Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Most Talkative


If you’re not familiar with Andy Cohen, you probably don’t watch a lot of shows on Bravo. While Cohen has had an extensive career producing television on other channels, he’s most known for bringing the Real Housewives franchise into the world. Now, I’m not a Real Housewives fan but he’s also responsible for the show Flipping Out, which I love. He hosts the reunions for all his reality shows and has a quick wit, which is why I borrowed this book, Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture from the library.

Good Reads' Synopsis: The man behind the Real Housewives writes about his lifelong love affair with pop culture that brought him from the suburbs of St. Louis to his own television showFrom a young age, Andy Cohen knew one thing: He loved television. Not in the way that most kids do, but in an irrepressible, all-consuming, I-want-to-climb-inside-the-tube kind of way. And climb inside he did. Now presiding over Bravo's reality TV empire, he started out as an overly talkative pop culture obsessive, devoted to Charlie's Angels and All My Children and to his mother, who received daily letters from Andy at summer camp, usually reminding her to tape the soaps. In retrospect, it's hard to believe that everyone didn't know that Andy was gay; still, he remained in the closet until college. Finally out, he embarked on making a career out of his passion for television. The journey begins with Andy interviewing his all-time idol Susan Lucci for his college newspaper and ends with him in a job where he has a hand in creating today's celebrity icons. In the witty, no-holds-barred style of his show Watch What Happens Live, Andy tells tales of absurd mishaps during his ten years at CBS News, hilarious encounters with the heroes and heroines of his youth, and the real stories behind The Real Housewives. Dishy, funny, and full of heart, Most Talkative provides a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the world of television, from a fan who grew up watching the screen and is now inside it, both making shows and hosting his own.
What I Thought: This was a relatively quick read and while Cohen is a good writer, owing to his years in the Journalism program at Boston University, there just didn’t feel like there was a lot of meat in this memoir. Maybe I'm judging a book about trashy TV a bit too harshly. Oh well. I found his insight into various pop culture occurrences interesting and how he came to head up the celebreality juggernauts that have made him so successful in recent years was an amusing story. However, when the book was finished, I didn’t really feel like I learned anything. Maybe if I watched any of the RH series I would have gleaned more factoids but for me, this was just so so. I’m still a Cohen fan but, I’d rather see him on TV.

Rating: * * 1/2

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Skinny Rules

My apologies for the double book review this week. Vacation = reading and I had a backlog of reviews for you.


I borrowed The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Non-negotiable Principles for Getting to THIN by Bob Harper from the library after seeing an interview with him about it on the Today Show. I’m always looking for new tips to stay healthy and I am a fan of Bob’s from his coaching role on The Biggest Loser. He seems to get results the smart way. I’m not here for a quick fitness fix. No fad diets for me.

The Skinny Rules are comprised of 20 rules he suggests you follow to achieve your weight loss goals and stay as healthy as possible. Most of them were pretty intuitive to me or a regurgitation of other things I already knew. He also presents meal plans and recipes to follow if you so choose. While I thought a lot of the book was repetitive for someone who is pretty well-read in the health arena, someone looking for a good plan to follow would really benefit from this book. His rules are laid out in a manageable, easy-to-follow format. The one rule I have incorporated is drinking a glass of water as soon as I wake up. I drink water all day but it doesn’t usually start until after 10:00 am and my morning coffee. Sleep is dehydrating but more importantly, drinking that water can help jumpstart your metabolism earlier in the day. I also made the hummus in Harper's recipe section and would like to try more recipes available there.

If you’re looking for a little health knowledge, this is a good place to start. Give it a try!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Road Trip - Stop #2

When we last off, John and I were facing down a 7 hour drive from Vermont to Niagara Falls. A lot of folks had asked if we were staying on the American side. Why bother? I wanted to retort. To my knowledge the American side has far less excitement than the Canadian side and half of this trip was about visiting the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake (More on that later). If anyone can show merit for staying on the American side of the falls (apart from not needing a passport), I'd love to see it.

The drive was uneventful but it did end up taking 30 minutes to cross the Rainbow Bridge getting through customs. Our customs agent was particularly chatty (and friendly!) and let us know there would be a wire walk happening during our visit. Thanks for the tip, sir. We made our way to the hotel and settled in. The hotel I wanted to stay at was the Sterling Inn and Spa. We stayed there in 2009 and it was a wonderful, boutique hotel. However, July is high season and the prices were much more than I wanted. So instead, I used Priceline for the very first time. It was nerve wracking but I ended up getting a decent deal on the Wyndham Garden Fallsview. This is a completely renovated hotel that should not be overlooked. It got some bad reviews under the old name and old owners but the upgrades they made were beautiful and I thought the location was great. About a block from the nicer Fallsview Casino, and another block down to the Falls themselves. The Sterling was closer to Clifton Hill and all the tacky, junky attractions at that end. We didn't even venture there this trip and certainly didn't miss it. Please note: the other Casino, Casino Niagara, is really old and boring comparatively.

Arriving past dinner time and quite hungry, we sought out the Falls & Firkin Pub in the Fallsview Casino for some fish and chips. Having done my due diligence, I knew that this restaurant was tucked away in a corner downstairs past the food court. I was glad to find it! The food hit the spot, the patio seating was divine, and the price was decent. This is a tourist destination. No real bargains to be had. After that we headed down to see the Falls. Always breathtaking.

American and Bridal Veil Falls

 Then we walked back up to the casino to lose some money.


I'm happy to say that I walked out $3.00 up. That covered our toll on the bridge. YEA! John left $20 down though so as a team, not a winning night. Casinos hold my interest for approximately 30 minutes, and that's pushing it. I wanted to watch the table games but John admonished me saying it was bad luck to have me hovering. Hmph.

Back to the hotel to rest up for our next big adventure! But that's for another day.......

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Am I Thinking

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I suppose it was only a matter of time before this happened. It seems like the next logical step in the progression of things. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that I’ve screwed up my nerve enough to register for a half marathon. I told myself I would register for a large, local race in September but then it sold out much faster than anticipated. Truthfully, I was somewhat relieved as I had become quite the doubting Thomas. I put it out of my head for a couple months until just recently the idea creeped its way back in. I had already been looking for other races when one of my best friends emailed me out of the blue and suggested we run a half together. Oh happy day! I really wanted an accomplice all along and that was just the kick I needed. We registered before we chickened out and are in week 1 of training. She hasn't run a half before either so we're in it together!
Week 1 is going great! This is most likely because the mileage is lower than what I normally run, only 3 miles per run. Ask me again how I feel around Week 8 or so. By October 14th, I hope to be fully confident in my ability to run 13.1 miles without dying. I’ll be following the Hal Higdon Half Marathon Novice plan that comes highly recommended by a slew of running bloggers.

Having a goal like this is scary and exciting. I’ve got to commit to running more outside miles and possibly in inclement weather instead of training in my cushy digs on the treadmill. I’m reminded each time I run outside that it’s so much more difficult to propel yourself forward than to be moved forward by a rubber belt. It also means I need new shoes post haste. Mine are squeaky and have 400+ miles on them. Must remedy that.
I think this means I’m a runner now. Right?

Monday, July 23, 2012

This Is How


I am a long-time Augusten Burroughs fan so when I saw he had a new book out, I snapped it up as quickly as my library would allow. I think I was first on the hold list when it was only 'on order.' How's that for efficiency?

Good Reads' Synopsis:

To say that Augusten Burroughs has lived an unusual life is an understatement. From having no formal education past third grade and being raised by his mother’s psychiatrist in the seventies to enjoying one of the most successful advertising careers of the eighties to experiencing a spectacular downfall and rehab stint in the nineties to having a number one bestselling writing career in the new millennium, Burroughs has faced humiliation, transformation and everything in between. This Is How is his no-holds-barred book of advice on topics as varied as:
· How to feel like crap
· How to ride an elevator
· How to be thin
· How to be fat
· How to find love
· How to feel sorry for yourself
· How to get the job
· How to end your life
· How to remain unhealed
· How to finish your drink
· How to regret as little as possible

· And much more

Told with Burroughs's unique voice, black humor, and in-your-face advice, This is How is Running With Scissors—with recipes.

What I Thought: I really liked this one because while he gave completely believeable instructions for the above items, Burroughs quick wit and sarcasm shone through. I was surprised about the touching moments that were wedged in between the laughs as well. It was a quick read and if you've not read anything by him before, I'd start elsewhere (probably Running With Scissors). But for a quirky take on a self-help book, This Is How hit the mark.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Recipe Reblog #23

Back in action this week with a number of new recipes for you.

Whole Wheat Baguette: It's been awhile since I made my own bread but I love doing it so much. I love the smell of it baking and how tasty it is straight from the oven. What I liked about this recipe was the whole wheat quotient and the fact that it produces 4 loaves. You can freeze them unbaked so that whenever you want fresh bread, you can pop it in the oven and voila! Thus far I've cubed it and dipped it in olive oil, used it for bruschetta toasts and made mini egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches. So versatile!

Bob Harper's No Oil Hummus: I've been wanting to make my own hummus for awhile but most recipes call for tahini. It took me months to locate this in any grocery store and when I finally found it, I discovered it was upwards of $7 a jar. Not cool. This is a no oil hummus recipe from Bob Harper of Biggest Loser fame. It's included in his new book The Skinny Rules, more on that this week. A few changes I made to this one -- Lacking a food processor, I had to use a blender. This meant more liquid to get it going so the hummus isn't as tight as I'd like but it's still tasty. I added more lemon juice than it calls for and some fresh cracked pepper. Lemon Pepper Hummus at only 100 cals for 1/3 cup? Count me in! Also, it cost me less than a dollar to make. Take that, tahini!

I also made a Rachael Ray recipe that was a total dud so I'm not linking to it. It was a Smoky Chipotle Cheddar Mac & Cheese. I'm not sure how this is possible but it was so bland. Zero flavor. Pass on that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hanging in the Green Mountains

I am a lucky girl. Every year, my family converges in Vermont for a week or two of swimming, row boating, marshmallow roasting, family reuniting, shopping, and relaxing. What's not so lucky is that I haven't been able to go for 6 years. Far too long! The weather in Vermont in July can be hit or miss. Some summers are brutally hot, others have you cozied up in sweatshirts around the fire. This year was just perfect. Upper 70's - low 80's. A little chilly for me for swimming but I'm happy to report I did get in the lake.

First mountain sighting while driving

One of our favorite stops in Vermont is the Vermont Country Store in Weston. Filled with old-fashioned finds and food samples galore, the store is a do-no-miss destination. Here we stocked up on candy and all things maple. There are a couple other stores to browse in the cute town of Weston. There's also a small theatre that I've never been to but seems quite popular.

In the store

Because John is a Vermont first-timer, I wanted to find a touristy thing to do that I had never done either. I would have been content to sit by the lake all day, every day but I knew he would tire of that rather quickly. A quick Trip Advisor search led us to Sugarbush Farms in Woodstock, VT. This is a cheese and maple syrup farm and while the drive there was slightly treacherous (and bumpy!) it was worth the hardship. We tried 14 cheeses and 4 types of syrup. And then bought a bunch of both too.

I provide the milk for these delicious cheeses

View from Sugarbush Farms

And just so you know why I love this place so much.......

White Rocks

Thankfully, John loved it too and said he'd definitely like to go back. Yea! I was worried he'd be bored the whole time but with a golf game on a mountain squeezed in plus my fun day trips, he was pleasantly surprised.

Here's how the first half of vacation shaped up:

1,200+ Miles Driven
9 1/2 hours from Ohio - Vermont (only 2 stops)
40+ family members
4 Pints of Ben & Jerry's eaten over 5 days, amongst 4 people
117 dollars spent on a speeding ticket
3 miles I ran in the mountains, which was NOT easy
2 Full fat hot dogs consumed by me on July 4th
0 Times I won Mexican Train or Trivial Pursuit
5:30AM Time the sun comes up on vacation


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In One Person


This was a new acquisition at my library so I picked it up even though I thought it was by John Updike and not John Irving. I am not an Updike fan and am forever mistaking these two authors for each other. Anybody else do that? Just me? OK, then. For the record, Irving = Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany and Updike = Rabbit series. To be fair, I've never read Updike's most famous works. To revisit at a later date.....

Good Reads' Synopsis: A compelling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a “sexual suspect,” a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of “terminal cases,” The World According to Garp. His most political novel since The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving’s In One Person is a poignant tribute to Billy’s friends and lovers—a theatrical cast of characters who defy category and convention. Not least, In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself “worthwhile.”(

What I Thought: That is not a very good synopsis so I'll offer a brief one of my own. In One Person begins in 1960's Vermont at a boys' boarding school where Billy lives (as a teen) with his family. He befriends the local librarian that everyone seems to warn him to stay away from and develops a love of reading and writing. What unfolds is a 50 year coming of age story filled with angst and love and everything in between.

I really, really enjoyed this one and was sad when it was over. That's how I know a book speaks to me, when I mourn the ending. I thought it was an interesting twist on your typical love story, which is to say this wasn't really a love story at all but it definitely played a role here. The character development was outstanding but since it's Irving, no surprise there. If you are easily offended by homosexual/bisexual/transsexual themes, this is probably not the book for you as it's central to the plot. But, if you are looking to learn a little more about that lifestyle through some good writing, then give this one a try!
Rating: * * * *

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Weekend

In addition to cleaning a house that hadn't seen a mop in a few weeks, we had some fun and productivity around these parts as well. Hard to believe it's halfway through July already. What is that about?

I made it to the liter sale at Ulta. All liters of shampoo and conditioner (salon brands) are $14.99. This is an incredible savings and a liter of shampoo lasts a LONG time. I think mine lasted all year. It goes through this weekend so get there while you can! I use AG Colour Savour because it's sulfate-free and amazing.

In other hair news, I FINALLY have enough length to pull off the sock bun. One step closer to becoming a ballerina. I wore my hair up for date night and felt fancy. Plus, when you shower after a run and immediately have to get ready to go out, you get sweaty right away. Not the ideal time to blow dry.

There was a recall on my CR-V and I've been putting off taking it in because I hate taking in my car for service, even if it's free. I had to make the appointment weeks in advance to get a Saturday. But, while there I learned that the place I typically take it for oil changes has been raking me over the coals. Pirates! Because I crossed this chore off my list, I celebrated with an Iced White Chocolate Peanut Butter Latte at Winan's, a local coffee shop. Do you like white chocolate? Do you like peanut butter? You NEED this in your life. I drank it before I could document with a photo. Je regrette. (The French is for Bastille Day!) We stopped going to Winan's every weekend when we bought our house because it's farther away and our favorite barista moved. The girl who made my drink on Saturday deserved a gold star. John dubbed his drink Michelle-worthy (that's the old barista). This new person earned her tip.

Later on we headed over to The Greene, one of our favorite destinations in Dayton.

We also saw this snappily dressed gentleman on his way to the comedy club. The Wayans brothers were in town. When I told John who was playing he talked at length about how great an In Living Color reunion would be but that Jim Carrey was too big now to ever do it. Someone is pining for the 90's.

I tried some delicious brews at The Pub. Bourbon Barrel Ale, Strongbow Cider, Belhaven Twisted Thistle and Young's Double Chocolate Stout. I've had them all before and they were just as delicious as I remembered. It was stuffy in the restaurant though. We should have asked for patio seating.

Speaking of patios........ours is supposed to go in this week! We opted to pay a professional instead of screwing it up ourselves. I know the money will be well worth it when I'm sipping a refreshing beverage out there, hopefully this weekend! Then we get to go shopping for a patio set. Yea hooray!

How was your weekend? Filled with fun, I hope!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Long Trail Brewing Co.

Should you find yourself in southern Vermont near Bridgewater Corners, I hope you will make the time to stop in at the Long Trail Brewing Co. Even if you are not a beer drinker, you can take in the lovely scenery on the outside deck overlooking the Ottaquechee River. Inside the brewery was quite noisy but outside was just serene. They have an extensive food menu and while we just had chips and salsa because we were between meals, I definitely noted several items I'd order.


And if you are a beer drinker, then you are in luck! For $6.50, you can sample 6 - 4 oz. pours of their 5 regular brews and the rotating seasonal. Because it was summertime, the seasonal was the Belgian White.

I really liked all their selections although the IPA was my least favorite. No surprise there. Cutest Name  Award goes to the Blackbeary Wheat. It had a nice, natural berry flavor to it. The Long Trail Ale was a good workhorse of a German Altbier. The Double Bag is one of the most popular and was also known in the past as their "secret brew" because they didn't mass produce it and only offered it to special friends on the sly. Luckily for everyone, they've now released it for all to consume. It's higher in ABV at 7.2% (that's Alcohol By Volume for the layman)

We bought a 12 pack to go (OK fine we bought 2 cases, one to drink in Vermont, one to share with family back home) which included no IPA (yea!) However, it did include the Pollenator, which is the other one I had wanted to try but they didn't have on tap. It's a crisp, spring ale that I knew I would like. They offer a Harvest Ale in the fall (best ever specialty beer season) but unfortunately, Long Trail seems to be distributed only up and down the eastern seaboard from Maine to Virginia only. Sad face.

I also bought my only non-edible souvenir of the whole trip here, a pint glass! I have lots of fancy beer glasses, pilsners, snifters, etc. But nary an old-fashioned pint glass of my own. Problem solved!

Here's something of note, this whole area of Vermont suffered devastating damage during Hurricane Irene in August 2011. The brewery was not immune.....


Although we drove past lots of visible damage, the brewery was all cleaned up. No sign of a flood at all! Hoping the rest of the area can rebound as well.

So, if you're in Vermont, please stop on by. You won't be sorry! And if you can find Long Trail in a store near you, crack one open and enjoy.

We made another fun stop before the brewery but that's a story for another day.....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

June Running Round-Up

Slightly belated but in the interest of accountability to myself and my faithful readers, here are how my miles played out in the bustling month of June.

Jun 2: 4 mi OT in 38:00, walk breaks second half
Jun 5: 4 mi TM in 33:33, 8:30/8:30/8:24/8:09-tightness but no real pain, fastest 4 Miler
Jun 9: 3.1 mi in 32:00, 5k race - pathetic
Jun 10: 6 mi TM in 55:33, 9:15 pace - tired
Jun 12: 2.3 mi TM in 20:00, not in a running mood
Jun 13: 1.7 mi TM in 15:00, quick interval
Jun 17: 7.5 mi TM in 68:??, 6 mi @ 9:00 pace, 1.5 slower
Jun 19: 4 mi TM in 36:57, 9:15ish pace, HILLS
Jun 23: 4 mi OT in 45:!!, lots of walking :(
Jun 24: 6.2 mi TM in 61:??, leg and shin pain
Jun 26: 3.1 mi TM in 29:49, hill intervals
Total: 45.9 miles

Even though I ran a terrible 5K, I'd like to focus your attention to June 17th's run. SEVEN and a HALF MILES! It took 2 whole episodes of Felicty on Netflix but I hit the longest distance I've ever run. This means, if I ever get up the gumption to run a half marathon, I already know what it feels like to run more than half a half. Does that make sense? I thought that was pretty cool.

And even though I didn't hit my 50 mile goal this month either, I have good news! I'm right on target to reach 500 miles by the end of the year since I've run 251 thus far in 2012. Something to hang my Brooks on.......

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Hate Everyone....Starting With Me

**Full trip report coming up when I have a little time. It deserves more than one day to pack in the recap of the fun!**


In the meantime.....I read this book before vacation and didn't get around to reviewing it. Honestly, I have no idea why I borrowed this from the library. Sometimes I'll watch Fashion Police on E! and think Joan Rivers has some good one-liners. So, I suppose in the interest of broadening my literary horizons, I picked up I Hate Everyone....Starting With Me by Joan Rivers.

I probably should have known from the title that this wasn't going to be a very uplifting book. Still, I forged on. Luckily, it only took me a couple hour sessions to slog through this one. Rivers takes shots at one group after another, discussing why she hates them. She doesn't just focus on various ethnicities or races either. No one is safe. While there were some moments I found humorous, most of the book was just beating a dead horse. I can offer up just as much snark as the next girl but Joan is the Snark Queen and this book is chock full of her musings. Eventually, it got old. You can skip this one.

Rating: * 1/2

Monday, July 2, 2012

On the road again.....

I'm off to the great beyond this week. I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th of July filled with s'mores and fireworks. Promising tales of my adventures when I return. And likely LOTS of book reviews. 20 total hours in the car = many pages turned.

Try not to miss me too much!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Recipe Reblog #22

Asian and Italian this week, a culinary journey.

Hot and Cold Sesame Noodles: I love me some peanut sauce! If you've never had Thai food or something with peanut sauce, this is a good gateway meal. After perusing the recipes I had starred in a specific Rachael Ray cookbook, I made it for lunch last weekend. It came together very quickly in 20 minutes or less, half of which was water boiling time. In addition to the noodles and peanut sauce, it also has broccoli slaw and bean sprouts. Carbs, veggies and some protein make a well-rounded meal. The noodles were still warm the first day but I ate the leftovers cold and it was just as tasty. Give this one a shot!

Salad Capriccosa: Another Rachael Ray recipe from her 365: No Repeats cookbook! Like I said, I was digging out recipes from my books instead of trolling other blogs for new meals to cook. In an effort to branch out on our Tuesday night Salad Supper, I decided this salad looked pretty delicious. A bed of romaine cradles, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, peas, bocconcini (mozzarella balls) and a quick homemade vinaigrette. I skipped the mushrooms as we are not fans. I also skipped the prosciutto because I didn't feel like buying it. Here's a tip on the artichoke hearts -- a can of them is $3.00, pretty pricey if you ask me. Instead, see if your store has artichoke hearts on their make your own salad bar (mine did!). I was able to get the amount I need for just under a buck.

This salad was so delicious! All of the classic Italian toppings came together perfectly for a light but filling salad. Please try this! It was very tasty and not much beats fresh, salty mozz if you can find it.