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    June 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in June in the order I read them. Summer has been too busy with short staffing for the July 4th holiday, my birthday and getting sidetracked on some super cool genealogy discoveries and research on the history of our Rock House. More on that later. Meanwhile…the books!

    The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel – I kind of skimmed it fast and should have tabled it for another time, because I did enjoy it. The writer was recommended to me by my niece, and this was the first title of hers available at the library. It was part of a series but that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of it. It was pretty graphic / gory at times which I like. But, like the two other mystery books I’d read in February by Jane Jensen, there was some cringeworthy “romance” that seemed contrived. I’ll probably read another one of hers and hope she skips the random, out-of-the-blue, Skin-e-max sex scenes.

    Animal Farm by George Orwell – A classic I hadn’t read since junior high. Holds up. Good stuff. 

    Grant by Ron Chernow – So long, but so good. I got 1/3 of the way through before it expired and I had to get on the waitlist. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law bought me my very own hardcover edition which I’ve picked up in late July. The first 1/3 already had me so in love with Grant, especially after I learned that the other cadets at West Point teased him because his given name, Hiram Ulysses Grant, spelled out the itinitials H.U.G. Awww! And now that’s all I wanna do is give him a posthumous one. ‬ Because of that teasing, he preferred to be called Ulysses but the kids twisted that into calling him “Useless Grant”.  Kids, man. Kids. I got through Shiloh and just before his showdown with Robert E. Lee. Very engrossing and educational. I’m enthralled.

    The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson – This should be required reading. Till was kidnapped and brutally killed by a group of white men in 1955 at age 14 for allegedly whistling at a white woman*. The injustice and brutality of it all will break your heart and enrage you. The past isn’t so far behind us at all. The book is very, very good and very, very upsetting. It’s powerful; an incredible historical account & indictment.

    It’s also a wonderful profile in courage of Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. Her love, bravery and political savvy has assured her son won’t be forgotten. Do her the honor and never forget her boy.

    The white woman at the center of it all, Carolyn Bryant Donham, is now 84 and lives in Raleigh, confessed to the author that Emmett had lied during the investigation and trial. Tyson interviewed her two times for six hours total. That the author got this admission is remarkable. Of course we all knew she had lied but to hear it directly from her and so plainly? Wow. Jaw dropping. 

    For the week after I read it, I could hardly think of anything else, telling everyone they must read it. I even posted about it on Twitter on July 11th imploring all to read it and telling other Twitter users about the details. Then, the morning of July 12th, the Justice Department announced they were reopening the investigation in light of “new evidence”. Surely that new evidence is the woman’s confession to the author, but really it reeks of a political show by the racist Trump administration

    *The whistling part is a little unclear –some witnesses say he never whistled, while others,  including his cousin, say he did– but obviously that is no cause for the brutality. 

    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Simply gorgeous. My stars! Another departure for me in choosing historical fiction and I’m so glad I read it. It’s set in Europe during WWII  and tells the parallel stories of a blind French girl and a German boy made to join the Nazi Youth. Their paths cross but it’s not contrived. It’s not forced. It’s gorgeous.  

    Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig – it gets rave reviews on GoodReads.com but I’m on the fence. It’s about an autistic 14-yr-old girl named Ginny Moon, duh, who bounced around in foster care before being taken in by a forever family. There’s some mystery in the why and how Ginny was separated from her real mom and she’s obsessed with how her baby doll is doing. From the praise and my limited experience, Ludwig has really nailed autism and the way Ginny’s mind works. I was frustrated, impatient and got angry a few times, too, which certainly means I was engaged and invested in the story. Ultimately, I was so glad when I was done as the story was stressful and became tedious. This probably means I’ve made the right choice by not having kids! LOL! That said, I absolutely loved the character Eleanor Oliphant from the book Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine which I’d read earlier this year. Eleanor is also on the spectrum and the book also has a bit of intrigue, but with so much more heart and soul and believability. If presented with the two, I’d choose the latter.  

    I Was Told There’d be Cake by Sloane Crosley – Did not finish. A collection of short stories / essays and well written and funny but right now the world is on fire, and I feel like I need to feed my brain with more important things right now. I enjoyed essays on her family’s potential move to Australia and a pony collection from ex-boyfriends. She then wrote about what she’d described as the worst move in NYC. But her getting locked out of the same apartment twice really didn’t measure up as all that bad, and I put the book down after that. Sometimes you need to eat some fish and veggies and this book is more fast food. With my head filled with Grant, Civil War and Civil Rights…this just felt too frivolous to enjoy in the weeks leading up to the Midterms. 

    Eyes on the Prize (PBS) — Okay, this is not a book but a 14-part documentary by PBS that originally aired in 1987. It’s an incredible piece of work about the Civil Rights movement and race in America. The first part chronicles 1954–1965, including the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Selma marches, and more. The first episode actually covers the murder of Emmett Till in which I was now fully educated, and it was just as devastating and worthy of all the tears and rage. Each episode is at least an hour long so I opted to watch this and put down the books for a bit as I waited for “Grant”. (Poor Mrs. Grant, now I know how she feels.)

    The first part (6 episodes) should be part of classroom discussions. It’s so thorough and includes then current interviews with key figures. I wish I were an educator so I could introduce this to my students. I’d be especially keen to show this to students at Richland High School and note that the school mascot The Rebels with a Confederate flag was chosen by students and passed by the board in 1961, a veritable “F you” to the Civil Rights movement. Those students, their parents, the school board and, well, everyone should be ashamed of that hateful legacy they saddled on us.

    ETA: Well, well, well, per the Wikipedia page they made an educational version of this in 2006. Good.  

    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

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    May 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in May in the order I read them…a lot of feminist books, a few by African Americans and, yeah, I’m fired up and ready to “make trouble”. Starting with dusting off my own story on domestic violence and living in the Deaf community.

    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

    My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – Wrote a big ol’ entry on this already.
     
    True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Ageby Christine Lahti – Enjoyed it. Not sure why I chose to read it –I think it was recommended by an app and I saw “feminist” in the title.  It opened with a blurb from Steinem, so I was on board since I had just finished Steinem’s memoir. There was one chapter about Lahti’s brother’s physical abuse of her that SO incredibly mirrored my own –like, it sincerely could have been ripped from the pages of Burn Down the Ground– that I’m compelled to reach out to her and commiserate. It’s comforting to know that there is someone out there who so totally understands what you went through and the frustrations and confusing emotions when your own parents–those who are supposed to protect you–play down the incidents and turn the blame back to you.
     
    It’s Up to the Womenby Eleanor Roosevelt – It’s dated, obviously, but remarkably on point with some current day issues like equal pay for equal work which is disheartening.
     
    Slave in the White House– Biography about Paul Jennings who penned the first memoir of a slave who actually lived and worked in the White House. This book is not to be confused with his actual memoir. Learned a lot about James Madison and Dolley (not a fan, overall) and her treatment of slaves including Sukey.
     
    The Only Girl in the World – A Memoir. Pretty intense account of her life basically imprisoned by her mentally ill, abusive, weird as hell Dad.
     
    Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World by Joann Lublin – Joann was an editor at the Wall Street Journal and a lot of the women are leaders of major corporations and very, very rich. I would’ve liked hearing from some more charitable folks who head up non-profits and social services
     
    Between the World and Meby Ta-Nehisi Coates – Framed as a letter to his son, Coates speaks of what it is to be black in America and inhabiting a black body.
     
    Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Bodyby Roxane Gay – Wow. I related to this a little too much when it came to sexual assault and how she downplayed it in the aftermath. The long aftereffects and how that manifested for her with eating and weight issues. It gave me some food for thought (no pun intended) on someday sharing my #MeToo stories.
     

    Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpowerby Brittany Cooper – Smart. Informative. She’s a rising star and feminist. I enjoyed meeting her and chatting with her after our gig during which we shared the stage with the authors of Oslo (Tony Award for best play) and Call Me By Your Name (a few Oscar nominations). So much so that I asked Christian to join me at SoHo House to hear her speak again. She’s got superpowers, indeed.

    The Mother of All Questionsby Rebecca Solnit – More smartness from a feminist. I’m still educating myself and feeling pretty damned angry and powerless and powerful and hopeful all at once.

     
    Not That Bad– Edited by Roxane Gay – A collection of stories by sexual assault victims. I added this after being inspired by Gay to maybe share my #MeToo story. I stopped reading very soon into it. Tried picking it up again for a few more essays. I dunno that I’ll revisit this one. It’s heavy. And triggering.
     
    The Immortalistsby Chloe – Lovely read. Literary Fiction. Not something that will stick with me for forever but I enjoyed it. Can’t say that I’d recommend it over other literary fiction (I don’t read much of that genre) as time is short, man. Maybe read something that has more lasting impact? I feel bad typing that as it was a lovely read. I just know that I will have forgotten most of it very soon.
     
    Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead – I did not know much about Cecile before reading this book. I’m a big fan of Cecile’s late mom, Governor Ann Richards –I even threw a party for her once in NYC!– and, of course, I support Planned Parenthood and women’s rights. This book is *extremely* inspiring about both Ann and Cecile’s commitment to serving and women.
     

    #Kambri2018Booklist

     

     

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    April 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in April in the order I read them…

    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg (Memoir) – Written about his crack cocaine addition which is troubling enough. But the rapidity of the downward spiral from having everything (his own literary agency, gobs of money, rich and famous friends and clients) to nearly losing everything, including his life, is jarring.  The Nancy Reagan and “just say no” to drug ad campaigns of the 80s about the dangers of cocaine scared the heck out of me and, it seems, for good reason. Yikes. The author haunted the Meatpacking District around the same time I was and stayed holed up in the same hotels (the Gansevoort and Maritime) where we housed comedians who were headlining at the comedy club Comix. I’ve a feeling Mr. Clegg and I crossed paths. So I enjoyed reading about the area, remembering what it was like in the early and mid-aughts. He’s definitely a privileged white male and so avoided jail even though he was openly scoring drugs on the streets and was able to get help, forgiveness and the support of his friends and family. He counts his blessings as he should. Wowzer.
     

    Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin (Memoir / Humor)Laurie is a friend of mine and former officemate of my husband’s back when they wrote for “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn”. We sell her book at QED and had a book signing for her after a show which is a yet another wonderful bonus QED brings to the table. I was laughing then ugly crying then laughing all within the first chapter. Towards the end, my emotions stabilized and it was an honest, funny, saucy take on a difficult and personal topic. Even the chapter titles had me guffawing with a head-nodding, yep, this will happen. Gah! Example: “Are You An Old Man With Daughters? Please Shred Your Porn.” Not for the sensitive or conservative but they should read it anyway to help lighten the load.

    Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry (Memoir / Travelogue)– I’ve known and worked with Todd since the early aughts so, of course, I will read anything he writes. This is actually more of a travelogue with the angle of living as a road comic at some of the smaller theaters and clubs. That means a lot of commentary on local coffee shops, dining options and sights to see. If you’re familiar with his fake bravado, stylistic comedy and deadpan cadence, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It’s quick and breezy read. There’s not a tremendous amount of “inside baseball” with comedy club jargon so the average person can still read and enjoy. Nothing major happens, though, so if you’re looking for a rollicking tale of life on the road and don’t know who Todd is, you might not laugh as much as I did. But I did laugh. A lot. Once so suddenly and loudly while standing outside that a man jumped…SPRANG sideways with both feet. “Sorry!” I smiled. “Todd Barry made me do it.” #SorryNotSorry

    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (Mystery)– Loved, loved, loved. I read the review in either EW or Elle magazines and decided to give it a whirl. The synopsis of the book, which I’ve pasted below, sums it up perfectly and won’t spoil it. It’s one of the better mystery / suspense novels I’ve ever read. The main character struggles with drinking much like “Girl on the Train” and that redundant struggle of “Okay, today I”m not going to drink until 5PM,” or “No drinking today, period,” can be maddening. Oh, the grip alcohol has on people. Sugar is the devil, man.


    Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

    Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

    What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

     
    The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks (Fiction / Suspense?)– Unlike “Woman in the Window,” the synopsis of this book does it a disservice. The book-flap bills as some sort of suspense, so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And while there are some surprises throughout, I think it is mistyped. It is, however, wonderfully written and a great snapshot of how people treat each other when they’re hurting and angry. In this case the three main people are a divorced couple and the woman who came between them. Some people apparently *do* find it suspenseful. But my going into it thinking that it was some sort of big mystery like the “Woman in the Window” kind of spoiled that for me. In fact, I think I read the review in the same article as WitW as a roundup of hot mysteries or some such. I wish I’d cleansed my palate between the last book and this one with a history or comedy or hadn’t read the synopsis. Alas, I did not. Again, it’s wonderfully written prose with fully fleshed out, complex characters which makes it well worth the read.
     
    Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Non-Fiction) Highly recommended by my friend Eileen Moushey and others. A great book about Lincoln’s genius in appointing his rivals for the Republication nomination of 1860 (William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates) and later Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War. This book is like a mini-biography of all five men and includes a human perspective behind all the political drama.
     
    1776 (Non-Fiction) – It actually covers the time including some of 1775 and 1777. It’s not all encompassing about the Revolutionary War or the Declaration of Independence. Rather it’s a very detailed account of the conditions, the strategies, the battles during this specific time period. General Washington is definitely a lot more flawed and inexperienced than I had ever known about before this read. I enjoyed the British perspective and General Howe and his redcoats. I also learned more about General Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox both of whom, for whatever reason, have not really factored in to any of my prior reads. How is that? Strange. And, hot damn, now I need to read an entire book about the crossing of the Delaware.
     
    The Cyanide Canary: A True Story of Injustice by Robert Dugoni – (True Crime / Non-Fiction) – Based on true events in the mid-90s that resulted in a 20 yr old kid being exposed to toxic levels of cyanide. These were the early days of the Environmental Protection Agency and a time when I was an AVP of a bank and collecting large sums of money owed from commercial debtors, many of whom were complaining about the new EPA laws destroying their livelihoods. It’s really a long case study, look-see into the investigation that spanned many years and the trial of a “white collar” criminal. As many trials go, there is some repetition with testimony, etc.  It is well written and engaging so  you’ll get a really great case study and trial recap, the history of the EPA and the push / pull between the EPA and corporations and capitalism in America. 
     
    The Diary of a Young Girlby Anne Frank – I’ve never read this start to finish. Given our current political climate I thought I should. Bless you, Anne.
     
    Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellionsby Gloria Steinem – Essays originally published in ’83 with some updates provided in ’95 when it was reissued. The one main essay that takes up a large chunk of the book is about Steinem’s infamous stint of going “undercover” as a Playboy Bunny in the 60s. I’d known about it, of course, but had never read the essay in full and it’s worthy of a read as is “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” about Steinem’s mother. It covered important distinctions between pornography and erotica and, well, the whole thing felt very 2018, sadly.
     
    American Fire: : Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Landby Monica Hesse (Non-fiction / true crime) – An excellent book, especially for the true crime fan.  But it is so well written and engaging and the real-life characters and drama are so compelling, I’d recommend it to anyone. It makes no difference that you, dear reader, are aware of the final outcome from the onset. It is well worth the read. Hesse is a phenomenal writer and has gained a fan in me.
     
    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman – (Fiction) – So, so, so good. I fell in love with Eleanor, Raymond and the whole lot. Eleanor is somewhere on the spectrum
    and/or has suffered some sort of childhood trauma and so has difficulties with social interactions. She lives an extraordinarily lonely life until the new I.T. guy Raymond comes along. It’s a lovely read. I found myself sobbing a few times during not particularly sad parts…just from the ache of love I felt for Eleanor and the longing of wanting her to be happy. It’s being turned into a movie which I’ll surely watch, but I’m so, so glad I read the book.
     
    TO READ
    Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for APRIL are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
     
    My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
    True Stories From an Unreliable Eyewitness by Christine Lahti
    The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
    The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
    The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
    The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Washington by Ron Chernow
    Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Stronger by Jeff Bauman
    Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
    I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
    Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
    The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
     
    #Kambri2018Booklist
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    March 2018 Reading List

    Okay, as I’ve said, I don’t really review books. I rely on the good readers at Goodreads.com and the top Amazon reviews when I am looking for them. Plus, I would never document my reading list if I set out to give a proper review. I’d want to put in more thought and time in crafting a synopsis without spoilers, etc. Caveat out of the way, here are the books I read in March in the order I read them, except for the Andrew Jackson bio which I put at the bottom because it got loooonnnng…

    1) Text Me When You Get Homeby Kayleen Schaefer— This book appealed to me as I’ve been trying to be a better friend post-QED and post-cancer. It’s a mix of memoir and a history of female friendships in pop culture like the movie “Beaches” and TV shows like “Girls”, “Parks & Rec” and the movie “Bridesmaids”.  Since it references lots of shows and comedians I watch or know, I felt like it would be relevant to me and QED. I enjoyed it.

    2) The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunionby Fannie Flagg — This is my 2nd Flagg novel and, man, she can bring some characters to LIFE. Small southern towns and the people who live in them are her specialty, that’s for sure. This was parts family secrets and mystery mixed in with a historical fiction. Flash backs to WWII era included women pilots called WASPS and wing walkers. Fun stuff, especially in the revitalized feminist movement. . Flagg is gay and clearly a feminist, and so I love her well-rounded, nuanced women characters.
     
     
    One thing about the two Flagg books, she crams a LOT in. I felt like the book was winding up and could’ve ended when lo! The main character goes through a lot more. It’s almost *too* much. Like she could drop the last couple of chapters and make a sequel! But it is all satisfying, fun, light, gave me a little introspection on what defines family and how we self-identify. Plus I loved that the main character Sookie has a bit of a re-birth in her later years. As I am decidedly middle-aged, I have wondered what relevance I have left in my chosen field of work. The answer I found is to keep creating as Sookie did, surprising herself with some success as an entrepreneur when she was at least my mother’s age.
     
    3) American LionbyJon Meachamreview at the bottom
     
    4) You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Talesby Sheila Nevins– I definitely needed to follow up the Jackson bio with something lighter. Enter this collection of essays, musings, stories by a famed HBO documentarian about herself and others. A couple were take it or leave it and a few others had me sobbing openly in public. Granted, my Tamoxifen chemopill hormone drug was kicking in, but still…

     

    5) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Lifeby Mark Manson – I really liked this and sell it at QED. As soon as I was done, I put a bookmark reminder to read it again. It could be a companion piece to “Happier…” written Tal Ben-Shahar 10 years ago. Manson talks directly about some of the exact same stuff (“happiness isn’t found on the mountain peak, it’s found in the climb on the way to the top”…that kind of stuff.) It isn’t ground breaking or anything. He said things in ways that resonated to me, and I was in the mood to receive the message, I guess. I understand he might not be for everyone with the cursing and the bragging about banging so many hot chicks but I dug it. One part that I needed to hear was related to commitment as I’ve struggled with my love / hate relationship with New York that teeters on hate most days. From his book:

    There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.

    I could not have built QED if not for the fact that I had devoted 14 years of my life to this city and, even more specifically, staying in Queens. Now I’m 18 years into my commitment. While NYC and I need couples therapy on days where the weather is awful and my makeup falls on the bathroom floor because we don’t have a counter (WHO DOESN’T HAVE A COUNTER IN THEIR BATHROOM? A NEW YORKER!), we are in it now for the long-haul. Starting over doesn’t feel reasonable or even fun, really, after the initial shine of discovering new places wears off. Hell, I can have that shine by exploring parts of NYC itself or traveling. So, NYC, in the words of Huey Lewis & The News, I guess “I’m happy to be stuck with you.”
     
     
    6) I’ll Be Gone in the Darkby Michelle McNamara— Michelle was a true crime writer and Patton Oswalt’s late wife. He urged her researchers to help finish the book she was working on when she suddenly passed. I love a good mystery and true crime and strangely this very prolific serial rapist turned serial killer monster man has somehow not been big news over the decades. Michelle sought to correct that and dubbed him the Golden State Killer. It doesn’t have the satisfaction of discovery at the end…this is and will likely remain an unsolved case unless all the DNA Facebook identity 1984-ish data collection flushes him out. Some of the facts and cases all start to boggle the mind and run together, but it’s captivating and worth a read if you are a true crime fan.
     
    7) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsbyDaniel H. Pink— Geared towards corporate or entrepreneurial-type readers on what drives us and employees. Most everything I learned was in the synopsis:
    … the three elements of true motivation:
    *Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives
    *Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters
    *Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
     
    More importantly, I was reminded that happiness is owning and working at QED. Thank the gods I will never have a round table conference call about Y2K or some other dumb shit.8) Future Home of the Living GodbyLouise Erdrich– A dystopian novel that was so gorgeous and frightening and memorable –think The Handmaid’s Tale without the rape but with all the forfeiting of control over our reproductive rights– but the ending was so abrupt and unfulfilling. I think I would read it anyway knowing that going in, but dang it bummed me out to see the last page. I flipped back and forth wondering if I’d skipped something by mistake. I didn’t. :-/
     
    9) Book That Shall Remain Unnamed by Hardcore religious zealot who would love women to stay in the kitchen — It was the only thing available at the library so figured what the heck. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs who haven’t yet started their business. A 30-day plan that, honestly saying as someone who dreamed up and created QED from scratch from the logo, website, etc., is not very realistic. He’s a start-up consultant, though, so my guess is this is just a giant commercial for his start-up consulting business. It’s very quick and I skimmed through a lot since it didn’t pertain to me (like how to build a following and brand before launch). He made some references to God but not so much that it was distracting or took away from the work that one puts in to starting a business.
     
    One thing I got from it was about making a very strong effort to control my mornings so that my day can fall in line, too. I agreed so much with this and that’s what made my radiation treatment so challenging. It pushed the limits on my time and mornings were so hectic and stressful with Mom being here in my only private, quiet space while trying to manage the house, QED, dogs and life. But then I made the mistake of looking him up to properly quote him about the mornings. He’s a crazy conservative bible thumper who is anti-woman and hawking ridiculous views on everything from Halloween, how women should dress and child care.  
     
    5) American Lion by Jon Meacham – After reading, I found out it’s being turned into an HBO miniseries. I definitely will watch it. HBO’s “John Adams” series was remarkable. I’ve watched it three times, once with the little historical pop-ups on the special features (we own the DVD box set). You should watch it if you haven’t.Okay, the book… I started this one then stopped mid-way through the 2nd chapter because, man, there was a LOT going on. I wanted to table it until I could really absorb it. His childhood and family was wrought with drama.  I did learn about the Nullification Crisis and how Jackson helped keep the Union together, stalling the Civil War by some 30 yrs. But I feel like there’s a better biography that would cover his life as well as his presidency.Jackson’s campaigns and presidential terms were shrouded by mudslinging and a dumb fucking scandal dubbed the Petticoat Affair. It made me hate his niece Emily Donelson (wife to his nephew / aide, Andrew Donelson) as she was behind the ostracizing of Secretary of War John Eaton and his wife Peggy O’Neal. It was all so disgusting and DRAWN out the book felt like the last 30 years of The goddamned Young and the Restless. The scandal actually resulted in Jackson basically getting rid of almost his entire cabinet. Wow. This and other things were Trump-like, so I’m left feeling exhausted.I think I want to study American History like, forreal. Or, I don’t know…learn more than just from reading these biographies. I can’t get enough but I also might be having a mid-life, post-cancer, existential crisis. History repeating itself is embarrassing and baffling. I feel impotent in America’s rapidly downward spiral. Boy. Maybe I should lay off the historical biographies for a bit until Trump is impeached.

    I transcribed a few passages from this book that I want to keep with me for a bit longer. One, re: Henry Clay, who lost to Jackson during his reelection:

    “Believing himself smarter and sounder than Jackson, Clay suffered from a terrible case of over-confidence. ‘The campaign is over and I think we have won the victory,’ Clay said privately on Saturday, July 31, 1832.His certitude kept him from seeing and thus combatting the roots of Jackson’s appeal. He thought Jackson a bullying despot and could not fathom apparently why anyone other than the mindless Jackson partisans might see things differently.”God, does this sound familiar. Random fact I discovered while simultaneously doing some ancestry research: Henry Clay’s son Theodore was institutionalized in the same insane asylum in as my mom’s great uncle and a whole bunch of bodies are buried there. So, that’s gonna be a fun mystery to dig up. Heh.
     
    TO READ
    Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for APRIL are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
    The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
    Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
    The Cyanide Canary by Robert Dugoni
    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
    The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
    The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
    The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Washington by Ron Chernow
    Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Stronger by Jeff Bauman
    Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
    I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
    Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
    The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
     
    #Kambri2018Booklist
  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    February 2018 Reading List

    My February Booklist is complete with eight books!

    Click here to read my January Reading List

    I’m not really good at quickly reviewing books. I enjoy and trust Amazon and GoodReads.com reviews for that. This is really more for myself. And with that, FEBRUARY books listed in the order that I read them.
     
    1) A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (Memoir) – I heard about this book via The Astoria Bookshopand a local bookclub who needed a space to meet and FaceTime with the author. They used QED for the meeting so I overheard a lot of the discussion and was intrigued. The events are set in Portland, ME and Astoria, NY –the author and her now ex-husband opened a restaurant near my apartment that I’ve eaten at, in fact. So it felt a little gossipy and salacious to hear about how she found out he was cheating on her just a few weeks after she gave birth, but not overly so. I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the psychopath / sociopath exploration since I’m pretty sure My Jailed Deaf Dad is one or the other or some combination. It was a quick and easy read which I finished in one day.
     
    2) White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Non-Fiction) – Not so quick and easy at almost 500 pages of dense history, I felt like I was trudging through it a few times. But it’s an interesting exploration of race and class in the USA. Toward the end as the author approached modern times, I felt like it rushed over things. Given today’s #BLM movement* and the issues of race and class disparity being at the forefront lately, it’s worth a read even if it’s a bit heavy.
     
    3) I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (ESSAY COLLECTION) and Wallflower at the Orgy, (ARTICLE COLLECTION) by Nora Ephron – I got on a Nora Ephron kick. She’s funny and inspiring and both books are arranged in bite-sized chunks so they’re easy to pick up. For this reason, I read the former title for a 2nd time. The latter was a collection of articles and interviews she’d published some decades earlier but I found them to be very interesting and not dated at all, particularly the Mike Nichols interview which I later looked up to transcribe and share with my husband. I followed up the books by watching the HBO documentary Everything is Copy and Ephron’s 1996 commencement speech at Wellesley College. It’s particularly relevant and timely with the #MeToo movement.*  Please watch it.
     
    4) Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Self Help) – I’m not sure how this got on my list–I think it was recommended by my library app because of another book. It was the only thing available at the library on my wishlist when I finished my Ephron binge, so I figured what the heck. It’s self-help with some god stuff thrown in. It’s not too heavy on the religion so I kept with it and felt like I got something out of it. It is as the title suggests about being present in the moment and not sweating over being perfect with Pinterest or Insta-worthy homes, clothes, moments…just be. It’s repetitive the way a lot of self help books are which makes it a fast read. The author has a lake house, speaking gigs that take her around the country (world?) and a jet setter life, so I’m guessing the average person won’t be able to relate to some of her examples. For me, her family seems really close and lovely which really made me sad since I definitely don’t have that and never will. But I treated it like a seminar that I was signed up for by my bank: as long as I leave having learned one thing it will be worth it. And it was.
     
    5) Kingdom Come by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – I’ve been getting back into mysteries in the last few years and have started to venture out to other authors. This one was recommended by my library. It was set in Amish country in rural PA. I used to live near and visit the area a lot back in Ohio, so the bucolic setting and familiar characters had me hooked right away. The romance was a little icky/schmaltzy but not a big part of the overall story so I was still interested and thought it was decent enough to read her follow up.
     
    6) In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – By the same author as #5. Also set in Amish country and, I dunno, I’m glad I read both but I probably won’t read more of her stuff. Again she inserted a romance that was awkward and, in this case, completely unbelievable (Briefly: As a detective works on a mass murder serial killer case, some guy on the case that she doesn’t even know puts pressure on her to ditch her main squeeze and run away with him. What?! So bizarre and uncomfortable.) Also, she uses metaphors like “shaking like a leaf on a tree” and “floating like shit in a toilet” (not joking) and so I think I’m done with this series.
     
    7) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Memoir) – A classic for a reason. Don’t know why I never read before now. Really glad I did. It sure made me uncomfortable at times, for the right reasons.
     
    8) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Historical Fiction) – Set in Brooklyn during WWII, it follows a Rosie the Riveter type with a little bit of a mystery thrown in. I loved it.
    *Hmmm…sensing a trend here that everything old is new again. Sigh.

    TO READ
    Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for MARCH are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.

    The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

    The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
    American Lion by Jon Meacham
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
    Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
    The Cyanide Canary by Robert Dugoni
    Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
    The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
    The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
    The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Washington by Ron Chernow
    Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Stronger by Jeff Bauman
    Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
    I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
    Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
    You Don’t Look Your Age by Sheila Nevins
    The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
     
    #Kambri2018Booklist
  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    January 2018 Reading List

    Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

    As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

    My January Booklist is in the bag with six great books that gave me pleasure and/or inspiration. They were:

    1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the Endby Atul Gawande (NON-FICTION) – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

    2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heavenby Fannie Flagg(FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

    3) The Last Black Unicornby Tiffany Haddish(MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

    4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham(NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

    5)Happierby Tal Ben-Shahar (SELF HELP) – a slim little gem recommended by my friend Lauren that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.
     

    6) Stinker Lets Loose!by Mike Sacks (FICTION / HUMOR) – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Banditand Every Which Way but Loosewere big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.

    #Kambri2018Booklist
  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects

    DIY Shower Steamers a/k/a Vapor Discs

    Mom and I whipped together these wonderful little shower steamers to give to all my favorite special snowflakes for the holidays. Instructions below the photo gallery. 

    I love a good bath bomb, but I know lots of folks who don’t like baths and taking one seems more labor intensive. An alternate is to the bomb is this little vapor disc or shower steamer. As the fizzy disc dissolves in your steamy shower, it releases the wonderful aromas of an essential oil blend of your choosing. For the gifts I made, I chose a therapeutic blend for congestion and stuffy noses.

    I make my steamers in batches of 12 at a time using the recipe below. To make fewer
    I like to make these individually rather than a large batch of just one scent, that way I can use them for whatever use I want or give them away as personalized gifts. This is why the essential oil blends below, are to drop directly onto the dry/cooled shower steamer discs, rather than mix into the mix. I like to use silicon molds and mini muffin pans to make these in all sorts of shapes! Many blogs talk about using muffin liners, but you do not have to use them! If the mixture is not fully dried/hard, it will not come out of the pan or it will crumble out in pieces. All you have to do is allow the mixture to dry for a few more hours, and then turn the pan upside down over a cloth. Knock on the bottom of each of the muffin cups, to help release them from their cup.

    INGREDIENTS

    • 2 cups baking soda
    • 1 cup citric acid
    • 1 cup cornstarch
    • 3-5 Tbsp. filtered water (depends on humidity levels in your home)
    • essential oils (use whatever scents float your boat and blends for your needs.(2 per disc if you’re making a smaller batch or experimenting with blends)
    • I used a blend for congestion and stuffy noses:
      • 1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil 
      • 1 tsp drops lavender essential oil (2 per disc)
      • 1 tsp drops peppermint essential oil (2 per disc)
      • 1 tsp drops rosemary essential oil (2 per disc)

    DIRECTIONS

      1. In a bowl, combine baking soda, citric acid, and cornstarch mixing until no lumps are present and then add and mix in essential oils*.
      2. Add water to the bowl, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add your tablespoons until the mix sticks together and packs like a snowball. It will seem dry but packing it will be easy and possible. You can add powder if you worry it’s too wet. My mix took 4 tablespoons. Any more and it will make the fizz bubble up and you don’t want that. 
      3. Once you have the snowball consistency, pack it down into the mold and compacting it into place.
      4. Leave the molds out until dry. They will come out of the pretty  easily. If they are still wet, they will not come out without coming apart.

    * If you’re making a smaller batch or want to have a few different types you can add essential oil drops after they’re dried by directly dropping 2 drops of each oil on top of the steamers. If giving as a gift, store in a nifty jar, such as a mason jar.

    TO USE: 

    Adjust shower to desired temperature. Open pouch and place tablet on the floor of the shower away from the drain, where a steady stream of water will continually release comforting vapors from the tablet into the air.You can sprinkle a little bit on the steamer to get it started, but it will fizz away too quickly if you put it directly under the water stream. Sit in your steamy shower, breathing in the awesome aromatherapy benefits of the blend you chose to use!

     
  • Craft Projects,  Rock House

    DIY Crate Coffee Table

    Mom & I made a coffee table out of crates and boredom. We crafted a cheap, easy, functional and practical table in about an hour and a half total. Here’s what you need if you want to make one, too:

    All done! Now to fill it with records and books!

    SUPPLIES
    * 4 x Crates ($40 w/o a coupon, plus tax, but Michaels *always* has coupons.)
    * 1 x Base (Plywood about 3/4″ thick, cut to 27.5″ square. $27 for a 4’x4’x3/4″ panel. I used the extra for making shelves on another project. You might be able to get smaller panels for cheaper but you need to cover the entire base.)
    * 4 x Casters (2″ or 3″ swivel – I got these for $14 total after tax.)
    * Stain (About $4 or $5 for 8oz or $8 for a quart. It only needed one coat, but we got a quart as we had other projects.)
    * 16 screws for casters (Cost = pennies! I used ones I had around the house)
    * 16 nails or screws to attach crates to the base (Same as above)
    * Optional – 4 corner braces

    TOOLS
    * Drill or screw driver to screw in casters to the base.
    * Hammer, drill or screw driver to attach crates to the base.
    * Paint brush & paper towels for stain (Same as above, but $4 tops)
    * Jigsaw or saw if you don’t have the plywood pre-cut at the lumber store. I have a jigsaw and love any chance to use it, so…

    INSTRUCTIONS
    * Screw in the 4 casters 2″ in on all sides.
    * Stain all 4 crates inside and out and the top and sides of the base.
    * Position crates on top of the base and affix them with a couple of screws or nails and THAT IS IT!
    ETA: We added 4 corner braces inside the empty center to hold a square “shelf” (I just cut a little square from the leftover plywood) to hold a vase, pinecones, Christmas ornaments or any other decorations we want. Fun!

  • Recipes

    Jalapeno Lime Cilantro Marinade

    I found this recipe for a tasty jalapeño lime cilantro marinade but can’t find the source. Saving here for future use. Good for 4 chicken breasts. Ingredients:

    • 2 limes, juice and zest or 1/4 cup lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon – ¼ cup olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, grated
    • 1 jalapeno, finely diced (optional)
  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  PR & Marketing

    Cover Girl

    “Change is good for the soul,” Mom texted me a few days ago. She was talking about table runners, but she’s right. Change is good, except for pennies. Seriously, why do they still even make those?

    In the spirit of change being good, I pitched myself for a makeover for First For Women (think Cosmo for the menopausal). I actually quite like my beachy shoulder-length waves but I’ve been rocking that look for a couple of years now. Opening QED nearly killed me, and I’m finally back to feeling like myself and fitting comfortably into all my old clothes. It’s time for a new look and the pictures that come with it.

    The good people at First For Women are kind and efficient and graciously gave my pitch the nod. Today was the day and I had to set an alarm and commute to lower Manhattan during rush hour. I do not miss that one iota.

    Cate The editors chose this pic of Cate Blanchett as the inspiration for my makeover. I haven’t had my hair this short since that brat Laura gave me lice in 2nd grade and my inspiration was Dorothy Hamill. Even when 1/3 of my head was shaved to remove skin cancer, I managed to keep it shoulder length.

    I emerged with a super short, chic haircut by Sho (a “ninja” as his co-workers call him, thanks to his deft scissoring skills) at James Corbett Studio. I scream, “I’M RICH, BIATCH!” Like a cross between Ruth Madoff and a Fox News anchor but not, you know, an asshole. Cate Blanchett better watch out or else I’ll, umm, be her stand in?

    It makes me look and feel younger which is what that whole makeover thing is supposed to do. The cut was followed by a little boost of color to my naturally dirty blonde hair and makeup by Berta Camal. She’s a lovely talent who loves animals and gardening. As if all that weren’t enough, I got to play in front of Eric McNatt’s camera. The pics he let me preview were a knockout. I hope they pick one I love and that I can keep some to use.

    Neck pillowI’m ever grateful they said yes to my pitch. What a great day. Now I’m going to wrap my hair in silk and sleep sitting up like those weirdos on planes using these things that look like elephant skin, so I can save this beautiful blowout till tomorrow when people I know will actually *see* me!

    Keep your eyes peeled for the September 7th issue of First For Women next to the batteries, candy and horoscope scrolls at your local grocery checkout line!

  • Food & Drink,  Recipes

    HOMEMADE PINKBERRY FROZEN YOGURT

    Yields: 4 servings
    INGREDIENTS
    For the frozen yogurt:
    • 3 cups non-fat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt
    • 1 cup skim milk
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
    For serving:
    • assorted chopped fresh fruit (or your favorite froyo toppings)
    INSTRUCTIONS
    1. Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.
    2. Whisk all frozen yogurt ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker and churn until frozen. (This takes about 15 minutes in mine.)
    3. Scoop immediately for soft-serve (delicious!) or store in a covered container in the freezer. My preference is to place in the freezer for 30-60 minutes before serving to harden the yogurt up just a bit and ensure that it doesn’t melt immediately. Top with fresh fruit and enjoy!
  • Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Skinny Mint Chocolate Milkshakes

     

    Thick & creamy mint chocolate milkshakes without all the calories and fat. Only 5 simple ingredients! Add chocolate protein powder and/or a handful of spinach if you like…so many ways to tweak it.

    Ingredients for 2 servings:

    • 1 large frozen very ripe bananas, peeled & sliced
    • 2 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 cup skim milk
    • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
    • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

    Directions:

    1. Make sure you have a strong, powerful blender that will blend up the frozen banana.
    2. Add all of the ingredients to the blender, in the order listed, and blend until thick, creamy, and smooth – about 3 minutes.

    Additional Notes:

    1. The milk can be any milk you like: skim, 1%, 2%, almond, soy, coconut.
    2. The yogurt can be any yogurt you like: vanilla Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt. Non-fat or low fat. Same for milk, of course.
    3. Add more milk to thin it out. You can always add more peppermint extract and/or cocoa powder for a stronger minty and/or chocolate taste.
  • Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

    I’ve been making this single-serving of a crazy flavorful, low-fat, high protein smoothie for myself and double it if Christian is home.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
    • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I sometimes skip this and just make it PB&B.)
    • 1/2 cup non-fat, plain Greek Yogurt
    • 1/2 cup skim milk
    • 1 Tablespoon Splenda, honey, maple syrup, or agave…whatever sweetener you like. (I actually stopped adding Splenda as an overripe banana is plenty sweet for us.)
    • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter (Any kind you like but we prefer all natural, i.e., the only ingredient listed is peanuts.)

    Directions:

    1. Make sure you have a strong, powerful blender that will blend up the frozen banana.
    2. Put all of the ingredients into the blender, in the order listed, and blend on high until thick and smooth.
    3. Drizzle glass with 1 teaspoon of chocolate syrup (optional) and enjoy!

    Additional Notes:

    If you prefer a less sweet smoothie, you can leave out the honey. Add more peanut butter for a stronger peanut butter taste. Add more milk to make the smoothie thinner, if desired. Add 1 cup of your favorite greens for added nutrition. So many ways to play around with this simple smoothie!

  • News

    Performed on “Women of Letters” at Joe’s Pub with Molly Ringwald, Stoya, Deborah Chopaken & others.

  • All Blog Entries,  QED

    QED Update

    Today I met with three dudes named Z, Fritz and Cyclone. I’m ready to start a boy band or a World of Warcraft team. Also met with Katya an NYC architect now living in Brussels who just happens to be in Astoria for three weeks and agreed to draft up a quick plan for the bar. Serendipitous!

    Thanks to Cyclone Jjs for swinging by from Canarsie to donate an XLR cord and microphone covers. Fritz is building the stage and singing to Jamaican dance music as I type this. I’ll paint the third coat on bathroom walls & ceiling once Fritz leaves. Ceiling tiles arrived as planned, and I booked Jenn Dodd for a character building class & graduation show. Details to come.

    The stage is almost finished at QED: A Place to Show & Tell! I’m sneaking in early in the morning to “bury” a few things under the stage before it’s sealed up. If the whole thing goes belly up, some dude is gonna find a little gift during demolition.

    Stage finished and primed, another coat on about 3/4 of the bathroom, 2/3 of ceiling tiles in place. Huge thanks to John O’DonnellJoe GardenLiam McEneaney & Christian Finnegan for the helping hands and good company. Very satisfying day. Now to fall asleep on the couch sitting upright like the tired, old lady that I feel like.

    Oh, yeah, and wires from walls cut and capped, walls spackled, lighting chosen thanks to Eric Vetter‘s friend Tamora and plans drawn by my new architect friend thanks to Cathryn Lavery.

     

     

  • Uncategorized

    QED Progress Report

    Progress on QED: A Place to Show & Tell this week.

    — I got the kitchen cabinets, granite from the backyard, an interior door and a cabinet island all removed. The huge exhaust fan is being removed, too.
    — Stripped the windows of the old signage & cleaned of the sticky residue then covered the windows with craft paper.
    — Requested estimates for replacing the big sign above the windows.
    — Decided to replace the ugly, stained drop ceiling with these, most likely. Waiting for samples of white, sand & latte to make sure on the color.http://www.proceilingtiles.com/Stratford-Ceiling-Tile-Sand.html
    — Got a 3-month liability insurance plan bought & paid for so people can come in and paint, work, help with no worries.
    — Established a Con Edison account.
    — Rounded up some tree stumps from the cabin to turn into little side tables.
    — A million other things like pricing equipment & furniture, emailing possible vendors for food & beer, vacillating on design ideas.

    Am woefully behind on emails because of the above & Christian’s Off-Broadway musical. Donations and ideas and help are ALL welcome & appreciated, but I might be late or remiss in getting back to you. ***Regular email is always the best way to reach me so I can more efficiently keep track.***

    I’m most in need of help finding cool ideas for classes, teachers, performers, and the physical stuff like tables, chairs, glasses, anything you see at a bar or cafe I probably need. For example, I bought a paper towel dispenser for the bathroom for $5 at a reuse center, snagged bunch of mason jars & old wooden crates, a coffee maker for $5, two old picture frames that I turned into bulletin boards & a window pane that will become something TBD.

  • All Blog Entries,  QED

    QED Progress Report

    Progress on QED: A Place to Show & Tell this week.

    — I got the kitchen cabinets, granite from the backyard, an interior door and a cabinet island all removed. The huge exhaust fan is being removed, too.
    — Stripped the windows of the old signage & cleaned of the sticky residue then covered the windows with craft paper.
    — Requested estimates for replacing the big sign above the windows.
    — Decided to replace the ugly, stained drop ceiling with these, most likely. Waiting for samples of white, sand & latte to make sure on the color.http://www.proceilingtiles.com/Stratford-Ceiling-Tile-Sand.html
    — Got a 3-month liability insurance plan bought & paid for so people can come in and paint, work, help with no worries.
    — Established a Con Edison account.
    — Rounded up some tree stumps from the cabin to turn into little side tables.
    — A million other things like pricing equipment & furniture, emailing possible vendors for food & beer, vacillating on design ideas.

    Am woefully behind on emails because of the above & Christian’s Off-Broadway musical. Donations and ideas and help are ALL welcome & appreciated, but I might be late or remiss in getting back to you. ***Regular email is always the best way to reach me so I can more efficiently keep track.***

    I’m most in need of help finding cool ideas for classes, teachers, performers, and the physical stuff like tables, chairs, glasses, anything you see at a bar or cafe I probably need. For example, I bought a paper towel dispenser for the bathroom for $5 at a reuse center, snagged bunch of mason jars & old wooden crates, a coffee maker for $5, two old picture frames that I turned into bulletin boards & a window pane that will become something TBD.

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  TV & Movies

    Jim Henson’s Studio Visit

    We had a lovely visit with Christian’s old high school pal who is working across the street from our apartment at Jim Henson’s Studios while her daughter is at a two-week intensive at the American Ballet. The studios aren’t open to the public so it was a nice little coincidence that she was working so close to our apartment making it easy for us to horn our way into a private tour. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of any of the creatures beyond the entryway (see my photos below) because they’re all disembodied and/or hanging on curtain rods as they’re built or repaired. Gotta keep up the illusion that they’re alive, ya know?

    This I learned: Big Bird’s feathers are all individually hand-stitched along the stem (?) to reinforce them and help slow down the decay and prevent breakage. Each and every individual feather. THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS. He’s huge!

    It’s not a big warehouse or studio and actually is a quiet little creative space tucked behind an unassuming door on a generic floor of the Standard Motors Building. Everyone is relaxed and happy because, DUH, they work making Sesame Street, Muppets and Fraggle Rock characters among other things, but also because there are no computers. They don’t need them. They’re making stuff with their hands. So nice.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Travel

    North Platte’s Town Hall Event

    Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.

    My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.

    BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.

    Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.

  • News

    Gave a presentation followed by a Q&A and book signing as part of the Town Hall Speaker Series in North Platte, Nebraska.

  • Uncategorized

    LaGuardia & Fruit

    Through security and sitting at my gate in 13 minutes which included a pit stop at my driver’s house to see how the winter has delayed the blooming of his lemon, olive and orange trees and gardenias.

    He broke his old record of 15 minutes. He also drove me a couple of years back when I mistakenly went to the airport a day earlier than my flight was scheduled. It was rush hour with construction and also included a drive by his house to see his fruit trees.

    All along the way he assured me it would work out. That I would get to LGA early and on a flight even though I wasn’t booked to fly that day. He was right. I got to DFW and spent the day holding and feeding lemurs and sloths and and an albino wallaby and, of course, fell in love with Chester the capybara.

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects

    Repurposed Yankee Candle Jar

    I’ve held on to some empty Yankee Candle jars knowing they’d be good for something, but the adhesive they use on their labels was impossible for me to remove. It’s stickier than a whore in a honey factory. Sorry, I don’t know why I went there.

    I didn’t use the jars because the leftover gunk made them ugly and tacky (tacky, in the sticky sense. I didn’t want to use the word “sticky” again and, well, now I’ve gone and used it twice.)

    So, the jars. Sticky and ugly. Years pass.

    Today, I got creative (i.e., procrastinating from things I should be doing) and decided to dig out the jars and try cleaning them again. Lo! [Insert sound of clouds parting and angels with trumpets doing their thang.] It turns out Tea Tree Oil is the rubbing the jars needed. It wasn’t like a Pledge commercial where it’s Swish! One swipe and all the dirt is gone. But it didn’t require a ton of elbow grease or time. Cleaned and dried, I added a chalkboard label from a pack Christian got me for Christmas. (True love, people.) Now I’ve got a jar that’s full of ideas.
    Old Yankee Candle Jar  Tools Needed Idea Jar

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Rock House,  Uncategorized

    Cemeteries & Geocaching

    God, I feel gross.

    I took Griswold to Fosterdale Cemetery this afternoon. There’s a request from a woman on an ancestry forum trying to find her ancestor’s burial plot there and a Geocache happens to be hidden there, too. So, I thought it’d be a nice little adventure with purpose.
    Fosterdale Cemetery founded circa 1873
    The cemetery is a tiny little thing off Route 17B not far from Yasgur’s Farm and Bethel Woods where Woodstock took place. There are a lot of veterans buried here, and many flags decorating headstones were knocked over or the sticks broken from the fierce winds we had a few days back. I was sure to keep Griswold on the paths except for when I uprighted or repaired the flags. I wasn’t able to find the headstone for the ancestry researcher after two sweeps. Bummer.

    I headed over to where the cache was stashed. The description said it was “far away” from grave sites. But my GPS said I was within a foot from it, and I was fairly close to a very elaborate memorial for a young man killed in a car accident on September 5, 2011. I thought I must have my coordinates wrong, because it felt just a little too close to a grave to hide a cache.

    But there it was, buried under some gravel. I opened it, took out a trackable, logged my name and was re-burying it when I noticed a truck driving up. I took a seat on a downed tree and plopped Grizzy on my lap to wait and see where they were going.

    To my horror the truck stopped a few feet from me, the driver got out and knelt down in front of the young man’s grave. When he stood, a male passenger got out and the two of them checked on the shrubs and trees that were planted around the marker (and the cache), cleaned the granite benches engraved “Forever 21”, straightened a cross and spotlight and smoothed out gravel.

    I wanted to get up and walk away but I was frozen with absolute mortification. I had a baseball cap and big sunglasses on so the men couldn’t really see my face, and I didn’t make a peep.

    Here I was having “fun” trekking around for some silly hidden treasure in the same place where they pour out their adoration, devotion and grief by meticulously caring for the dirt that covers this boy they love.

    As they drove off, I started sobbing. Tears poured out of me like a waterfall. Niagara Falls on my face.

    Before coming, I’d worried about taking Griswold to a cemetery out of respect for the dead. It turns out I was the one I should have worried about. Guh.

    I, for one, will never, ever, ever Geocache in a cemetery again. Once home, I logged in to the Geocaching website. The cache was placed in 2010 before this young man died. I logged a note for the owner about what happened and that it was time to move the cache. I hope he does. And I hope Mr. Telesky is resting in peace, and I’m sorry I messed up what should have been a private moment.

    Telesky Memorial

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Family & Life

    Pug Zu = Griswold the Grizz Monster

    For Christian’s birthday, I bought a doggy DNA kit. We got the results today and now we can answer the frequently asked question, “What kind of dog is he?”

    Our little Grizz Monster is a Pug and Shih Tzu mix with some other mixed breeds in his ancestry.

    His curly tail & fawn coloring are all pug, which we suspected. The Shih Tzu was a surprise even though people have asked if he was that or lhasa apso (they’re basically the same breed). We thought for sure terrier was in there. Perhaps that’s part of his mixed breed great grandparents.

    We’ll never know that for sure. But what we do know is that he is perfect and loved.

    Griswold enjoys spring at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  Uncategorized

    Deaf Book Club Skype Call

    Rock House LibraryI’m at the Rock House and had a Skype call with a book club in Minnesota comprised of deaf women and mental health professionals working in the Deaf community. The whole thing took place in ASL.

    Man, I love technology and so wish this convenience had been around for my parents and grandparents. How wonderful to simply click a button on my laptop and be visually connected with no need for a special service or interpreter.

    We had a nice chat about my book, family, the Deaf community, and mental health issues before signing off so I could make a trip to the dump and walk with Griswold around the lake.

    While they’re busy reading books to help them in their important (thankless?) careers as therapists and DV counselors, I’m busy reading, too. I read THE BEDWETTER by Sarah Silverman (enjoyed it) and just finished Tina Fey‘s BOSSYPANTS (really enjoyed it). Tonight I’m starting Sara Barron‘s latest book THE HARM IN ASKING then it’s GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch.

    I’m highbrow, what can I say?

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Baked Tilapia in a Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

    I’ve never been much of a fish eater (except that one time in college!) but lately I’ve been eating more fish tacos, tuna, catfish and tilapia than all my years of life combined. Note, they’re all mild flavored fish. I still can’t stand the smell and taste of fishy fish and tilapia is about as mild as they come. IMG_2396

    This recipe serves two and takes 20 minutes, tops, from the fridge to your belly.

    INGREDIENTS:
    2 tilapia fillets
    2 tablespoons melted butter (I use Land O Lakes Light Butter for an even healthier dish)
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    Garlic salt
    Capers
    Oregano

    DIRECTIONS:
    – Place tilapia in an ungreased baking pan. I line my pan with foil to avoid cleanup.
    – Combine the butter & lemon juice and pour over the fillets. Sprinkle with capers, oregano and garlic salt to taste. Throw on minced garlic or powder if you want more garlic flavor.
    – Bake uncovered at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. I always go for the full 15 minutes because I don’t want to see the fish again anytime soon, ifyaknowwhatImean.

    Bam. That’s it. Seriously. That’s it.

    In this photo, I’ve paired it with roasted asparagus, onions and cherry tomatoes drizzled with lemon juice and a dusting of parmesan cheese. Ignore the pink, flowery plate. They were left by the previous owners and we never bothered buying dishes of our own.

  • Christian Finnegan,  Family & Life,  Food & Drink,  Uncategorized

    Sugar is the Devil & I’m Possessed!

    Time for an exorcism! Christian and I are five days into a two week detox from the devilish temptation of all things sweet. Happily, it hasn’t been too hard. This is much in part because eight years ago we adopted a pretty much sugar free, non/low-fat, whole grain life following the South Beach Diet. Christian lost 80 pounds and has kept it off for all these years.

    I hesitated even mentioning the SBD because it seems like a fad. But really it’s just the normal way all of us should eat and live. The only “fad” part is Phase 1, the toughest part, which lasts two weeks. This PDF, South Beach Diet Food List, lays it out. Really, two weeks of a life is a blip. Buck up, buttercup.

    This last year (or two?) he and I have gotten lazy. Him due to injuries and me due to visiting all the hotel bars and restaurants this great nation has to offer while on tour. I blame you, Wisconsin! If I were still exercising regularly, it wouldn’t be too much of an issue but travel + me = sloth. The promise of sleeping with blackout curtains in a strange bed and day drinking in a new city never motivates me to pack running shoes.

    The fact that this detox is so much easier this time around tells me we’re not as addicted to bad food. Eight years ago there was a lot of cursing, raised voices and irrational anger. Back then we used to eat pizza and pasta made from white flour, full fat dairy and tons of sugar laden drinks and desserts.

    So far, I’ve had zero cravings and one headache. Christian has craved a beer — normal, since his “office” has a bar and free drinks– and he’s had a few brain farts. For example, I asked him to grab a roll of paper towels. He froze. He started toward the hall closet then froze again. He couldn’t remember where we kept them. We keep them in the same place we’ve always kept them in this apartment we’ve lived in for NINE years.

    Funny & scary what bad food does to our brains. Which brings me to my point: If you are looking to change your eating habits, I’d recommend following this plan. I’m not paid to say so, but Christian should seriously be their spokesperson. So call us, South Beach Diet marketing team!

  • All Blog Entries,  Product Reviews

    Ekobrew Reusable Keurig Filter

    Re-usable Keurig CupRecently my Facebook newsfeed was filled with links to reports and news articles about how bad Keurig coffee cups (K-Cups) are for the environment. Oh no! I love my Keurig! In the city, I usually grab a cup at the deli but that’s not an option for me when I stay in the Catskills. Christian doesn’t drink coffee, we rarely have overnight guests and we don’t have a dishwasher, so the Keurig is quick, easy and hassle-free. This bad news was a buzzkill.

    Fret no more! Today, I found this little guy sitting right in my grocer’s coffee aisle: a reusable filter for Keurig! I had no idea this existed and, dammit, why didn’t I think of it?!

    I’ll never buy a K-Cup again. Besides being wasteful and harmful to environment, they’re pretty pricey. So now I can save money on better, fresher coffee and lessen my carbon footprint. A little Googling tells me there are other brands available, too.

    Why does anyone use K-Cups at all? One guess is because, like me, they don’t know about this option. So, here’s my PSA. The more you know!

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3rhQc666Sg]

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Uncategorized

    Spring has Sprung!

    Spring has finally sprung and Griswold is making sure I got the memo. The normally very non-morning boy stood over my face staring at me till I woke up yesterday morning. This is the first and only time in his life he’s ever done this.

    When I had my 103-degree fever and slept for almost 72 hours straight, he lay with me, quiet and content the entire time. During a stay at the cabin last Christmas, I had tried and failed to convince him to wake up to go outside for three days in a row, so I made the bed around him and went on with my day till he decided to finally get up.  On the third day, I got his attention with a promise of a treat to which he merely poked his monkey face out from between two pillows (see photo).

    The winter has been brutal. With the temperatures finally reaching into the low 60’s, Griswold must smell the trees, garbage and urine wafting through our open windows like a cartoon finger tempting him with pie. After a long week working on Christian’s new comedy special and producing his solo show, a long walk around Central Park is just what the doctor ordered for us both. And it was. Miles of walking with a nice break soaking up the sun at Bethesda Fountain had us both pooped.

    This morning? He clawed at my leg, panted and whined, hopped in my lap only to hop back down and back again. He was acting like his skin was crawling, just itching to be outside! Are you kidding? Well, alrighty, let’s go out again. Today we walked all over Astoria Park, found a Geocache and I even ran a few laps around the track while he sat and watched. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, but it’s time for a trip to the cabin, I’d say.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Mentoring

    It’s GREAT!

    My super talented, sweet, funny and dynamo friend and fellow memoirist Sara Benincasa is now a YA author with the publication of GREAT, a contemporary retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY. I was so excited not only to see her back in NYC but to introduce my protege Jeaniah to Sara and a few other friends at the book launch party. Sara read from her novel then signed books as the crowd chit-chatted and ate cake that was designed to look like her book. Clever and yummy and a lovely night.

    My friends are all comedians, actors, writers and artists so they’re not stiff grown ups and immediately treated Jeaniah like a long lost friend. Here’s the conversation we had as we walked away from the party:

    Me: My friends are fun, right?
    J: Yeah and funny! I like being part of the conversation.
    Me: Yeah, nothing beats a good conversation with friends.
    J: I like how the conversation keeps going…like, I make a comment and then they make one and that makes you think of one and then I comment and it goes on and on.

    Thanks to my awesome friends for having a lot to say & being so funny and charming while they do it. She really enjoyed meeting you all & we got some good advice about the upcoming state math tests.

    And, of course, huge congratulations and continued success to Sara who has more books & TV show pilots coming down the pike than I can shake a stick at.

  • All Blog Entries,  Christian Finnegan,  Comedy,  Theater

    The Gorgeous Mosaic Wrap-Up

    Gorgeous Mosaic FlierWe had fantastic crowds* at The Peoples Improv Theater and my husband turned in excellent performances in his solo show THE GORGEOUS MOSAIC.

    I have a decent video of it to share with his manager and agent. The feedback from audience members tells me that this show’s got a lot of heart along with the humor. What to do with it next is the big question. Keep it at the PIT for a regular showing? Tape it and produce a CD/DVD of it? Take it to an Off-Broadway theater? How much should we re-tool it? Is there too much standup and not enough storytelling or was it just the right blend? So many questions that I hope won’t spoil the whole thing for us.

    Anyway, thanks to everyone who made it out and I hope we’ll re-stage it again soon.

    *Fantastic except for the dumb drunk chick in a sparkly hat sitting in the front row talking, cheering, & texting. Why anyone who is craving attention insists on sitting in the front row of a performance is beyond me. They must know that any attention they will get will be negative right? Ugh.

  • All Blog Entries,  Christian Finnegan,  Comedy

    Gorgeous Finnegan

    We had fantastic crowds* at  The Peoples Improv Theater and my husband turned in excellent performances in his solo show THE GORGEOUS MOSAIC.

    I have a decent video of it to share with his manager and agent. The feedback from audience members tells me that this show’s got a lot of heart along with the humor. What to do with it next is the big question. Keep it at the PIT for a regular showing? Tape it and produce a CD/DVD of it? Take it to an Off-Broadway theater? How much should we re-tool it? Is there too much standup and not enough storytelling or was it just the right blend? So many questions that I hope won’t spoil the whole thing for us.

    Anyway, thanks to everyone who made it out and I hope we’ll re-stage it again soon.

    *Fantastic except for the dumb drunk chick in a sparkly hat sitting in the front row talking, cheering, & texting. Why anyone who is craving attention insists on sitting in the front row of a performance is beyond me. They must know that any attention they will get will be negative right? Ugh.

  • All Blog Entries,  Christian Finnegan,  Comedy,  PR & Marketing,  Theater,  TV & Movies

    My Husband is Awesome!

    JOTW Time OutThis week has been a very good one for my awesome, funny, talented husband. His new comedy album THE FUN PART debuted on SiriusXM’s comedy channel and is available for streaming or purchase on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes.

    Then, last night he presented his new solo show THE GORGEOUS MOSAIC at the People’s Improv Theater about his 23 years of living in NYC. In this hour show, he talks about awful apartments to the bizarre urban dwellers and hopes to remind us why we came to the concrete jungle and, more importantly, why we stay. It’s really funny but I find it very inspiring and sweet, too.

    The New York Times, Time Out New York and Village Voice all selected the solo show as something worth watching in NYC this weekend. Time Out also ran this great joke (pictured right) of Christian’s from his comedy special THE FUN PART.

    Finally, check out this Q&A with Christian and The Comic’s Comic. And below are screen grabs from his special and Netflix. Good stuff all around and I’m immensely proud of how prolific he’s been!

    FunPartBanner  Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.17.43 PM CF The Wilbur

  • All Blog Entries,  Christian Finnegan,  Comedy,  TV & Movies

    The Fun Part!

    Okay, kids, it’s legit! Today is the birthday of my fabulously smart, talented and funny husband’s third comedy special. THE FUN PART by Christian Finnegan was filmed at The Wilbur in his home town of Boston and is now available!

    Netflix (video with subtitles):
    http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/Christian_Finnegan_The_Fun_Part/70298204?trkid=13462100

    Amazon (audio only):
    http://amzn.com/B00JGCBMXM

    iTunes (audio only):
    https://itun.es/i6658XC

    Please retweet/share and give The Fun Part a five star rating on Netflix! And iTunes! And Amazon!

    If you’re in the NYC area, come out to celebrate with us this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at The Peoples Improv Theater. He’s performing a mixture of standup and storytelling called THE GORGEOUS MOSAIC. It’s a one hour look back at his 23 years of living in New York City, from a rat-infested apartment to an overly-intimate Asian delivery guy. Half love letter, half cry for help.

    THU, APR 17 – SAT, APR 19 @ 9:30PM
    The People’s Improv Theater
    123 E. 24th St.
    New York, NY 10010
    www.thepit-nyc.com | 212.563.7488

    $12 online, $15 door. General admission. Full bar. No drink minimums. A limited number of tickets are available for only $10 w/the code PITFINNEGAN.

    After the show, we’ll hang out and hug and laugh and stuff.

  • News

    Appeared at Fox Cities Book Festival in Wisconsin where I gave two presentations on my memoir BURN DOWN THE GROUND.

  • All Blog Entries,  Comedy,  Theater,  Writing

    My Writing Process Blog Tour

    Thank you to my fellow storyteller and writer Julie Threlkeld for asking me to take part in this Writing Round Robin Blog Tour Thingy™. To read Julie’s response to the Writing Round Robin Blog Tour Thingy™ and to check out her other work, click here. So, here we go…

    What am I working on?
    Good question! If bingeing on seasons one through three of Game of Thrones so that I’m caught up and the Internet can no longer ruin it for me is “work”, then that’s what I’m working on. During my downtime (a/k/a “As the HBO Go App’s Wheel Turns”), I’m tinkering on a few things.

    1) I adapted my memoir about me and My Jailed Deaf Dad into a solo show which I produced and performed a few months ago. I am giving it a tune up based on those shows. I’m re-thinking the ending mostly and trimming off the fat in other parts. Maybe I’ll enter it into a festival or keep taking it to colleges if they’ll have me.

    2) I’ve got a new solo show idea in mind about my love for David Lee Roth and how he became my spiritual advisor when I was a vulnerable teenager. I’m calling it “The Book of David” or “The Gospel of David” and the show will be like attending church service but with Diamond Dave as my lord and savior. I think it could be funny, charming and, believe it or not, insightful. We’ll see. I plan to enter it into the next SoloCom or another festival for new works.

    3) This summer, I’m taking a class on TV writing. I’ve got in mind a sitcom pilot but need to get some book learnin’ under my belt. I’ve never considered myself a writer and, even after banging out a memoir, still don’t. It’s not the thing that makes my motor hum the way producing and performing do. But without a script, I’ve got nothing to produce. Hence the class. It’s mostly for fun but I never thought I’d get a book deal from telling stories for fun in Ochi’s Lounge, so who knows?

    How does my work differ from others of its genre?
    Since my work is all autobiographical –blogging, solo shows, memoir– it is uniquely mine  by default. While our stories are universal, they come from our own experiences and points of view. I’d say my POV uses sarcasm and humor to counter some of the more brutal or sad stuff. Lately, thankfully, not much has been sad…just bizarre when it comes to living in NYC, having a comedian husband and a deaf dad in a Texas prison.

    Why do I write what I do?
    I was given a treasure trove of material to write with the family and life experience I got. I’d be a fool not to! Also, as a hearing kid in a deaf family, I was often serving as an interpreter and told what to say and how to say it. Having a mom who hated her private business being fodder for Deaf community gossip emphasized this even more. She gave me frequent warnings of not to tell anyone –even family– about stuff. Writing about my life with no boundaries or strict rules or fear is very liberating. The truth sets you free, yada, yada, yada. I’ve considered writing fiction but it’s a bit of an enigma to me. The endless possibilities overwhelm rather than excite me. And the fiction that I’ve thought about writing is all based on true events, so…yeah.

    How does my writing process work?
    By deadlines. Without deadlines I do not write. Once I have a deadline, I generally meet it. I took a playwriting class last summer during which I banged out my solo show. Since the show was based on my memoir, I wasn’t writing from scratch and it should be a cinch, right? But I had no deadline looming over me to say I need this script by X date. By signing up for the class, I was able to accomplish that goal. During the thick of writing my first draft of my memoir, I spent a lot of time cleaning house. Scrubbing, washing, dusting, organizing are all ways I free my mind to wander. There’s a lot of talking to myself, acting out, crying, yelling, laughing. Saying things out loud are important, especially if done in front of an audience. So I sign up for a lot of open mike type storytelling shows and work on my pieces that way as well.

    So that’s it for me. Thanks, Julie, for tagging me! Next up on the are these terrific people:

    DAVID DICKERSON is a writer, humorist, video blogger, teacher, editor, storyteller, and radio performer. I vividly remember the first time I met him in Ochi’s Lounge, the space I ran in the basement of Comix. That’s how instantaneously charming, smart as a whip and nicer than most he is. David’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Story Quarterly, The Gettysburg Review, and Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. In 2009, he released his greeting card memoir, House of Cards, which is currently in development as a sitcom with USA. He is now working on his next book, a road trip/travel narrative tentatively titled Tomorrow Might Suck Less.

    JENNIFER TRESS is vibrant, intelligent, has the best laugh and is one fiercely driven lady.  She’s the author of the memoir You’re Not Pretty EnoughThough the book is a collection of funny, heartfelt stories, the title story refers to something her ex-husband said to her as the reason he was having an affair (which is why, ahem, he’s her ex-husband). She is also a speaker and the founder of the Project by the same name, which is aimed at building higher self-esteem by providing a forum and discussions around beauty norms and their impact on the individual.

    JENN DODD and I had the same high school drama teacher back in Texas exactly 10 years apart and now we both live in Queens. She writes more sketches and characters than anyone I know. Her solo show No Show: A One Woman Show won the Best of Studio Award at the “Out of the Loop” Fringe Festival last month and Jenn has been a finalist in the Andy Kaufmann Awards. She is a graduate of Circle in the Square Theatre School, in the cast of the off-Broadway hit The Gong Show LIVE in which she plays multiple original characters, and is a member of The Final Edition Radio Hour. You can see her live every month at the The People’s Improv Theatre where she hosts the monthly character showcase Buttski & Glasscock’s New Talent Blow Out.

  • All Blog Entries,  Random,  Travel

    Lost & Found

    I seriously don’t understand why people hate LaGuardia Airport so much. I had another amazing travel day with them. One of, gosh, a hundred or so over the last few years. Got there in 10 minutes, got through security and was sitting at my gate 5 minutes later. Along the way, I heard “good morning” a few people and an offer for assistance by two others. Sure, the place could use an update for outlets and added bathrooms, but really, how long are you there? My flights are almost always on time or early, too. Haters gonna hate.

    I made it to Green Bay, WI and was greeted by a lovely lady with the Fox Cities Book Festival. Good grief Midwesterners are seriously the nicest people on earth. Well, maybe second to the Irish, but it’s a tight race. If you’re in the Appleton, WI area, I’ll be giving a presentation tomorrow and some entertainment at Friday evening’s Mix & Mingle.

    While on a layover at O’Hare, I lost a new tube of lip gloss, but I found Captain Kangaroo. He wears glasses now and enjoys a pint of beer at 11:30 AM. Good for him!

    Captain Kangaroo

     

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC,  Theater

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch

    So good. So, so, so good. Neil Patrick Harris is perfection. I first learned about Hedwig when I was still a tourist traveling to the Big Apple with my Ohio theater friends. We’d pile in a van, drive to NYC to jam-pack four, sometimes five shows in three days before the drive home.

    On one such trip in 1998, Hedwig and the Angry Inch was playing Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater. Torn between which shows to see during my limited time, I decided to skip Hedwig in favor of some other big Broadway show. It was a choice I regretted as soon as I saw my friend Eileen, fresh from the show and out of her mind with enthusiastic love for it and its writer and star John Cameron Mitchell. I couldn’t tell you what I saw that night instead.

    I’ve loved the music for years, singing, screaming and weeping out loud in my car to Wig in a Box, Wicked Little Town, Origin of Love.

    Last night I remedied my mistake by seeing it on Broadway. It moved me. Not just Harris’ fantastic (definitely Tony Award nominated, probably winning) performance but the journey of the show from Jane Street to here and my own from a tourist to a 14-year New Yorker. The art and love of it all had me in tears a few times. And the music. God, I love the music.

    Don’t make the same mistake I did in 1998. Go see it.

    http://hedwigbroadway.com

    NPH Hedwig

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Christian Finnegan,  Family & Life,  NYC,  Random

    My Fool’s Day

    Turning 41 on a Tuesday can be pretty blah. If you looked at our day on paper, it probably was.

    We slept till 10:30 and in between the rush of showering, dog walking, coffee and breakfast, I gave Christian (the birthday boy) his gifts:

    1) A doggy DNA kit for our mutt Griswold,
    2) Tickets to “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” starring Neil Patrick Harris, and
    3) A neon sign from the set of his sitcom Are We There Yet? that an eagle-eyed photographer from the show snagged at a junk store and shipped to me from Connecticut.

    Christian went to therapy and had an MRI for his knee & hip while I worked. Afterward, we took Grizzy to an empty dog park. Bummer. Grizzy was hankering for some play time. We were finally joined by a guy with a rambunctious puppy named Fliffy. Making small talk about our dogs, we asked Fliffy’s dad what breed Fliffy was (poodle, Wheaton terrier mix). He asked what Grizzy was. I said we didn’t know but that I got the doggy DNA kit for Christian’s birthday.

    “Today’s your birthday?” the guy asked as he walked toward Christian with his hand extended to give a shake. “It’s mine, too.”

    Weird! “Happy birthday, Fliffy’s dad!”

    “What year? I’m 1973.”

    WOW! WHOA! WEIRD! What are the odds?

    Hungry, Christian, Grizzy & I left the park for LIC Bar. We ate Vietnamese food and drank beer in the rapidly diminishing afternoon sun followed by dessert at Monika’s Cafe Bar. We came home to swab Grizzy’s cheeks for DNA, watch TV and not much else.

    Turning 41 on a Tuesday can be pretty blah. If you looked at our day on paper, it probably was.

    Christian & Griswold

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life

    April 2014

    Continuing from my goal to remind myself of positive plans, here’s what’s in store for  April. (Click to see January, February, March.)

    * Give two presentations at the Fox Cities Book Festival in Wisconsin.
    * Watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway starring Neil Patrick Harris for my husband’s birthday.
    * Celebrate the release of my husband Christian Finnegan‘s third stand up comedy special THE FUN PART premiering on Netflix. Filmed at the Wilbur Theater in Boston, it is beautifully shot and directed. Don’t have Netflix? It’s available for audio-only (for now) download on iTunes and Amazon.
    * Produce and promote Christian’s solo show THE GORGEOUS MOSAIC at the People’s Improv Theater. It’s 60 mins of his standup & storytelling about his 23 years in NYC and it’s solid. So saith the New York Times, so saith we all.
    * Ride every ride at Coney Island as many times possible in four hours. (Thanks, Living Social!)
    * Take my protege to meet Sara Benincasa at Sara’s book party & reading for her new YA book GREAT. Celebrate good times, come on!
    * Atone for my sin of not watching Game of Thrones by watching all the Game of Thrones.

    March ended up being like February: underachieved. I got sick –again!– and the weather stunk and I’ve been unable to focus. But I did go ice skating with my protege and didn’t fall once in two hours. I tutored her twice a week, too. I don’t know if I was of any help to her, but I liked seeing her so often. My event at RIT/NTID was awesome! Check out the video phone booth and poster from the campus. Let’s see if April can break the trend and actually go as expected or better.

    IMG_2258 IMG_2301 IMG_2303

     

  • All Blog Entries,  Theater,  TV & Movies

    Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel Sing “Confrontation” from Les Miserables

    I’m in a really bad mood, but my husband knows just how to pull me out of the spiral. He sent me a link to this! It’s a combination of my loves Neil Patrick Harris & Jason Segel singing “Confrontation” from Les Mis. The only thing that could make this better is if David Lee Roth flew across the stage wearing spandex pants carrying a boom box.*

    Bad mood is now on the back burner set to simmer.

    *ETA: The How I Met Your Mother series finale included Neil Patrick Harris dressed as David Lee Roth. Head exploded!

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  NYC,  Random

    Fly, Baby, Fly

    NYPDTweetI saw a tweet (click pic at right or scroll down below) from the NYPD and thought it was cool. It’s cool not only that in 1988 Mary Lowery was the first woman assigned to the NYPD’s Aviation Unit, but also because that same year Mom was wiring avionics for Heli-Dyne in Hurst, TX. She was even in a Budweiser commercial during the “For all you do, this Bud’s for you!” advertising phase. One helicopter they built was for…you guessed it:  The NYPD.

    After the helicopter was completed, the NYPD gave everyone at Heli-Dyne baseball hats with their logo on it. Dad used it to try to get out of a traffic ticket. I was with him and acted as his interpreter. Dad told the truth to me, and I interpreted a lie to the cop which was better. We got off. We didn’t need the hat.

    Years later, when I moved to NYC, I worked at the law firm that represented the NYPD in their precedent-setting licensing efforts. Less than two months after the license was granted, planes flew into the Twin Towers on 9/11 and the NYPD’s trademark became invaluable. Months were spent at Ground Zero confiscating unlicensed NYPD hats. Funny how things go full circle.

    Heli-Dyne I always loved that Mom didn’t have a “traditional woman’s” job. That she excelled in her industry inspired and empowered me. With each generation we women can learn from and lean on each other.  There’s something weird going on in the USA with women’s rights. I can’t fully wrap my head around it and why it’s happening now, but I have faith that it’s just a phase. We still have the right to vote, something our [great] grandmothers didn’t always have and women in other countries *still* don’t have.

    Exercise that right, ladies.

    Build your own helicopter and fly that baby.

    ~Kambri
    Below are pics of the tweet / photo of Mary Lowery and a photo of Mom (the redhead) with two other women in avionics with the NYPD chopper, wiring other choppers and the NYPD choppers in action at the World Trade Center and the Brooklyn Bridge.

    NYPDTweet Heli-Dyne NYPDChopperBridge NYPDChopperWTC NYPD Chopper MomWiringChopper MomWiringChopper2 NYPDChopperTest

  • All Blog Entries,  Recipes

    Mediterranean Orzo Salad

    Ingredients:
    ½ lb orzo
    3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    6 oz pitted & sliced kalamata olives
    4 oz diced sundried tomatoes (dry or jarred)
    8 oz cubed or crumbled feta
    2 oz toasted pine nuts
    handful of fresh diced parsley
    salt + pepper to taste

    Bring water to a boil, enough to cook your orzo pasta.  Meanwhile, slice your kalamata olives in half, cube your feta, and dice your sundried tomatoes.  Toast your pine nuts in the oven for a few minutes at 375 degrees, it enhances their flavor.  Chop a small handful of parsley, and set all aside.

    Cook your orzo according to the directions on the box, strain, and place in a bowl.  Immediately pour the EVOO over the orzo to keep it from sticking, then stir it all around.  Add the feta, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and parsley on top.  Toss the ingredients together, then add freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste.  Chill for an hour, serves 6 to 8 people.

  • All Blog Entries,  Comedy,  NYC,  Random,  Theater,  Writing

    Solo Shows & Storytelling

    The first time I saw the Oscar-winning movie Midnight Express was the summer I turned seven years old. The Academy Award-winning film was based on the memoir by a young American named Billy Hayes who was arrested in Turkey in 1970 during an attempt to smuggle hashish out of the country by taping it all over his body. His sentence of four years was, for various reasons, converted to a minimum of thirty years to life. For trying to smuggle pot. Crazy.

    Life in a Turkish prison is pretty horrific as you can imagine, and Mr. Hayes’ story left an indelible mark on my young, impressionable mind.  The movie is rated R for violence, a gay-lite prison sex scene (hubba, hubba), tons of nudity (including full frontal male, hubba, hubba, hubba), and a prison visit masturbation scene (hubb…oh…wait…this is heart-wrenching).

    Obviously, it was highly inappropriate for me to watch it. Yet I did…alone…dozens of times thanks to a summer spent at my deaf grandparents who had cable TV. This should serve as a testament to powerful storytelling that a seven-year-old kid would watch a long, quietly intense drama about a Turkish prison experience.

    midnightexpressLast week, I went to see Mr. Hayes in his solo show “Riding the Midnight Express”. It’s just him and a stool and a bottle of Poland Spring followed by a Q&A and book signing. He was generous of his time and gave us his all even though it was a light crowd on a Wednesday afternoon during  a snowstorm.

    He told the same story he wrote in his memoir — the memoir that Oliver Stone turned into a movie that won an Oscar. After winning, I’m sure plenty would think, “Hang up the hat, dude. You did it!”. Now, 40+ years later, Mr. Hayes is touring the world with a solo show.

    This is encouraging to me as someone who is worried that I’ve squeezed all the juice from the lemons life gave me.

    My memoir is almost two years old and even older to NYC alt comedy and storytelling audiences. Now, here I am on a train to Rochester to give a speech at RIT/NTID and am in the early stages of producing a solo show of me telling the same old story. Really? YUP!

    So the timing of seeing Mr. Hayes could not have been more perfect. There are billions of people in the world and all but several thousand of them have never heard of me, my book, my storytelling, nothing. Add to that, that I actually have a *message* of hope and societal change to share, why would I stop now?

    I’m reminded of Mike Birbiglia, too. I saw him tell him tell his Sleepwalk with Me story many times as a long stand up comedy bit about ten years ago, give or take. It progressed to long form storytelling on This American Life and, most recently, a feature film.

    Like Mike, I have other stories to share and hope to not be telling the same story in 40 years, but even if I am? Fantastic. What a privilege it is to have people come out, spend their hard earned money and precious time to see me. Thank you, each and every one of you, who have given me that honor.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Family & Life,  Random

    Make Life Happen

    Don’t ya just love when the Universe sends a clear message? I’ve been pretty lazy about a few projects and haven’t been able (wanted?) to focus on them even though they get me excited simply talking about them. These horses have got legs, some of them are even saddled up, I’m just not hopping on and taking the reins for whatever reason(s).

    Then I got an email from a reader asking me if it was okay for her to use a line from my memoir as a tattoo (see pic). I’ve shared part of that email below with her permission:

    I wrote to you about a year ago after I read your book for the second time. I had told you about a passage in your book that struck me.

    “Events in my life just seemed to happen to me. Now, however, I wanted to make life happen.”

    You responded telling me about how you made lists and started making things work for you, having the universe respond. And again…it struck me.

    I have that passage written down and look at it daily. It’s on the wall at work. It’s a note in my phone. I even have it written on a post it note I keep in my wallet just in case I need that reminder. I have held that phrase, that power, with me since I first read it.

    … It’s become the way I try to live my life and it’s something I want to carry with me, literally, forever…

    In any sense, I appreciate your words and your kindness and I genuinely appreciate you for helping me to change my life.

    How nice, right? I replied to her that, of course, she could use the line. Her email came at the perfect time to remind me that I have to hop on the saddle and take the reins.

    She inspired me to live by my own words:

    Make life happen.

    ~Kambri
    Giddy up!

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Mentoring

    The Power of Choice

    Here is something I told my protege and wrote to her in a follow up letter.  I thought was worth sharing as it’s something that is true for all of us young and old:Letter to Jeaniah

    We don’t have control over many things in life, but we do have control over how we feed our minds and souls. We control the books we read, the movies and TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the people we choose as friends, how we spend our idle time, and how seriously we take our studies.

    You hold a lot of power in the choices you make.

    I hope she’ll consider this and refer back to it as she grows older and choices and life become more complicated.

    (Read the full letter by clicking on the image.)

     

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