Friday, September 29, 2023

September 2023 reads

The annual Girls Weekend with my BFFs of over 30 years is upon us, so I am quite certain I will not start and finish another book today or tomorrow. 

What I read in September

Engrossing Reads

The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year by Margaret Renkl - I've read VERY few nonfiction books this year. Here's one! This was beautiful. I pre-ordered a copy to own before I even finished and plan to read it as in like read that season as we enter the season: it has 52 chapters that follow the natural world through the year. Free advanced copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review, book comes out Oct 24

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll - This was powerful, smart, and very well done. Very different reading experience than her first novel for me. Good writing and characters. A surface good story, and deeper a social commentary on so much! Lots to unpack on feminism and sexuality and violence against women and what is acceptable to society through the arc of the book. Thanks to Netgalley for the free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
 I bought the book to own and saw the author in conversation with Kate Baer in September! 

I also saw Jennifer Weiner in September on tour for her latest - The Breakaway - which I had an advance copy of and read in July. Check it out! 

Passed the Time Just Fine

The Connellys of County Down by Tracey Lange - A very passable family drama, quite messy and across the line in some spots, but a good reading experience overall. OCNJ library hardcover

The Summer of Songbirds by Kristy Woodson Harvey - I'm not sure exactly what I thought this book was going to be, but it wasn't this LOL. I ended up liking it, as I do most books about friendship even when one of the friends is possibly in line for several punches. And you romance lovers will surely like it I think. OCNJ library hardcover

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff - Do you ever read an author and recognize their mastery of their craft but consistently do not actually enjoy the books they put out? I think that is me and Lauren Groff - cannot say a bad thing of her writing, but damn I do not enjoy reading her books. This book in particular was hard to swallow - the pain of surviving, the agony of existing is a main character throughout. It is quite compelling, but that comes at a cost. OCNJ library hardcover

Not For Me

The Last Exchange by Charles Martin - I know a lot of you are fans, but his books are not really for me. I was bored throughout, everything was so obvious, and I think I'm the outlier here. Thanks to Netgalley for the free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review, book comes out 10/3

Athena's Child (The Grecian Women Trilogy #1) by Hannah M. Lynn - This was an engrossing read, then a passed the time just fine read, then a not for me read. How far things can fall in one book read within a few hours. Lots of promise, an abrupt change of direction in the middle with literally zero connectors, and a super abrupt ending, like one was needed as an afterthought versus part of the novel, make me not want to read anymore which I assume there will be since this labels itself as #1. This was courtesy of Netgalley, apparently originally published in 2020 and is now out again as a reworking?

Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena - I need to stop reading her books. I feel like she has carte blanche to put out stories that aren't even good. OCNJ library hardcover 

Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney - I need to stop reading her books. I feel like she has carte blanche to put out stories that aren't even good. OCNJ library hardcover 

One Last Kill (Tracy Crosswhite #10) by Robert Dugoni - I've read all the Tracy books and usually enjoy them, albeit less so once she moved to cold cases. They're typically subtle on the political bend of people. Dugoni doesn't need to introduce talk of wokeness and defunding police, but he leans on it more in this latest. This is the only standard police procedural series that I read that's gone that way, and I hate it. We can have differences in opinion on police funding versus all other community funding, but if you use the term woke like it's an insult the chasm is too wide. Thanks to Netgalley for the free copy in exchange for an honest review, publishes 10/3

Did Not Finish

Family Lore by  Elizabeth Acevedo - Whew, I wanted to but this was just a no for me. Free advanced copy from Netgalley 

Cities of Women by Kathleen B. Jones - Super pumped by this title. Actual experience, not so pumped. Free advanced copy from Netgalley 

The Lost Girls of Penzance (Cornwall Murder Mystery #1) by Sally Rigby - I tried to give this a lot of leeway to settle itself as what appears to be the first in a series and the interactions between the characters were grating to me Free advanced copy from Netgalley 


What have you been reading?

Happy birthday to my cousin Tyler today!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Making the most out of a Tampa trip

If the shimmering waters of Tampa Bay or the aroma of Cuban cuisine are calling out to you, you’re in the right place. Tampa is an absolute gem on Florida’s west coast and has quietly made a name for itself over the last hundred years. And for those who know where to go, it’s a cool experience filled with culture, nature, and history waiting to be explored. Here are some travel tips and must-do experiences to remember if you’re heading that way for a trip out of town. 

Via Pexels

Things To Do And Places To See: Highlights

Exploring Ybor City Is A Must

Situated in the heart of Tampa, Ybor City is the embodiment of rich Cuban, Spanish, and Italian influences. When you walk along its cobblestone streets, you are transported back in time. If you’re looking for an interesting activity, you have to check out the Ybor City Museum State Park. It would be a sin not to indulge in a traditional Cuban sandwich at Columbia Restaurant, Florida’s oldest eatery. Remember to take loads of pictures and make awesome memories. If you’re interested in the cultural influences of the Tampa Bay area, then it will be worth your while to visit the Tampa Bay History Center. They have really interesting exhibits that tell the story of the area. 

Strolling The Sands Of Tampa

While Tampa might be more known for its urban allure, its beaches should definitely not be overlooked. If you’re looking to dip your toes in the Gulf Coast’s golden sands, you’ll find a multitude of options. For travelers with furry friends, Tampa has many awesome spots that are dog-friendly; they need to enjoy vacations too. Check out spots like Picnic Island Park; they have a designated dog beach. Thank me later.

Do A Dolphin Cruise 

The waters around Tampa Bay are filled with playful dolphins. Several operators offer dolphin-watching tours, ensuring you get up close and personal with these intelligent creatures. As a bonus, you’ll also witness some of the best sunsets that Florida has to offer. 

Travel Tips To Make The Most Of Your Tampa Trip

Be Weather Wise

Tampa can get hot and humid, especially in the summer. So, plan outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon. Remember, the early bird catches the worm, so get up early, don’t miss the sunrise, and make the day your own. If you do visit in Summer, remember that you might face the odd thunderstorm more regularly. 

Pack With Your Destination In Mind

Light clothes, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and comfortable shoes are the keys to enjoying Tampa Bay. Oh, and don’t forget your sunglasses. The sun doesn’t hide from Florida. Another important thing to remember is bug repellent; you wouldn’t want to be caught without it down south.

Remember To Be Safe

As with anywhere you travel these days, just make sure to have your wits about you when traveling around the Tampa Bay area. Not that there are specific safety issues, but it would be wise to do so nonetheless. 

Tampa is a place well worth visiting; it’s full of old-world charm and modern appeal. Whether you’re chasing its culinary adventures, diving into its diverse culture, or simply taking in its natural beauty, you’ll have a good time. So, pack those bags and set sail for the Gulf Coast.

This post was written with Life According to Steph readers in mind

Monday, September 25, 2023

Snippets of the weekend 9.25.2023

Tropical Storm Ophelia made it quite a different weekend than intended. Mom and Rich were supposed to be at the shore for the weekend, and I was supposed to head down Friday night after work but none of that happened. There was so much shit going on through the shore towns this weekend, I feel bad for all the fucked plans.
Friday I was out of the house by 8 for a work photoshoot, picked up some groceries on the way back home, finished out the day, did laundry, and watched my niece and nephew at night. We caught an awesome parking lot sunset and got ice cream. 

I slept 11 hours Friday night and it was fucking amazing. Saturday was a super slow day - I did a catch all blog post for the last month, went to Sam's (fucking kill me in the line after checkout line, for real) and Aldi, filled my car up with gas, ate leftovers, finished a book, packed up for the shore, decided not go to when the flood waters didn't clear in the early evening after high tide, and zoned the fuck out in front of GBBO for hours. Sunday I got to the shore by 11:30, unpacked, went to the library and HomeGoods, and walked down to the beach to see Ophelia leaving.

weekending reels on Instagram - current favorite weekend look back mode.

Today is our 13th wedding anniversary, the date we confirmed with each other last week as we are not big anniversary people - we still out here! 22 years together this month, and we've known each other for 33. In the words of Steve Miller Band, time keeps on slipping slipping slipping

Happy happy birthday to our BFF Amanda today as well!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Miscellaneous shit from the past month Vol 5

After a long hiatus from doing concerts and all via Covid and just general disinterest due to life stage, it felt good to be back this year since I intentionally tried to make it The Year of Live Music that turned into the Year of Live Things in General. I saw Jagged Little Pill the musical in January, Bruce & the E-Street Band in Atlanta in February, missed the goddamn Gin Blossoms in February due to Covid but they were booked, Harlan Coben in March, music in the park in Langhorne at the end of May, Elin Hilderbrand in June,  Bare Naked Ladies/Del Amitri/Five for Fighting in July, and of course I saw Bruce at the Meadowlands, which was a bucket list concert for me, with Melissa and Tris the week before Labor Day weekend. Bruce was scheduled for Philly too with my Dad & brother but that was postponed until August 2024. Today is Bruce's birthday. Happy birthday to the boss!
Anyway the Year of Live Things concluded its booked portion this week with Ray LaMontagne at the Met and Kate Baer in conversation with Jessica Knoll at the Northampton Library. I also saw Jennifer Weiner at Bucks the Thursday after Labor Day, and had dinner with my mom after. I'm on the hunt for some live music/things to do for the remaining three months of the year, preferably around the shore since I'll mostly be there with a few spots of Philly intermixed. The live music/event doesn't have to be famous so if you have suggestions especially near the shore, let me know
The end of summer at the shore was good - MFD’s fam was down, mine over Labor Day, his Aunt Maureen spent a few days with us and it was nice to visit with her. Mom and alRich were supposed to be down this weekend but switched to end of Oct due to weather. 

Have I mentioned stilt people are at the top of the list with clowns of things I do not ever want to encounter?
Isn't she a beaut? I actually got one of those Brads deals things in my signature color. This was a fucking steal. It's quite a bit bigger than the yellow one from Aubrey I've been rocking the past few years and will likely continue to use for my shorter beach trips.

I just need to leave this here.
This will never go out of style. Fuck him and everyone excusing him and everyone on the fascist down escalator to hell.

Random things that have been kicking around in my head.
My hand is raised.
In the past week the dogs went back to Dog Beach and loved it - still another week before they are allowed back on our regular beach - and Shittah went to the vet and hated it. He refuses to be in a carrier so he went on his harness. He was pissed regardless.
Covid pause killed all of my creativity including cooking but I'm feeling like I'd like to do it again. I made greek chicken bowls recently, and ground chicken with a cauliflower veggie mix and some sesame oil and soy sauce to clean out the freezer. On the last day of summer (yesterday) I finally had two really good pieces of corn on the cob. I feel like I didn't get enough fresh farm food this summer. Also Snoop has cereal and it's not good. 
We cannot get enough of topo chico in the glass bottles with a little lime over ice. 
Adult level joy is finding the tart cherry juice you flavor your water with on sale for half price.
The only time I would ever touch Hunt's ketchup is to purchase it for a blind ketchup taste test happening this fall. Heinz only, FOREVER
Are we all loving connections as much as me? I do Wordle, connections, and a daily crossword all on my phone (I also do crosswords by hand still obvi). Gotta keep that aging brain fresh to death
This is my perimenopause headshot. Do you like it?
We are one main mini split and one window AC unit down at the shore. We are in the make a list of things to do portion of shore time.

Happy first day of fall. This is my favorite type of pumpkin.

My weekend plans were changed due to rain so I figured I'd use the time to catch up on random shit I like to keep on the blog. Hope you're well

Monday, September 18, 2023

snippets of the weekend 9.18.2023

The last weekly guest of the season came in Friday, so in the morning we were doing the last minute house stuff which for me included putting out some sheets folks were borrowing, happening upon a mirror that fell off the wall (back hinge to hang it came right out of the mirror, glad this happened outside of a rental), and doing the standard towels out stuff. After work I headed to the beach for a while to read and wave watch surf from the passing Hurricane Lee. I finished Good Bad Girl in bed. 
Saturday I read Everyone Here is Lying in its entirety. We took a bike ride on the boards to watch some surfers and get a coffee from Locals. Greenheads in the afternoon so I stayed on the couch reading and relaxing in advance of a hectic oncoming week.
Sunday was slow - we caught the air show on the beach in the afternoon, with MFD getting whistled out of the water, and I painted my nails and packed up my stuff throughout the day and evening for a return to Philly. I read another book through completion, Athena's Child. 

weekending reels on Instagram - current favorite weekend look back mode.

Today is my oldest friend's birthday - happy happy Jen! And happy birthday to my youngest brother Sean and oldest nephew Drew tomorrow!

Monday, September 11, 2023

snippets of the weekend 9.11.2023

Friday my niece and nephew got dropped off and it was a whirlwind from then on including a trip to Friendly's, playing school, accidentally playing Forgot about Dre with the F word all over, living room fort, etc. I took them back home and was home myself by 11.

Saturday I ran errands including printing return labels and returning assorted shit and going to HomeGoods where I had the audacity to look at candles despite being overly familiar with my own busting at the seams candle collection. I purged and reorganized my home office which I have been meaning to do since June, and after a few years finally maximized the cabinet space which I just had shit shoved in since the original middle shelf is missing. We also tag teamed to wash the couches and reassembling them is the dreaded chore from hell. I lay down on one of said couches at 6:30 pm, turned on The Great British Baking Show, and fell dead ass asleep until 2:30 am. I let the dogs out and went to bed and read until 4:30.

Sunday I got up at 9:30, showered and donned the team apparel - not a huge football fan, even less of an NFL fan, but totally a fan of the Eagles players and culture and of course game day food. I got a pedicure, returned shit to Target and popped into ShopRite, cleaned the bathroom and wood surfaces, vacuumed, put shit away, etc. A quick reading and wooder ice break before loading the car up and heading back to the shore. 
Weekend renters left at 8, and I cleaned the main house until 10:15. In addition to the main floor air conditioner being down, one of the window units is dunzo as of this year too. 

weekending reels on Instagram - current favorite weekend look back mode.

I missed two family weekend snippets posts which my Type A made me go back and do, which are Aug 28 and Labor Day Weekend.

September 11, 22 years gone. How much has changed in that time, and how much has stayed the same. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Snippets of the weekend 9.6.2023

Friday was MFD's 46th! He was out boating and fishing all day while I took care of shit around the house. We went to dinner at the Tuckahoe Inn with my dad & Carol and Cindy and Jamie, froze out back having a nightcap, and went back home for ice cream cake with the fam. 
Saturday Dad & Carol made a big breakfast. Lunch was Farmstand on the beach. Frank and Amanda and Eva joined the crew and we had a grand old beach day. AJ and Kim came over later and we all hit the boards which were crowded AF. I expired early after several nights of shit sleep and nearly murdering MFD for his driveway music volume. 
Sunday was more fab weather. Drew joined the crew, and AJ and Kim and the kids in the afternoon. We stayed late on the beach and had our Fourth Annual Great American Smokeout with driveway party games from our Activities Coordinator Carol and her assistant, my Dad. We all had suggestions for next year as we'll do a Best Of for activities. Jared also did a blind taste test of six foods and he was a great sport about it. 
Monday was another burner with brutal sun, a land breeze, and absolutely ferocious blood sucking green heads even Deep Woods Off could not deter. We packed it in before 4 due to that but a great day for the water and boogie boarding! Everyone took off except Dad and Carol. I did a Target pickup, we got all the trash out, pizza delivery for dinner, and I was in bed by 8:30 pm. 
Tuesday I was off. Even the dogs were beat from the weekend. Dad and Carol and I did our new Tuesday after Labor Day tradition of lunch at Kessel's Corner. 

They headed out and I lay in a dark room all afternoon reading to escape the heat and land breeze, then we went to the beach at 5:30. 

weekending reels on Instagram - current favorite weekend look back mode.

I had planned to go home Wednesday or Thursday but got an email Tuesday night that sent me back earlier than planned, so I got back to Philly around 10 on Tuesday night and slept in the basement since the air was off throughout the heatwave and that was the coolest place once I turned it back on.

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