Wednesday, April 27, 2016

All I am saying ... is give threes a chance

This is a little ditty about the Goodreads star rating system sung to the tune of Give Peace a Chance. Sing along with me now.

Jana and I have discussed the Goodreads rating system a few times on The Armchair Librarians podcast, Kristen did a post on how she rates books on goodreads, and I may have mentioned here or there that I dislike star rating systems but haven't really talked about how I rate books using a star system.

The simple answer is it varies.

The complicated answer is it varies.

It depends on my state of mind when I close that book for the last time. Anyone who is an avid reader knows a book that is like a punch to the gut in a good way might not pack the same punch if it's re-read again 10 years down the line. You're a different person then. You interact with that same book differently. So much of what we like or dislike about novels is ourselves reflected back at us.
It also depends on the day. In times of contentment, I will typically love a book that makes me yearn for something. If I was giving it a star rating, I'd close that book and give it a four or five. In times of discontent, a part of me will probably hate that same book because I have enough of that going on in reality, but I recognize that it's well done and might give it a three star rating.

I would venture to guess that I rate most books a three on goodreads. It never occurred to me until I was talking to a friend at work that three was a meh rating to most people. She told me she'd not even consider adding a book to her to read list that carried a less than an average four star rating. That blew me away. I was like but you're missing a lot of solid three reads! The three star rating is my workhorse. It didn't blow me away but I still enjoyed the read.

I read whatever I want to read, regardless of what others thought of it. It's always nice to hear people liked it, but even if people didn't, I still might. And if I start it and it sucks, I can just stop. 

At the end of the day, I think you should give a book a chance because you like the title, cover, or description; because a friend liked it; because a friend didn't like it; because you've never heard of it or because it's everywhere; because you want to see if the average five star rating is right or because you want to see if the average two star rating is right; or just because anything about it is whispering read me to you. Know that there are many people out there like me who give arbitrary ratings. Know that everyone could hate a book and you can love it or vice versa and that it's fine. Chart your own reading path!

And give threes a chance.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What's in Jill's Makeup Bag?

It's that time again! My great friend and personal product guru Jill, a professional makeup artist and cosmetology educator at PB Beauty School in NJ, is back today for her monthly post. Beauty is her passion and she's gracious enough to stop by here once a month to share her knowledge and favorites with us. 
Follow Jill on Instagram: @kicksandlipsticks
Previous blogs by Jill:
Bargain Beauty Buys, LUSHtastic


Hello again everyone! I am getting ready to head out on vacation this Friday on a 15 night Disney Cruise through the Panama Canal. That being said, packing for a total of 18 days is giving me a ton of anxiety. Over the years of traveling with Steph I have become much better about packing, especially with space saving. See her shout out on Ebags Packing Cubes here, we both really find them useful! This month I want to share with you my travel makeup must haves. What I can't live without. Most makeup artists have their own personal Ulta at their disposal, so picking and choosing what to bring can be difficult. Of all my "babies," the following is what I just can't be without! 

I'm not going to break down my skin care essentials because we talked about it last month, but you can read about my beauty routine here in case you missed it. I find the Slim Packing Cube to be really useful in packing those items. It is perfect for holding my toiletries, just the right size and it has a strap for convenient hanging in a hotel bathroom.
I got this awesome quad of travel bags when I was shopping around in Victoria's Secret a few weeks ago, they were only $29.95. They're not available in this print anymore but they have a ton of similar items on their website. I like that the pieces in this set can fit inside the large one or can be thrown in a purse or beach bag separately.

I will also be using my Eve Pearl Satchel Drawstring Makeup Bag ($34) This thing is a Mary Poppins bag of sorts. It holds so much! It cinches up and also has a convenient strap.
I love Eve and really like a lot of her products - check her out if you aren't familiar! Her line is very skin friendly. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few weeks back and have to share these pics of Eve and I, also me and one of Eve's Emmys (a girl can dream!).

  My Makeup Must Haves:

Face Staples

This stuff is amazing and literally worth every cent. I often work 11 hr days sweating behind a blow dryer and this stuff doesn't budge. It goes on smooth and gives the skin a nice glow.
I use this bronzer everyday. It is quite big and I would say it lasts me about six months. I love this for a little sun-kissed look or even to do my cheek contour with.
I know this is pricey, but I use it to just highlight my cheekbones and my chin. Nothing I have ever tried worked as well as this. Highlighting powder is helpful in giving the face dimension especially in pictures!
This shimmering powder can be used on the face and the body. I use it a lot in the summer on my collarbones and upper chest to give the skin some glow. I love sparkles so if I can make my skin sparkle like Edward Cullen in Twilight I am buying it.
Melba, Sunbasque, and Devil all have orange or coral undertones. I love these for summer but Melba is my main blush I wear all year round!
I have pretty thick brows so I do not use a pencil or a brow paste. I simply use the powder duo to just fill in the shape. It sets nicely and it isn't overly dramatic. Also, when I wash it off it's easy to remove, not like a paste that sometimes leaves you looking like Groucho Marx.
This liner is AMAZING! I have it in a few colors and will be packing it in brown and black. The best part about this besides being waterproof is that there is a built in sharpener in the cap, no reason to pack one because this baby is always sharp!
I use this to spot treat any blemishes that arise and I also will use this to contour and brighten under the eye. This is probably my go to concealer line for when I am working as well. It comes in a ton of shades as well as three color correcting shades. 
I use this in place of a colored setting powder. I like the way it sits on my skin and it is lightweight and translucent so it can be worn with any skin tone and it is talc-free so it does not dry out the skin.

I had been using Calvin Klein CK One Mascara for a while and LOVED IT! Then of course like most things we find and love, it was discontinued. I have been bouncing from mascara to mascara since to find one I like. This is the current one I am using and honestly I do really like it, it lengthens and defines and the brush is nice. Plus, its waterproof.


I love Lipstick. I think I am like most women, in that even if I am not doing a full face of makeup a little lip color and mascara is something we gravitate to. Just makes you feel good.

Can't say enough about this stuff. I am obsessed. The color is super pigmented, goes on and stays on. Smooth and creamy application and doesn't dry out the lips like many matte lipsticks can.
 I really like to have a variety of lipsticks no matter what the occasion, so I know it seems like I am packing a lot of them but I just can't choose one or two. I love them all so much!
13.) Lip Liners and Lip Glosses 
These are all a bunch of shades that compliment most lipsticks, pinky orange undertones are kind of what looks best on my skin so that makes up a large portion of my personal collection.


I love having a few options for eyes as well. I have my fall back shades that I tend to use everyday but on vacation when I have a little more time to play around I like trying new looks and using a little more color.

 This is my favorite shadow palette, I love the colors in it and it is always my go to.
 I do not need to bring this but I just picked it up and will play around with it on my trip. I like the colors in it so far and any UD shadow is good quality.
I am obsessed with these glitters. They have a built-in primer that sits above the loose sparkle pigment. I like to be glittery and I love both of these shades so much.

Lastly, Brushes

What is an artist without a brush? I love Real Techniques Brushes. They are my go-to for work and play. Plus you can't beat the quality for the price! The three sets that they make are perfect for face, eye and brow. I really feel like you do not need anything besides the three kits listed below. In addition they come in a great little travel case. Also, right now at Ulta you can get them Buy 1, Get 1 50% off . They run this deal a lot so its a good chance to stock up on them.

19.) Dose of Colors Brushes 
Vegan and Cruelty Free, soft and great upscale addition to any brush collection
Love this for working on my eyes, especially when creating a little more of a smokey look.
This is perfect for applying blush, plus it is so soft and fluffy it feels great on the skin

One last little gem I can't forget about is my Mac Fix + Setting Spray. I use this to lock my makeup in and I also will use it on the beach or by the pool for a refreshing mist on my skin when its hot.
Mac has made it in a small travel size and you can grab it for $10 dollars. Not bad.

I hope you guys have enjoyed taking a peek into my travel bag. I have my makeup figured out now its on to packing my clothes and shoes! Yikes, I am glad with Southwest Bags Fly Free!
 Bon Voyage Beauties! See you next month!!

Thanks so much to Jill for the peek inside of her makeup bag. Did you find anything you liked? 

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Monday, April 25, 2016

TWTW - the one outside

Friday night I got to the shore a little after 8, watched the Flyers win, and was up until 1. Sleep schedule fail. Saturday started with donuts from The Fractured Prune.
It was rainy, so I took my work crew on a field trip to Home Depot like the kind and benevolent boss I am. Carol took this photo of me testing the rocker I was about to purchase while my Dad hauled my shit around the store. Typical! 
Carol assembled shelves, a drying rack, and a deck box seat while my Dad hung new blinds on the second floor, a mirror and some canvas prints in the efficiency, and shelves in the entry. I organized under beds, bought Dolly Parton tickets, met with two HVAC guys and signed a contract for a new split air/heater unit on the main floor.
I gave my parents free time while I hit the grocery store and Bennie's Breads for a random spread that was dinner. MFD and I took the dogs for a beach walk. 
Ice cream at Kohr Bros on the boardwalk finished off the day. While we were living the life of mundane people, my brother, Aub, and Lola Jean were hobnobbing with Bill fucking Clinton. Like, actually having conversations with him. Stephen sent me a photo of the four of them that I am framing and hanging in my house. Hello! My niece met a President.
My parents left early Sunday, and MFD was gone by 7 to fish. I washed the siding on the efficiency porch and set the furniture up. Then I cleaned out the outdoor shower, utility closet, and alley behind the house from the funk of fall and winter. Gross, gross, and gross.
Part time resident things: Positively Fourth Street for muffins and iced coffee, new harnesses for Gus & Geege to match Mae's at Animal House, and a long walk on the beach in the afternoon with the dogs. 
Weekly food prep: breakfast is English muffins with PB and bananas; snacks are cantaloupe, red grapes, and celery with hummus; lunches are breaded Greek yogurt chicken cutlets with steamed green beans and roasted sweet potatoes. Dinners are pan seared steaks, rice, and veggies; and whatever leftovers we have from the 42 inch striper MFD caught on Sunday.
MFD got home from fishing at 6 and we ate dinner down there: fresh striper, wild rice, steamed green beans, and braided bread from Boyar' was fabulous! I was home by 8:30 and in bed by 10.

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Thanks to another weekend of tremendous help from my Dad and Carol, my shore to do list for the season is finally under 10 items and MFD's is under five. It feels good!
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Linking up with Biana at B Loved Boston for Weekending &

Weekly Wrap Up

Friday, April 22, 2016

Can you be a podcaster and not listen to podcasts?

If you're me, you can. I listened to Serial because who could resist the siren song of Adnan's story, but other than that I've turned most podcasts off after a while. Frankly, I'd rather write or read than listen in my spare time. 

I have never done a video blog (vlog for those not in the biz) and am never planning to do a video blog because 1) I don't really like videos and 2) I am not really video friendly. I'm not a fashionista, I never blowdry my hair, and I might wear makeup once or twice a week if the world is lucky. I'm not knocking myself, but my appearance is honestly not at the top of things I think about unless I am unfortunate enough to see someone I haven't seen in a while when I am out in public looking like I just crawled out of the sewer where I was living for 37 days. 

I also never even considered doing a podcast because 1) I hate the sound of my voice when it's recorded and 2) What the hell would I even talk about and 3) I have no interest in working the technology and 4) I use like like a crutch and am pretty unapologetic about it. 

But I guess this podcast thing is a case of never say never, because here I am doing The Armchair Librarians with Jana. This is her baby, and she asked me to join her on it. I am pleasantly surprised at how much fun it is to record once a week, to just have 30 minutes to an hour to discuss one of my favorite things: books, reading, and all the things in between...we're not professionals and staying on course is not really our strong suit. Sometimes I forget we're recording. So thanks, Jana, for this. 

If you like reading and books and hearing friends talk about it, give The Armchair Librarians a go. I haven't listened, but I imagine it's like eavesdropping on a conversation, which let's be real all of us like to do. Jana and I met in college in 1995, lost touch for a while, were reunited through facebook, and happily found out that we both blog and read like our lives depended on it. 

How do you find this podcast? If you have a podcast app on your phone, it's searchable on iTunes. You can also find all the episodes on our website by clicking here. Jana usually puts a new episode up on Thursdays, which means one dropped yesterday. 

Before you listen ... the first four (five?) episodes have some hinky audio issues. And honestly, the audio will never be perfect. We're not in a studio. We're two women leading full lives approaching 40. Ain't nobody got time for a background perfectly devoid of noise. 
The Armchair Librarians Podcast with me & Jana of Jana Says...episodes release most Thursdays

Visit our website for episodes:
The Armchair Librarian

Searchable on iTunes or click here:

If you already listen, thank you! Is there any general topic related to books or reading that you'd like us to cover, or a book you'd like us to read and discuss?

Not a podcast listener? Join us for book talk the second Tuesday of every month when we co-host Show Us Your Books. Do you like neither and want in on this in some way? We need a designer for a logo - the one we use now is not doing it for us. 

That'll do it for the week. 


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bike days

When I was eight, I waited until there was no traffic and crossed Madison Avenue, building up speed on my bike to shoot down Lincoln, the road diagonal from my house. At a certain point I'd take my feet off the pedals and hold them out in front of me, coasting down the quiet Penndel streets under a canopy of trees, hair flying out behind me. Warm air went rushing by with an undercurrent of chill common to early June. Almost twilight, almost time to go home. One last ride around the big triangle that was my okay to ride alone ground.

Some point between there and when I got a 10-speed in junior high, bike riding lost its luster for me. I never rode a bike in high school or college.

I remember being in Key West for my Dad's 50th birthday, renting bikes with MFD and my brother. I had to re-learn how to have balance. I felt a little fear in my stomach. It's just like riding a bike never quite rang true for me, as you might guess. Falling seemed to be a bigger deal as I approached 30. MFD and Stephen were far ahead, MFD circling back around looking at me with concern and also a little how can you be so unsure of yourself on a bike?

That Key West trip was 10 years ago, and in those 10 years, I never got on a bike again until this spring when I took my new beach cruiser out for a cautious loop at the shore. I'm possibly more afraid of falling now than ever, and more unsure of my balance on the bike. Still, I envision myself recapturing the comfort I felt on a bike when I was young. Will it happen? I don't know. But I'm aiming for it.

Even though I've been on a bike twice in the past 20 years, when the weather starts to get warmer, I still think bike days are here again.

What thoughts does warmer weather usher in for you?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My go-to chicken marinade for the grill

Some recipes are a delight for the eyes and the imagination, bursting off the page in a photo that's so good you feel like you could eat it. This recipe is not one of them. We can't only share the sexy recipes, you know. We need the utility players just as much.

I have no idea where I found this marinade, somewhere on the Interwebs I'm sure. But now I'll know where to find it. Right here under the recipe tab.

1 cup ketchup (I use Simply Heinz and do not consider non-Heinz ketchup ketchup at all)
Half cup soy sauce
Virgorous shakes of Worcestershire (new unit of measurement! Honestly, I put probably 2 TBS in)
3-4 TBS rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar if I'm out of that)
3 TBS dijon mustard
heaping tablespoon of garlic
kosher salt or Himalayan pink salt

I approximate these amounts, as you may have guessed.

Put them all in a big old bowl, whisk vigorously, and submerge your chicken for 2-8 hours. I like to leave it in there for a long time, and overall I prefer to use chicken thighs on the grill.

Chicken or the egg?
The stupid age old question.
Just cook both well.

What's your go-to marinade?

Wishing my fabulous Gail a fabulous 40th today.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

TWTW - the one by the numbers

120 minutes of relaxation, including massage, hand treatment, and cold stone face massage. It was like levitating in a state of nirvana for two hours. 

Two books - one finished, one started and finished
One trip to Panera, where I very rarely go; followed by one trip to Target, where I always go
Five dollars for an abundance of flowers from Produce Junction
Eleventy hours spent outside
489 photos taken of dogs - average amount on a weekend
One easy way out taken - I jumped the gun putting the spring/summer quilt on because I didn't want to face changing the duvet cover
39 minutes recording The Armchair Librarians with Jana

45 minutes setting up blog shit for the week

One crazy feminist lounge wear sighting

10 fingers painted...sometimes I choose the polish based on what is quick dry

Four dishes prepared for weekly food prep - a Tasty meatball hoagie casserole for weekend eats; egg muffins with leftover taco meat, gouda cheese, and green onions for breakfasts; power breakfast muffins for the freezer; spaghetti squash buffalo chicken for lunches...that was my first time making avocado mayo and it was a breeze. 
Three things on the grill on Sunday: chicken thighs in my preferred marinade, potato packets, grilled veggies; dinner eaten outside followed by reading outside. 
One million things still in disarray in the basement...four large pieces of furniture removed by 1-800-GOT-JUNK, over 100 books put in the giveaway pile, two bookcases moved into the back basement see how the two rooms used to look, click here. That post is completely out of date, but the before photos from the basement stand. I'll do proper before and afters when I'm finished, which at this rate will be in the year 2089.
Nine hours of sleep both Friday and Saturday nights

Four loads of laundry, each load run through the dryer at least twice because that's on the fritz

Two runnings of the dishwasher

Four events I did not attend in order to get my shit together, center myself, and restore my balance this weekend

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Sometimes I feel the need to slow it way down and mostly block out the noise. This was one of those weekends. It's good for the soul.

Taxes are due today. In case anyone possibly forgot.

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Linking up with Biana at B Loved Boston for Weekending &

Weekly Wrap Up

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