthood started nearly three years ago as an illustrated humor blog. We use fake math and science to “explain” the stuff that puzzles parents every day. Things like …

Why are broken cookies “ruined?”

Why does it matter what color the sippy cup is?

Why can’t you put the straw in the juice box without your kid having a melt down?

Why will a kid whine-whine-whine for a toy, then lose all interest in that toy once they have it? 

Where the eff is my phone?  

 We’ve come up with some pretty hilarious theories.

Our book, Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, is like our blog … but like our blog on STEROIDS! We utilized the blog to road test–perhaps we should say “field test”–material, and now the book contains the kinds of cartoons and writing that fans love to find at Science of Parenthood, along with all new cartoons, infographics, flowcharts pie charts and quizzes that we created just for the book. About 90 percent of the book is brand new material.

Divided into four sections–biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics–the book lives in the chasm that exists between our collective hopes and dreams and expectations of what parenting will be like … and the brutal, slap-you-upside-the-head reality of what parenting actually is. We cover all aspects of pregnancy, birth and the hilarious frustrations that come with early childhood (tantrums, picky eating, diaper blowouts, illness, sleep issues, play dates, toy creep, homework battles and encounters with crazy parents (not you, of course, we mean other parents). And you know what? You don’t even need to be a scientist to “get” it.

Our goal is just to make parents laugh. Because when you’re a parent, you NEED to laugh. Humor is a survival tool. After your tot has gotten the top off a jar of Vaseline and smeared every surface within reach–as happened to our friend Gail–or tried to “help” you paint a room and ended up covered in blue paint–as happened to Norine’s sister Shari–you have to laugh. Or you’ll end up sobbing. Or wearing one of those fancy white jackets that buckles up in the back.

 Is any of the book autobiographical?

Pretty much all of the book reflects through our experiences as parents. Take the piece “Experimental Gastronomy: A Study in Potatoes” from the Chemistry section. It’s written like a scientific paper about an experiment in which a researcher tries to determine if a preschooler who likes French fries will eat mashed potatoes. Raise your hand if you can hypothesize the outcome (see what we did there?) The piece is completely based on Norine’s inability to get her five-year-old, who loves fries, to even taste mashed potatoes. Says Norine: “I tried everything! I even offered him extra chocolate for dessert, and he still refused to take even one tiny nibble.”

 Why science? Are either of you scientists?

Not at all. We’re moms dealing with the same kind of crazy stuff everyone else is. Science just makes a great metaphor for the frustration, exasperation and humiliation that comes with everyday parenting. Think about Einstein and how he explained his theory of relativity: “Sit on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour; sit with a pretty girl with an hour and it feels like a minute. That’s relativity.” Well, that’s parenthood too. One minute you’ve got a newborn covered in goo and then next, you’re watching teary-eyed as they skip into kindergarten without even a backward glance or a kiss goodbye. And yet, when you’re into your third hour of Candy Land on a rainy day, time seems to stand still. (If you haven’t played Candy Land with your toddler yet, trust us on this. The scars never really heal.)

Where did you get the idea for Science of Parenthood?

Our “eureka” moment came when Norine’s son, Fletcher, came home from school talking about one of Newton’s laws of force and motion: An object at rest stays at rest unless acted on by an external force.

Says Norine: “That instantly reminded me of Fletcher with his video games. He’d sit on the couch and play games all day if I didn’t confiscate the iPad. I jotted down, Newton’s First Law of Parenting: A child at rest will remain at rest until you want your iPad back. Later, I posted that on Facebook. It got a good response, so I started posting other parenting observations and giving them a math or science twist, like Sleep Geometry Theorem: A child will always sleep perpendicular to any adult laying next to them. Both of these are fan favorites and two of the very few cartoons we pulled from the blog to include in the book.

“As a writer, I’m always looking for new ways to tell stories. And in that eureka moment, it struck me that math and science make fantastic metaphors for telling the universal stories of parenting. Like scientists, we parents are always fumbling in the dark, searching for answers, wondering if we’re on the right track and second-guessing our methods. And because a picture is still worth a thousand words, I knew that these science-y quips would be a lot more popular on social media if they were illustrated. So I called Jessica and asked if she wanted to illustrate a book of these funny observations.

“Jessica was the one who saw that Science of Parenthood could be much bigger than a single book. She saw the potential for a blog and a social media presence and ancillary products. She quickly secured a domain name for us and created a Facebook page and Twitter feed. She began illustrating the observations I had already banked. Two weeks later, we debuted on Facebook; a week after that we rolled out the blog. Now we’re three years in, and along with Science of Parenthood, the book, we have mugs and magnets and posters featuring our images. Earlier this year we published two collections of humorous parenting tweets—The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets.  

Where can readers find Science of Parenthood?

You can find the new book on Amazon and in bookstores.

And you can always find Science of Parenthood on Facebook (, Twitter (, Pinterest (www.pinterest/sciofparenthood) and Instagram (

Here’s a list of tour dates to meet the “scientists” in person:

About The Authors

Norine is the primary writer for Science of Parenthood, the blog, and Science of Parenthood,the book. A longtime freelance magazine writer, Norine’s articles have appeared in just about every women’s magazine you can buy at supermarket checkout as well as on The Huffington Post,, iVillage, Lifescript and Scary Mommy websites. Norine is the co-author of You Know He’s a Keeper…You Know He’s a Loser: Happy Endings and Horror Stories from Real Life Relationships (Perigee), Food Cures (Reader’s Digest) and a contributor to several humor anthologies, including Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding(Demeter Press). She lives with her husband and 9-year-old son in Orlando.

 The daughter of famed New Yorker cartoonist Jack Ziegler, Jessica is Science of Parenthood’s co-creator, illustrator, web designer and contributing writer. In her “off hours,” Jessica is the director of social web design for VestorLogic and the writer/illustrator of StoryTots, a series of customizable children’s books. Her writing and illustration have been published on The Huffington Post,, and in Las Vegas Life and Las Vegas Weekly. Jessica was named a 2014 Humor Voice of the Year by BlogHer/SheKnows Media. She lives with her husband and 11-year-old son in Denver.

If you would like Norine and Jessica to visit your book group, contact Norine at norine@scienceofparenthood.

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Friday Faves: Bell, Books & Candles

This candle from Bath & Bodyworks is so my jam right now.

This candle from Bath & Bodyworks is so my jam right now.

I can’t tell you how much I love this time of year. #1: I don’t have to worry about putting on a bathing suit for months. #2: I don’t have to go outdoors and pretend I’m having fun. In other words, I get to release my inner homebody. I love putzing around my house and feeling cozy as the weather starts to dip outside.

It makes me consider becoming a witch, as the headline to this post suggests, and pulling out my cauldron.

Here’s what I love about October:

  • I bought this cool, mercury glass globe at Pottery Barn a couple of years ago and splurged for the twinkly lights to sparkle inside. It sits on the Ballard Design coffee table in my TV room and although one person once commented that it’s like a spooky crystal ball, I like the magical feel it gives glowing from the center of the room.
  • I am all about smelly candles and feel strongly that what works during the summer months don’t quite cut it when it gets cold outside. Here’s what I’m obsessed with, in no particular order:
    • I absolutely adore this Mrs. Meyers candle for fall, however I can only find it online. It’s never for sale at Target or Wegman’s. Unlike some of the other scents in this candle line, the orange clove is potent and one small votive really permeates my entire downstairs.
    • This candle flavor from Williams-Sonoma is also a sesaonal favorite for me. Its scent is warm and spicy and makes me think of Thanksgiving and sitting by the fire.
    • I officially want to take a bath in this scent from Bath & Bodyworks. Not only do I have the candle going on my kitchen counter but one of those cool wallflower doohickeys you plug into an electric outlet. It’s plugged in right by my front door and immediately greets visitor with its yummy, piney scent. In fact, I may be jumping the gun on blanketing our house in this flavor as two of my children have walked in the house recently and said, “It smells like Christmas” (not the worst thing).
    • I was totally obsessed with this Bath & Bodyworks candle last year and plan on stocking up on it again soon to help take the edge off January.
  • Books. And lately I’m not just buying them, I’m actually reading them.
    • I read Liz Gilbert’s inspiring Big Magic in two sittings a few weekends ago. Halfway through I cursed myself that I did not instead download the audio version, simply because I love her voice. Both on the page and her legit speaking voice. She’s so warm and engaging and down-to-earth. She tells it like it is: the only way to nurture your creativity is to do the work. Plain and simple. Hey, don’t just take it from me, read my friend Brooke Leffert’s recent review of the book for the Associated Press.
    • Another one of my writer crushes is Ann Patchett and I happen to enjoy her nonfiction the most and probably because, once again, of her voice. I just finished her memoir Truth and Beauty, which recounts her friendship with the novelist and poet Lucy Grealy. “Whenever I saw her, I felt like I had been living in another country, doing moderately well in another language, and then she showed up speaking English and suddenly I could speak with all the complexity and nuance that I hadn’t realized was gone. With Lucy I was a native speaker.” Lovely.
    • To round out my girl-crush trifecta, I’ve also just started Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir. Dudes, she is so damn smart and funny. “No one elected me the boss of memoir,” Karr writes. “I speak for no one but myself.” Think this might be another lone I listen to after it’s read. If you haven’t read any of her earlier memoirs, you’ve got a lot to do this weekend.
    • In this vein, I’ve also been poking around in Robert McKee’s Story to figure out how to tell mine on a larger scale than a blog post.
    • I also breezed through the first 100 pages of my friend Michelle Sassa’s fun new novel, Copygirl. It’s a fun take on the Mad Men world of advertising and I like to think of the protagonist Kay as a modern day Peggy Olson, the lone, hard-working woman surrounded by baby men. Fun and I can’t wait to finish this weekend.

What are you reading or doing to stay cozy this weekend?

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Friday Faves: Book Addict

This is so not funny.

This is so not funny.

Hello, my name is Amy and I am a book-aholic.

You guys, I have a problem. Some people gamble. Some can’t stop buying shoes.

I am addicted to books. I love to buy them. I don’t necessary always read them. Or at least finish them. But I have a lot of them.

They sit in piles on my desk and my nightstand. They are stacked in my den and there’s even a few shelves of them sitting in my garage.

And I don’t just buy them for myself. I tend to buy tons of them for my kids, too. And when I was married, I’d often buy them for my then-husband in hopes he might open one up and read alongside me. When he had knee surgery I figured he’d have so much time on his hands lying around he’d definitely pick up “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” or one of the other five books I had gone out and bought for the occasion. Instead he sat on the couch for about 45 minutes after returning from surgery until he got antsy and went out to clean dog poop up in the yard.

There was a reason why his knees were shot. He was not one to sit around.

Over the last few months I’ve purchased a bunch of books either for my Kindle or an easy one-click order on Amazon Prime or at the nearby Barnes & Noble and recently from my favorite book shop around the corner. And while I wish I gave all my business to the local bookstore, it’s like I’m a junkie and just need a quick-fix when it comes to my book habit. I need to score them as quickly as possible once the urge comes in.

Really, if I just concentrated on reading the many unread books I already own, I would probably save half my annual income. Well, that might be an exaggeration. That would only happen if I stopped buying wine, too.

Here’s what I’ve bought either for myself or one of my sons since about May:

  • The Grapes of Wrath: I bought TWO copies of this. One for my Kindle, which I’m about six percent through, and a paper version for my oldest child after he finished East of Eden and was looking for something to read next.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany: So of course, while I was at B&N buying Steinbeck’s classic, I also picked up a few others I thought my son might like, including this one — one of my all-time favorites — which I believe I read when I was also just home after graduating from college. It makes me want to go back and read all those John Irving books I loved.
  • Master and Commander: Another one for oldest guy. I remember how much my dad loved this Patrick O’Brien historical series about the British Navy and thought my son might, too.
  • A Window Opens: The author, Elizabeth Egan, is coming to our local bookstore next month so I stopped in the other day and picked up a copy to read in advance. LOVED. She’s the former book editor at Self who left to work for Amazon and the novel seems a thinly-veiled account of her experience trying to balance being the mom/wife/daughter/friend she wants to be with a ferocious corporate culture. Smart. Well-written. Funny. Love her and can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.
  • Good Mourning: Whilst at the local bookstore, I also picked this up after a rave review from one of the owners with whom I chatted while she rang me up. This is a memoir of a woman who was the event planner at THE funeral home in Manhattan. The place where anyone who’s anyone is laid to rest including Joan Rivers and Heath Ledger. I’ve read a few pages and it’s funny and engaging and who doesn’t want to know some of those secrets?
  • Getting to 30: A Paren’t Guide to the 20-Something Years: I bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting the second I discovered (perfect word) I was pregnant with my first child and it became my handbook during that and the subsequent two pregnancies (by my last they had invented this thing called the Internet so I didn’t need What to Expect to self-diagnose placenta previa or kidney failure any more). Over the years I turned to Dr. Spock, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Between Parent & Teenager, Odd Girl Out, Queen Bees & Wannabes and many, many more tomes for advice on how to raise my children. So why should this new stages we’ve entered — the post college period — go without a book as well? Good overview of the “emerging adult” and reminder of what a difficult time it is.
  • I Am a SEAL Team-Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier: It is my intention to get my little guy to read more this school year. Like, more than what his friends post on Instagram. That kind of more. So I’ve been looking for something he is REALLY interested in. And I found it in this. The subject matter totally suits his “God bless America/Young Republican” personality and he even read it while we sat waiting forever in the doctor’s office last night, so that is a great sign. I only hope he’s half the reader his brother (and older sister, I might add) are.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: What? We never owned this one? Of course we do. The older kids read it and I even read it aloud not once but TWICE to various sets of children. But somehow, it the great house decluttering of ’15, it got swept into a donate pile and given away. I know. It makes me a little queasy, too. But my little guy and I decided we were going to read this one together, not out loud but more like a book club and then hopefully we’ll go through the rest of the series in much the same way. I know. Rainbows and unicorns. I’ll keep you posted on how this fantasy plays out.

On a completely different note, I cannot let the import of this date go unnoticed and want to send my love to everyone today. Not just the many people directly affected by the terrible events of 14 years ago who lost so, so much on that day. My heart breaks every time I think about all the men and women who are no longer with us. That level of loss is unimaginable and I don’t pretend to know how it feels.

So today is a day of rememberance, and I want to remember not just all the lives that were lost. I also want to remember how the tragedy brought us all together as a country and reminded us how much we loved living here and our fellow Americans. Despite all of our many, many differences, I want to remember that underneath it all, our hearts all look the same. We’re all struggling. We’re all doing the best we can. Let’s try to remember that today.


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I Went on a Blogger Crawl and This Happened

This is the story about discovering things that have been under your nose all along.

Recently, I took part in something called a blogger crawl, which was akin to a pub crawl in that a group — in this case of bloggers — visited different establishments but no alcohol was involved and we remained upright the entire time.

The purpose of our crawling was twofold; first, it allowed us to meet other people who sit behind laptops and connect and share what we love with hundreds (and for some thousands) of readers. Who knew there were so many great bloggers living in my neck of the woods?

Here are the Blogger Crawl links from the rest of our group:

 Second, the crawl let us get out and explore lots of shops, salons and eateries in our Jersey Shore area which we in turn get to share with our readers. Because, while it’s been firmly established here time and again that I am lazy to the core – like, I just ordered a rubber mallet (for proper beach umbrella set up) through Amazon Prime rather than visiting a local hardware store – we really should get off our duffs and support hard working local businesses before the whole country becomes one big strip mall.

That would not be cool.

We started our crawl a few weekends ago at blogger Carrie Drazin’s lovely home. She’s the creator of the site It’s Droolworthy who not only spearheaded our inaugural blogger crawl but just launched her blog’s redesign where she shares all sorts of things that I’m dying for like this watch or going on this trip.

Instead I have to pay for stuff like this. Sigh.

We nibbled on sweet and flaky treats compliments of everybody’s favorite Red Bank boulangerie and posed for some photos before heading off to the crawl.

Bloggers take your mark.

Bloggers take your mark.

I broke off from the rest of the gang to check in with my friends at River Road Books in Fair Haven and this is where my story takes on a “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” kind of vibe. Like, things just kept spilling over into other things (like he’ll want some jam to go with it and then you’ll have to go to the store to buy more muffin mix, as you do when you start feeding mooses).

River Road Books, 759 River Rd, Fair Have, NJ 07704

River Road Books, 759 River Rd, Fair Have, NJ 07704

I’d chosen the book store because it just seemed like a natural fit for me to write about. Number one: I love the ladies there, mostly because they are readers and have either read it or it’s next on there list or they know someone who did. And not only do they have those super-tempting tables piled with every book you’ve been wanting to read …

Dying to read "The Vacationers" and "We Are Not Ourselves."

Dying to read “The Vacationers” and “We Are Not Ourselves.”

… but they’ve always got the best doodads to add to your purchase, and I am a sucker for doodads. When I was in last week I could not resist picking up one of their new 2015-2016 MomAgendas they just got in, but a package of blank notebooks that have elegant gold lettering on the front spelling out “Fucking Genius” and “Getting Shit Done.” I mean, what better place to jot down notes and ideas to share here?

Notebooks for inspiration.

Notebooks for inspiration.

A new calendar for organization. Or at least an attempt at such.

A new calendar for organization. Or at least an attempt at such.

Personally, my favorite time of the year to hit a bookstore is right on the brink of summer. I love fantasizing about all the hours I’m going to spend with my toes dug deep in the sand and my nose even deeper in a good book. And River Road Books doensn’t disappoint; they’ve got a great selection of beachy reads as well as copies on hand of some local schools’ summer reading lists. There’s plenty of books for younger readers to pick up and have on hand to pull out on those inevitable rainy summer days.

Who's lucky enough to get "Jurassic Park" on their summer reading list?

Who’s lucky enough to get “Jurassic Park” on their summer reading list?

"All the Light We Cannot See" has been sitting on my nightstand for months.

“All the Light We Cannot See” has been sitting on my nightstand for months.

So I stopped by the bookstore and found they were having a book signing that morning for Adam Sobel, chef and owner of the wildly popular Cinnamon Snail food truck, who just published a new cookbook — Street Vegan — stuffed with lots of yummy vegan recipes like Fresh Fig Pancakes and Thai Barbecue Seitan Ribs.

Check out Adam's new book, "Street Vegan."

Check out Adam’s new book, “Street Vegan.”

And whether it was the cookbook that brought out the crowd lined up to chat with Adam or the free donuts that were being given away with book purchases, I’m not quite sure but folks were excited to talk to him and tell him how much they loved his food. His kitchen is based in Brooklyn and although the Cinnamon Snail truck makes regular stops in Manhattan and Jersey City, Adam says he’s loyal to Red Bank because it’s where he got his start.

“Before I had my own business, I had been cooking vegan food at local restaurants for years, and had developed a following of catering customers and private cooking clients from that,” he told me later by email. He added that he and his wife started selling food from a stand at the Red Bank Farmer’s Market where they also developed their donut recipes.

“Our red bank customers have always been here to support us and watch us grow, so we are very loyal to Red Bank,” he said. “Now we drive all the way to Red Bank from our kitchen in Brooklyn, which makes for a very long day, but it’s great to be able to serve the community down here.”

Adam and his wife and two adorable daughters (who were very patiently reading books while their dad did his thing) also live in Red Bank where they also teach free yoga classes a few nights a week.

I was so busy chatting and taking pictures that morning that I neglected to try one of the Cinnamon Snail donuts and so made it my mission to hit the Red Bank Farmer’s Market the following Sunday and track down the food truck.

The Cinnamon Snail food truck crawls into the Red Bank Farmer's Market most Sundays. They are pretty good updating their status and weekly menus on their Facebook page.

The Cinnamon Snail food truck crawls into the Red Bank Farmer’s Market most Sundays. They are pretty good updating their status and weekly menus on their Facebook page.

Readers: it was love at first site. She was not too big and not too small and dusted in pistachio and blanketed in a rosewater and cardamom glaze. I asked her to marry me but before I knew it, she was gone.

She was beautiful and briefly, mine.

She was beautiful and briefly, mine.

But I need to confess that hiterto I’d never gotten my lazy butt to this farmer’s market and was pleasantly surprised to discover all the amazing produce, plants, baked and prepared goodies and – most importantly – ice coffee that were available. We brought home containers of creamy fresh guacamole and spicy mango salsa to go with our Thai chicken burgers the next night and a pint of earthy shiitake mushrooms that was the perfect addition to the brothy noodle soup we ate later in the week. We also couldn’t resist picking up an almond croissant and a focaccia roll my daughter brought home to make a sandwich later that day.

A table full of gorgeous mushrooms at the Red Bank Farmer's Market.

A table full of gorgeous mushrooms at the Red Bank Farmer’s Market.

I took a lot of pictures of bread. It was like carb porn for me.

I took a lot of pictures of bread. It was like carb porn for me.

It was all pretty epic.

The Red Bak Farmer’s Market is located at The Galleria, the corner of Bridge Avenue and West Front Street in Red Bank, every Sunday from May through mid-November, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Get there early for the best pickings.

So I encourage all of you who haven’t had the pleasure to make the farmer’s market — any farmer’s market — nearest you a destination this weekend and perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to hook up with a sweet thing doused in rosewater. And while you’re at it, swing by your local bookstore and stock up on reading supplies — and maybe some naughty notebooks — to get you through the fall.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the links from our blogger crawl and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

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Even the Best Kids Sometimes Do Bad Things

I was cleaning the bathrooms this morning, you know, wiping up the 10-pounds of hair that accumulates on the floor in a matter of days and the gobs of toothpaste and bits of toast that no one seems able to remove from the sink after they spit, when I came upon the books stacked on the back of the kids’ toilet.

I’ve always been big on scattering reading material around the house in prime locations — near toilets and piled up on the kitchen table — just in case one of the kids has an urge to look at something that’s not moving on a screen. You know, actually read something, even if it’s People or Entertainment Weekly.

Usually when I’m cleaning, I’ll just pick up the stack of books sitting on the toilet tank and wipe under them and then put them back where they were. But today it occurred to me that it’s been the same assortment — joke books, something about insults and comebacks and a novel — for a pretty long time and I was fairly certain no one was looking at any of them while they were in there.

So I started to sift through the books to see what I should get rid of, maybe swap one or two out for something new and interesting, when I came across our old copy of “A Wrinkle in Time” that I discovered had been christened with some vulgar graffiti:

Someone in my house really seems to resent this book's presence in our bathroom.

Someone in my house really seems to resent this book’s presence in our bathroom.

I'm sensing a lot of anger here.

Who else senses a lot of anger here?


If this was 10 years ago, I guarantee you there’d have been a full-on inquisition into whose handiwork graced the cover of the book. But nowadays, there’s pretty much only one suspect, and while I get that middle schoolers experiment with naughty words and rebellious actions, I seriously didn’t think my kid had it in him.

Which only goes to remind me, for probably the umpteenth time since I became a mom 22 years ago, that you can NEVER SAY NEVER.

My kids have done things that have shocked the shit out of me and taught me to NEVER judge someone else’s kid because you just don’t know when it’s going to be your turn to find out that your super-sweet and loving and adorable 12yo would scribble “FUCK YOU SCHOOL” on a book.

Or worse.

I am, however, going to have a little fun later when he gets home from school to see who he’s going to say did the naughty deed. I only hope he tries to pin it on the cat.

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The Girl on the Plane

9780385682329_0I went to the Bahamas for a few days last week with a girlfriend and was very ambitious in the amount of reading material I packed for the trip.

Not only did I download The Girl on the Train on my Kindle, but I packed about 20 pounds of magazines — a few Peoples, Oprah, the Vanity Fair Oscar issue — along with my fairly heavy journal into my carryon bag. I almost tried to squeeze my new, 500+ page hardcover copy of All the Light We Cannot See into my suitcase — on top of the four pairs of sandals, running shoes, straw hat and separates that would have lasted me over a month on the island — but decided at the last minute to pry it out of the bag. I slipped in an extra pair of shoes instead.

Which was a good thing because I didn’t even crack open the latest Entertainment Weekly (not even the back page to check out EW Bullseye!), much less an actual book.

Do you know how you really connect with some people more than others and never run out of things to talk about? You can just jump from topic to topic? That’s how it is with the gal I went away with. And when we weren’t examining each other’s histories and solving each other’s various and sundry personal and professional issues, we were enjoying pitchers of rum punch and roaming around the resort carrying our wine glasses.

In other words, we were busy little bees.

And while I never would have gotten through All the Light We Cannot See on the trip, I did manage to bang out The Girl on the Train flying back and forth. I even stayed up well after midnight upon my return to finish the last few chapters.

Two thumbs up.

There’s been a lot of press that the British import is the new Gone Girl and while I did not find the main narrator of Train, Rachel, anywhere near Amazing Amy’s sketchy status (I mean, hard to top that nut), she does make for a fairly unreliable narrator in her own way.

The thriller is hard to put down as the story unfolds and Rachel’s heavy drinking creates holes in what she’s able to piece together, which was a little unsettling for someone to read after mainlining pina coladas poolside for a few days.

According to some of the reviews I’ve looked at after I finished the book, it’s apparently not perfect. And Rachel can make some really annoying decisions. But it’s super fun and sometimes, fun is enough for me.

I mean, it’s not like I’m marrying the book or anything.

So if you’re starting to think about what to pack for your upcoming Spring Break trip and, like me, favor easy-breezy over Camus (Smartypants: you know who I’m talking to) for your beach reading, give The Girl a whirl.

Tell me: What are you packing to read for Spring Break?

Hey look! Here's, like, the one photo I took on vacation while we were squeezing out the last drops of the one perfect beach day and obligatory bottle of white wine.

Hey look! Here’s, like, the one photo I took on vacation while we were squeezing out the last drops of the one perfect beach day coupled with the obligatory bottle of white wine.

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