Monday, October 31, 2011

The Best and Worst Halloween Candy

It’s that time of year again – time to feed sugar to the little monsters and princesses and super heroes and hobos who come a’ringin’ your door bell. 

True, some people don’t give out Halloween candy. Some people are like the dentist who used to live in my neighborhood who handed out toothbrushes. And, some people are like the dentist’s next door neighbor who handed out pumpkin-shaped erasers. And some people don’t turn on their porch lights and sit in their basements watching T.V. so as not to be bothered by the little darlings. But, you are not those people, are you?

If you give out toothbrushes or erasers, I am awed by your treat-giving integrity – something I do not have on Halloween. And as much fun as it was trick or treating as a kid, it is much more fun, in my opinion, handing out the treats. It’s warmer, for one, and you get to pick your treats –meaning you will like the leftovers.

This year I’m giving out mini 3 Musketeer, Snickers and Milky Way Midnight bars. And I’m sure hoping there are some leftovers, not to mention being secretly relieved I will never again have to eat those icky black and orange wrapped peanut butter things or nasty bit-o-honeys as long as I live. Remember those burnt orange globs that looked like spiky raspberries (but tasted like burnt orange)? Or the candy cigarettes that tasted like damp chalk? And don’t get me started on black licorice (yuck) or those gummy Dots. Worst candy of all? Those wafer things that all taste the same (pressed powder with a fake-sugar aftertaste).  Extra double gag to the black licorice wafer things which taste worse than any of the other wafer things and make regular black licorice seem okay.

What are you giving out to trick-or-treaters this year?  Do you have an old favorite standby candy?  What was your least favorite Halloween treat?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Liquid Inspiration, Anyone?

The Writer's Room

Doesn’t this place look cozy? It’s called The Writer’s Room and, in its 1950s hey-day, its doors only opened to such literary drinkers as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner. But, now, patrons have restored this smallish (only 1000 square feet!) bar to its former masculine cave-like glory and have invited the general public in for liquid inspiration – or to just feel the vibe of the place that nursed these literary greats when they weren’t cavorting with Parisians. If you’re in Hollywood, track this nook down and tell the rest of us what it’s like. Rumor has it they serve up drinks in authentic 1950s glassware.

The Writer's Room, 6685 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Comfort of Comfort Foods

Whenever we are gone for more than a day, we notice that our cat eats like crazy.  She’s always been that way.  Once, for less than a year, we had another cat and he traumatized her so much she practically lived under that bed – except for her mad dashes to the food bowl.  She gained two pounds in six months and our vet was none too pleased.  How strange, we said.  How odd.   

But, then again, how typical.  Whenever I have a particularly stressful, crazy, busy week, I also make mad dashes to food.  Particularly comfort food.  Now, I’m not advocating this coping mechanism, just fessing up to it.  I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who waste away living on tea and toast when they’re stressed, instead of the kind of person I am – the dash to the food kind.   

My comfort foods?  The short list includes meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, stews and soups, garlic bread, pasta, and every and all manner of baked desserts – pie, cake, cookies, preferably in various forms of chocolate.  Weirdly, I’ve never been crazy about ice cream, some folks’ Achilles heel. I have one friend who chomps chips.  Another who stirs up scrambled eggs.  Another craves macaroni and cheese. 

What about you?  What are your favorite comfort foods?   Or are you the tea and toast type?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Best of the best -- Beloved.

Toni Morrison’s Beloved is another must-read. Winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, the book tells a powerful tale of murder, mother love and redemption amid the history and legacy of slavery.  Told in a lush, poetic voice, the novel’s style is as mesmerizing as its plot. Set in 1873-4, but flashing back up to two decades earlier, the novel shows what life was like for African Americans during the heyday of the Fugitive Slave Act (the law that allowed slave owners to pursue runaway slaves into non-slave states and that penalized Northerners who helped or hid fugitive slaves) and during the years following the Civil War when ex-slaves tried to make a place in the newly-defined union. The book, one of my all-time favorites, has been called both disturbing and exhilarating. It is one of those books you hate to see end.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Model Husband

The Model Husband 

His pocket-book is never empty when his wife calls for money. He sits up in bed, at night, feeding Thomas Jefferson Smith with a pap spoon, while his wife takes a comfortable nap and dreams of the new shawl she means to buy at Warren’s the next day. As “one good turn deserves another,” he is allowed to hold Tommy again before breakfast, while Mrs. Smith curls her hair. He never makes any complaints about the soft molasses gingerbread that is rubbed into his hair, coat, and vest, during these happy, conjugal seasons. He always laces on his wife’s boots, lest the exertion should make her too red in the face before going out to promenade Washington St. He never calls any woman “pretty,” before Mrs. Smith. He never makes absurd objections to her receiving bouquets, or the last novel, from Captain this, or Lieutenant that. He don’t set his teeth and stride down to the store like a victim every time his wife presents him with another little Smith. He gives the female Smiths French gaiter boots, parasols, and silk dresses without stint, and the boys, new jackets, pop guns, velocipedes and crackers, without any questions asked. He never breaks the seal of his wife’s billet doux, or peeps over her shoulder while she is answering the same. He never holds the drippings of the umbrella over her new bonnet while his last new hat is innocent of a rain-drop. He never complains when he is late home to dinner, though the little Smiths have left him nothing but bones and crusts.
He never takes the newspaper and reads it, before Mrs. Smith has a chance to run over the advertisements, deaths, and marriages, etc. He always gets into bed first, cold nights, to take off the chill for his wife. He never leaves his trousers, drawers, shoes, etc., on the floor, when he goes to bed, for his wife to break her neck over, in the dark, if the baby wakes and needs a dose of Paregoric. If the children in the next room scream in the night, he don’t expect his wife to take an air-bath to find out what is the matter. He has been known to wear Mrs. Smith’s night-cap in bed, to make the baby think he is its mother.
When he carries the children up to be christened, he holds them right end up, and don’t tumble their frocks. When the minister asks him the name—he says “Lucy—Sir,” distinctly, that he need not mistake it for Lucifer. He goes home and trots the child, till the sermon is over, while his wife remains in church to receive the congratulations of the parish gossips.
If Mrs. Smith has company to dinner and there are not strawberries enough, and his wife looks at him with a sweet smile, and offers to help him, (at the same time kicking him gently with her slipper under the table) he always replies, “No, I thank you, dear, they don’t agree with me.”
Lastly, he approves of “Bloomers” and “pettiloons,” for he says women will do as they like—he should as soon think of driving the nails into his own coffin, as trying to stop them—“cosy?”—it’s unpossible!
What do you think of this?  It's Fanny Fern's very first published article, circa 1851, via the Olive Branch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wonders and Marvels

A 19th-century bride
Don't you just love Fanny Fern's insights about marriage and women's careers?  In one of her many New York Ledger columns, she wrote, "Marriage is the hardest way to get a living."  Today, I got to explore that quote and Fern's ideas about 19th-century marriage as the guest blogger on Holly Tucker's "Wonders and Marvels" blog. 

Tucker is a well-known historical novelist and professor at Vanderbilt University.  She hails from none other than The University of Wisconsin-Madison and her book Blood Work is a wonder and a marvel itself. 

Check out Holly Tucker, her marvelous book, AND her fascinating blog.  You won't be disappointed!   Wonders and Marvels Blog

Monday, October 10, 2011


Okay, we can all look at this picture and define sexism.  But, what about the pictures that are harder to place, like those found over and over again in contemporary society?  Images of gender stereotypes still permeate our lives -- but do they matter?  Aren't we so over advertising brainwashing by now?  Aren't we sophisticated enough to withstand social messages about gender, to take the little jokes and punches of media imagery with a grain of salt? 
Watch this little video.  Some of my favorite people, like Jackson Katz and Jean Kilbourne, make appearances in it.  Then decide if media images are harmless little nothings . . . or not. 

Oh, and please copy and paste.  Spread the word about this film, and this topic!

Click here:  Missrepresentation

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Next Chapter Bookshop Reading/Signing

Many thanks to all of those who came to my Shame the Devil reading and book signing event last Monday at Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon, Wisconsin.  What a lovely turnout we had!
 It was great fun to see some old (well, not really "old") friends and neighbors, again, and to introduce them to my idol, Fanny Fern. The usual group of wonderfully supportive relatives attended, too, and I'm grateful for their efforts to travel far and wide to support me.
   It was especially nice to see a cohort of new-to-me people there, too -- readers who just happened by or who have made Shame the Devil a book club selection.  I'm excited to have set up some future book club skypes and visits!
Special thanks to Lanora, Next Chapter's spunky owner, for organizing and promoting the event.  Please do all you can to support your friendly neighborhood independent bookstores.  Visit them.  Buy your books there.  Go listen to authors ramble on and on about their passions.*

*This author, indeed, appreciates your time and kind attention!  :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Supermarket No-Nos

A friend recently confessed to me that he is bewildered by the shelves and shelves of toothpaste offerings.  Each time he goes to the store to pick out toothpaste, he forgets the exact branding of his favorite one.  He knows the manufacturer – but they make dozens of varieties.  He knows he wants mint, but doesn’t know which version.  He likes peppermint, but doesn’t know if peppermint translates to cool mint, fresh mint or ultra mint in toothpaste-ese.  The other day, he said, he opened the box of what he thought he wanted and tasted – to make sure!  He had to, he said.  He had no choice.  If the labels made more sense, he would be able to figure them out.
I’ve had my own supermarket no-no.  Sometimes, I need more twist ties than I seem to be able to collect from old bread packaging or from buying produce.  I hunt and save and collect twist ties at will, but every once in a while, I run completely out.  I know this shouldn’t matter, that there are greater issues in the universe to worry about, but when I don’t have a single twist tie in the drawer that should house them, I am unsettled until I can go to the produce department and tie a few extra ones around the plastic bags of potatoes or oranges I buy.  Home, I put the extras away feeling guilty and relieved at the same time.
What are your supermarket confessions?  Do you sample the grapes?  Open packages?  Pocket a free sample to take home to your pet?  Go ahead and let us know.  We understand . . . sort of.