When I was a little girl I used to love to play board games with my brother. Monopoly, Life and Clue were my absolute favorites. Fast forward to the 1980’s when I was in college… arcade games such as Pac Man and Frogger were all the rage. I spent many a night drinking beers and using up all my quarters in those machines at my college campus pub.
For the past few years I have been playing Canasta with a group of fabulous women. Canasta is a card game of the rummy family and is usually played in groups of four players using 2 sets of cards. There is a lot of strategy and rules to the game and it definitely keeps my mind active and involved.
Since we are social distancing, my friends and I have been utilizing an app called CANASTA JUNCTION. We set up a ZOOM meeting and gather together in the privacy of our individual homes, select teams and then create our game on the app. Thank goodness for ZOOM I get to see my friends to talk, laugh and catch up on life. Obviously it’s not the same as going over to each others homes but for now it is keeping us all sane. CANASTA JUNCTION is a $10 app and it is well worth the investment. If you cant get your friends to play with you, play with strangers or play against the computer.
I have also been playing Mahjong on www.realmahjongg.com They offer a free trial period and then a monthly subscription. This is not an app; you need an internet connection. It’s a great way to play with friends (you need 4 to play), or play with other like minded gamers. You can also play against the computer. Mahjong is a tile based game that originated in China during the Qing dynasty. It is a game of skill, chance and strategy. FUN FACT: The first Mahjong sets sold in the US were by Abercrombie and Fitch in the 1920’s. The game became very popular amongst Jewish women in the 1930’s. The game is so popular now….my own millennial daughter plays the game now with men and women of all ages and backgrounds.
Make yourself a cup of coffee, get your iPad or laptop and start socializing. I long for the day we can play and schmooze in person but until then….thank goodness for online togetherness.
According to http://www.careerexplorer.com, “A bartender is someone who mixes and serves drinks to customers, either directly from patrons at the bar, or through waiters and waitresses who place drink orders for dining room customers. They must know a wide range of drink recipes and be able to mix drinks accurately, quickly, and without waste.”
I like to think of myself as a frustrated bartender. I think of making a cocktail as a science experiment. Its so much fun to combine flavors and essences to create a special refreshment. In this time of social distancing, I am not going to restaurants and I miss the social aspect of meeting a friend for a cocktail. Cocktail hour now consists of neighbors complying with the 6 feet rule, hanging out in beach chairs on their front lawns, enjoying a 5pm glass of wine or cocktail.
Shake with ice and strain into chilled rock glass filled with ice or a chilled coupe (optional salt rim). Garnish with a lime wheel. Refer to the links above for the shaker, strainer and glass that I like.
I highly recommend checking out the mixology class on www.masterclass.com It was very informative. I learned about different bar accessories and using bitters, herbs and spices to be creative when making a cocktail.
As for the PDT cocktail book, written by Jim Meehan, this is a must have for the amateur, at home, bartender. Meehan takes you behind the scenes of the famed NYC speakeasy. Once this social distancing/stay at home situation is over I hope to sit at the bar and have a libation….stay safe!
As a result of not going to my gym, I have been able to investigate some digital options that I can do while social distancing from the world.
My daughter suggested The Class by Taryn Toomey. She had attended a few of the classes at their studio at 22 Park Place in Manhattan. Currently there is a 14-day free trial.
The Class is a full body movement and body weight workout. With the guidance of the instructors and the amazing music you leave a session feeling empowered and toned. Do you sweat? Does your heart race? YES, and YES. But for me, I love that you also take the time to breathe and recover.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, can be characterized as a coming of age novel, a mystery and yes, even a romance novel. It has it all, and as for me I can totally understand why it was #1 on the NY times best seller list for so long. It really resonated with me and held my interest. Ms. Owens writing style is so descriptive and meaningful.
I read in a 2019 NY times book review that Delia Owens lived in a remote setting in Botswana and Zambia studying elephants and lions. Kya, the main character in Crawdads lives in the marshes of North Carolina in the 1950’s and 60’s. Her family abandons her and she grows up alone learning how to take care of herself. You can assume that the author brings some of her first-hand knowledge of survival to Kya’s character.
At times, I felt so sad for Kya. I personally hate being alone. Imagine growing up alone? The locals were so mean to her. She was different and no one seemed to care about her except her friend, Jumpin’and his wife Mabel. What about love they neighbor? What would you do if you knew there was a child who was alone in the world?
I love Kya. She is a survivalist. She is curious and smart and figures out how to live. I’m a city girl who grew up with indoor plants and pigeons. Because of Delia Owens’ writing style, I couldn’t help being interested in feathers, plants the creatures from the marsh. From the men in her life, Pa, Jodie, Tate and Chase, she learns good and evil. They all have a part in molding her into the woman she eventually becomes.
This is a must read and it offers a lot of discussion points if you use it for a book club. Here are some I suggest:
Discuss the concept of being left alone
Compare and contrast the men in her life
Discuss the use of poetry in the novel
How did the justice system treat her and was justice finally served?
Some of my friends felt the ending was weak. I agree somewhat but it still didn’t take away from the fact that this was a wonderful novel of endurance. #girlpower
This past October I enjoyed a long weekend in Charleston, South Carolina with my college friends. One of the group acquired a time share on the beach for us. Unfortunately, while we were there Hurricane Nestor brought a lot of rain and I never stopped foot on the sand. Regardless of the weather, we had a lot of fun together and we saw a lot of Charleston.
I’ve traveled to Charleston twice so far and I can honestly say I would go again. Here are my recommendations for 48 hour of FUN in Charleston SC.
Before you arrive in beautiful Charleston, I recommend that you do some research on where to stay. If you only have 2 or 3 days, stay in the city. The beach area is beautiful but if you really want to see the sights and enjoy the food scene, stay in the city. There are a lot of hotels and inns that you can investigate based on your price point.
My personal recommendations:
On a previous trip with my husband back in 2013 I stayed at Zero George. It is a restored inn with a lovely courtyard dating back to the 1800’s. The food and cocktails were great. They offer complimentary bikes to get around and our room was beautiful. I just checked out their blog and they made the Conde Nast Travelers 2020 Gold list which is truly a well-deserved honor. https://zerogeorge.com
When I was strolling around town with my friends this past October, I took note of the Mills House, a Wyndham Grand Hotel, that I would love to stay at next time I visit. Although I have not stayed there, I must say it oozes southern charm. For those of you who know my affinity toward the color pink…. it’s pink! https://www.millshouse.com
The architecture of Charleston is so interesting and charming. I suggest a guided walking tour. I really hate walking aimlessly through a new city. Take a tour and learn about the culture and history of a new city.
After doing some research for this blog, I discovered these walking tours:
My personal highlights of my rambles around Charleston:
Take a walk down rainbow row and check out these colorful homes that date back to the 1800’s. Best photo ops are here! Legend has it that drunken soldiers landed here and painted their homes to remember which home was their own. Whatever the story is, they are pretty and worth the stroll. http://rainbowrowcharlestonsc.com
Make sure to visit the Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street. It’s important to acknowledge this period of history that our country endured. The museum is located at Ryan’s Mart, which was one of the largest slave auctions in the south. All I can say is it was powerful and a must visit. http://www.oldslavemartmuseum.com/
You are going to get hungry for lunch after your walking tour.
I had one requirement when I went away with my girlfriends…. I HAD to eat shrimp and grits! I just love it. At Poogan’s Porch I enjoyed their Sunrise shrimp and grits and yes, it is served with a poached egg on top. https://www.poogansporch.com
Poogan’s Porch is located on Queens Street. For years, it was a private residence, but in 1976 the last homeowner left and for some reason left behind their dog. It’s unclear as to why the dog was left behind, but, the dog, a southern mutt, liked to hang out on the porch and soon became the beloved guardian of the new restaurant, greeting everyone and loved by all. The restaurant is named in his honor.
Another requirement when in the south is to eat AMAZING BBQ. All I can say about Lewis BBQ is plan to be hungry and eat a lot! https://lewisbarbecue.com
After lunch, it’s time for a tour. So much of the southern history lives on a plantation. There are a few to visit, but the one we toured was Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens. Their website boasts ‘it’s a must see stop on any trip to Charleston, SC” and I couldn’t agree more. My friends and I walked around the beautiful property. It was hard to believe that there once were slaves working the land here. In 1681, an English Major, John Boone, settled in Charleston and established this working farm, best known for cotton and pecans. Make sure to learn about the Boone family and their influence on making South Carolina what it is today. Enjoy the Gullah performance in the Gullah Theatre. The Gullah are the African Americans who live in the low country of South Carolina. The Gullah culture was adapted by the slaves. Their customs and ways of life have been passed down through the generations. Refer to my day 2 when you will go to the marketplace to buy a handmade sweetgrass basket made by a local Gullah. https://www.boonehallplantation.com
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…. Cocktail time!
There are so many options but take a stroll over to the Vendue rooftop bar. The Vendue is a hotel, and yes, it is definitely another option to stay at while you enjoy Charleston. It is a restored warehouse beautifully decorated with antiques and reproduction furnishings. The Vendue rooftop bar has been awarded Charleston’s best rooftop bar since 2007.Enjoy the great views of the Charleston Harbor, Waterfront Park and The Ravenel Bridge while enjoying a delightful cocktail and light fare. https://www.thevendue.com/charleston-dining/the-rooftop/
It’s all about the food while you are in Charleston. I can do an entire blog about dining, but take a look at two of my personal favorites:
After you have breakfast, get on a Carriage ride. This is a popular tour to do in town, so make reservations in advance. There are a lot of options but the one we took was: https://mycharlestoncarriage.com
You are going to learn a lot about this city on the tour. One of my favorites was the history of The Old Jail located at 21 Magazine Street. A landmark building now, it was built in the 1800’s and housed some of the most notorious prisoners. It is said that the ghosts of many of these prisoners still walk the floors of the Old Jail. I love a good ghost story and Charleston is full of them!
Bulldog tours offers a one stop shop for a lot of tours in Charleston. From food tours, walking tours and yes, the prison tour. https://www.bulldogtours.com
After that nice relaxing carriage ride, it’s time to walk again.
Make sure to visit the Historic Charleston city Market and support a local artisan. Here you will find the lovely Gullah weavers and their beautiful sweetgrass baskets, which are a real local treasure. At the market, be prepared to meander around and talk to the artisans about their handy-work. You really can find some wonderful treasures. Also, check out the food vendors. My personal favorite is the lemonade guy…the best!!! https://www.thecharlestoncitymarket.com
If the marketplace is not your idea of retail therapy, I highly recommend shopping on King Street. It has wide easy-walking sidewalks, bicycle friendly roads and tons of great shops, parks and other sites. The architecture is really pretty here as well.
The weather on day 2 cleared up for our group and we needed a cocktail! Our feet were killing us! We ended up at the waterfront and enjoyed happy hour at a restaurant/bar called Fleet Landing. Since we were having so much fun, we stayed and had a wonderful farewell dinner dining al fresco. Fleet Landing is a 1940’s naval building and has a lovely view of Charleston’s harbor. http://fleetlanding.net
Before I go…. I would be amiss to not mention a ghost tour at night. My Charleston roomie found Pleasing Terrors, Charleston’s most acclaimed ghost tour. We met our leader, Mike Brown, in Washington Square Park. Mike is such an interesting guy and he told us some really creepy stories. https://oldcharlestontours.com
Happiness is sharing a fun-filled weekend with old friends catching up on our lives and making new memories in beautiful Charleston, SC. Enjoy your trip.
Did you ever cook something that was a complete failure? Well, I did! And don’t deny it….you did too. We all cant be perfect all the time. I recall making these hockey puck corn muffins and realizing after I had finished cleaning up that I left out a key ingredient. Lesson learned….prepare your kitchen and follow the recipe. Winging it just doesn’t work if you are an amateur cook and you want to make something yummy.
I really enjoy cooking, but it’s not fun if you are frazzled in the kitchen. I recall some really good meals coming out of my mother’s very small kitchen. Mom’s BEST strategy was that she prepared properly. Let me share some lessons on preparation that I have learned and perfected over the many years I have been cooking. I don’t care if you have a large or small kitchen, just make sure you own some of the basic “‘stuff” that will make your life easier and make the cooking process more fun!
I suggest the following appliances:
Food processor. If space is an issue, I have seen mini food processors that are great.
Blender. If space is an issue, a hand held blender works great too
Coffee maker. Your choice: pods or beans!
Tea pot. I just love my old fashioned whistle kettle. Please do not microwave your water for tea.
Spiralizer. You are going to save a ton of money by spiraling your own zucchini noodles.
Toaster oven and or toaster depending on your space.
Mixer. This is usually a big investment, but I have owned mine for 25 years and I use it for everything….baking, mixing chopped meat for meatloaf and or meatballs and mine even has attachments for spirilizing and making pasta.
As for tools and gadgets, I suggest the following
Treat yourself to some good quality knives. You don’t need a lot just make sure to get a variety. Make sure you have knives to cut things varying from tomatoes to a loaf of bread.
Cutting boards. I personally like the kind that are dish washable.
Ice cream scooper
Kitchen scissors. Please do not use these scissors for anything else but food.
Masher for potatoes and avocados…got to love guacamole!
A good set of cookware. You don’t need a lot of pots of pans, just get a good quality set that fits your budget and offers you variety.
Measuring devices. This includes measuring cups and spoons.
Mixing bowls and bowls of varying sizes to organize your ingredients.
Digital temperature gauge
Make sure to invest in a couple of great cook books.My personal favorites are:
How to cook everything by Mark Bittman
The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
Americas test kitchen cookbooks
Make sure to have your recipe handy. If using your computer, iPad or even your cell phone, keep it away from any of the mess but accessible for you to see the recipe. If you are using an actual print book or magazine, I recommend using a cook book holder.
Have you picked your recipe yet? Did you read it THOROUGHLY? Did you go shopping for ALL the ingredients in the the recipe? NOW WHAT??
Look at the ingredient list and start by placing all the items on your kitchen counter.
Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc. before you start cooking. Pans are prepared. Mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. This is where you really need your measuring devices and those small bowls. After I measure the ingredient and place it in a prep bowl, I like to put it away so as not to forget that I used it. Sometimes you might have to reserve a portion of an ingredient to use it later in the recipe. READ THE RECIPE THOROUGHLY.
Follow your recipe line by line by line. Since you prepared your mise en place this is going to be a whole lot easier to accomplish. At this point in time I like to pour myself a nice glass of wine. Heck, its 5 o’clock somewhere!
With respect to cooking temperature, get to know your oven and or range. I follow the suggested temperature setting, but I do check my temperature often to make sure not to over heat. This is where I suggest you use your digital temperature gauge to check the doneness of your food.
Keep track of time. I use the timer on my cell phone. You probably have a microwave in your kitchen and this is also a good alternative. There is always the good old fashioned kitchen timer your mama used to have.
Taste your food…but don’t double dip. This is a great time to perfect any seasoning that you might need. Less is best…you can always add more salt, but you cant take it away!
When your recipe is done, sometimes you need to let things cool down. Don’t be in a rush….let this happen. I know it is so tempting to cut those hot brownies right out of the oven but trust me they cut so much nicer once they have cooled down a bit.
Presentation is key….thats a whole other blog post. But for now, set your table, make it pretty and pour yourself that second glass of wine. Voila, sit down and take the time to enjoy your lovely home cooked meal that tastes truly scrumptious!
A couple of years ago I found my way into a local yarn store I had never visited before. An avid knitter (on and off) since I was 15 I found myself in a sort of yarn heaven. The textures, the colors the options were so numerous. I found my home.
You know when you hit a certain age, it gets hard to make new friends. As a woman of that age…I found myself wondering who I really had things in common with anymore. I love my crafts and I want to have friends who appreciate making things the way I do. Well, low and behold….this local yarn store (LYS) has it all. Not only does it provide the yarn, the patterns, the instructions, but it gives me a community of like minded friends….my soul sisters…we fondly call each other “Rumps” (as the store is Rumpelstilskin Yarns in Huntington, NY).
The word craft can mean a lot of things to different people. For some, it can even be a boat. For me, it means making something….the skill in planning something and executing it usually by hand. For the Rumps, not only do we meet at the LYS for help with our projects, but we meet monthly for happy hour, we host knit nights at our homes, we meet for lunch and stitch and bitch and we have even been away for weekends together. We are an eclectic group of women, with different backgrounds and careers but with that one common denominator.
Here are some ways to find your crafting community:
Ive been told I pack a great suitcase. Traveling is fun but packing is a pain in the a—. There are so many rules and regulations when traveling via air. The last time I traveled I forgot I couldn’t carry on my Colgate toothpaste because it was a full size tube. Ugh, I was so pissed. But I do appreciate the protection from our airline security people.
Organization is the key to a well packed luggage. If you think before you pack, trust me you will not be one of those people standing there trying to remove 2 pounds from your suitcase at the check in counter. In the heat of the moment how can you really know what 2 pounds of stuff is….1 shoe, 2 pairs of sox, a sweatshirt….ugh, its exasperating! I recently came across this VERY funny and SO TRUE video on YouTube from the hilarious Sebastian Maniscalco.
Im here to help….first off lets talk about my 3 favorite luggage options.
I have owned Tumi luggage for about 20 years. It is durable and they stand by their product. I have had one piece that needed repair twice in its lifetime and both times were fixed promptly. My one complaint is that it is heavy. I try so hard not to go over the weight limit and with my Tumi pieces I have to be careful. I am sure I am not the only person with this issue because as I investigate some Tumi pieces for this blog I notice they now have a light weight line. So definitely check this out!
Briggs and Riley luggage is a great alternative to Tumi. Definitely cheaper in price but just as durable and stylish as Tumi. The pieces I own are lighter in weight than our Tumi. My favorite feature of the B&R luggage is their compression-expandable feature. You can extend your luggage, fill it up and then compress it. You can pack a lot this way without the bulk of a giant piece of luggage.
A lot of people are traveling with the Away bag. It is light weight, ergonomic and you can purchase the optional battery pack to charge your electronic devices while waiting for your flight. It comes in a lot of color options and is well priced.
So as for packing….its all in the planning.
Questions to ask yourself:
How many days will I be away
How many nights will I be away
What will I be doing during the day
What will I be doing at night
Will I need formal attire
Will I be walking or doing a lot of physical activities
Will I be swimming and if yes, where? A pool, the beach?
What will I need to carry with me during the day and during the night
How will I pack medications and other personal items
How can I stay comfortable while traveling
I have prepared a comprehensive packing list which I feel rivals that of the most well traveled folk. I would love to share it with you. If you are interested, please fill out this form and I will email it to you. Use it as is or use it as a guide to create your own. Either way, safe travels and have fun.
Is it possible to ever really know someone? There is a distinct difference from knowing someone and knowing about someone. Our culture is celebrity obsessed and just because we follow let’s say, Taylor Swift on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean we have the right to say we “know” her. Even though her song lyrics are so powerful and meaningful she is not baring ALL. She has secrets! What about our soul mates? Can we say we truly know our partners for life? Can you really know your significant other? He or she had a life before they met you. Are you 100% sure you know everything? The Husband’s Secret really makes you think about this. My mom used to tell me you never really know someone until you’ve spent four seasons with him or her. I guess she was afraid I’d say the “L – word” before I was with someone for a solid year. Funny, now that my daughter is in the dating game I would want her to get to know a guy for a good 8 to 12 seasons before settling down. What’s the rush!!
But we all carry some secret…some people have more than others and are embarrassed to share certain things from their past. Celebrities have their demons too. Remember when Robin Williams died. I was in utter shock that he committed suicide. How could such a beloved funny man be depressed? I felt like I knew him, after all I had been a Mork fan from the very beginning. I have a good friend who recently confided in me that she had been addicted to drugs for years. She’s clean now and I am so proud of her. I recently shared with her that my own dad had suffered a terrible depression after he retired. We never lied to each other we just chose to not share with each other…. there’s a difference.
Celia in The Husband’s Secret had an ideal marriage until one day she opened up the letter that rocked her picture perfect world. But what is perfection and did she really know her husband, JP? To really know someone you have to take the time and want to make the effort to learn about their interests, their desires, their fears, and their ambitions. After the secret was exposed she started questioning certain odd behaviors in the past. Why did it take so long for her to wonder? Maybe she was complacent. My take on relationships today is that everything moves way too fast (I am not a prude, but take it slow!). Communication between partners is key to a successful relationship. People are not talking to each other anymore and if they are talking I don’t think a lot of people LISTEN. Complacency exists in a lot of relationships and that’s when the not listening and not seeing the little things start happening. You can’t have a meaningful conversation using text message and inevitably the message comes across wrong and “you got a lot of ‘xplainin’ to do!” I must digress…please don’t use text message to break up with someone – it is so un-classy!
“Falling in love was easy…anyone could fall. It was holding on that was tricky” ― Liane Moriarty, The Husband’s Secret
Another question to think about in this book is would you open a letter that says, “to be opened after I die” if the writer of the letter was still alive? Yes! I hate surprises and I haven’t the ability to wait for things! If I was in Celia’s shoes I would have opened the letter without hesitation…immediately! We are in a need to know ASAP world and social media has made it just so easy to be in the know at all times. I don’t think it was a betrayal on her part to open it up. After all, we not supposed to keep secrets from those we love and know! She obviously never really new him…never took the time to delve into his soul. Maybe she was too wrapped up in her business, her community work and the kids. In retrospect maybe it’s better to have less on our plates and spend more time with the people in our lives.
Another parental tip I received growing up, this time from my old man, the lawyer….”never put anything in writing”. JP wrote that letter/confession years earlier only to lose it and then forget about it. Well, once you write something you can never take it back. It’s so much harder to explain something to a loved one via the written word and if you truly love someone why aren’t you talking? I love to look into the eyes of someone. I know when someone is listening and when he or she is not… that old, “whatchasay”?
I hope some of you out in HAVE FUN WITH JANE land have read this book and want to share your thoughts. If you haven’t read this novel, it’s a must read! What are you all reading…. any good recommendations to share? Feel free to send me an email: email@example.com
Now that we are done with Halloween and we turned the clocks back, I guess winter must be coming. Ugh, winter is so bleak. The lack of color really does something to my mental sate of mind. I just love the autumn. I love the colors – gold, green, red and burnt orange. The leaves are so beautiful now that I can’t imagine the bareness that is approaching.
I always wanted to do a fall foliage road trip. Well, we spent a glorious weekend in Shelburne VT. First the ride up from Long Island on the Taconic State parkway was amazing. It was mid October and the leaves were at peak once we left the green of Nassau county, Long Island.With the Adirondack Mountains on one side of us and the Green Mountains on the other I was enveloped in a color explosion. We stayed on a sustainable farm adjacent to Lake Champlain. The crystal blue water meeting up with the majestic mountains was magical. It happened to be the coldest weekend in VT when we decided to do our road trip and it even snowed a bit. I could see snow capped mountains in the distance. I actually watched the snow travel across the Lake and land on the Inn we were staying at. Mother Nature at her best!
As for the Inn at Shelburne Farm, Patricia Schultz lists it in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” It’s a must! The Inn is a 19th-century country home on 1,400 acres of land and is a National Landmark and a non-profit organization promoting sustainable living. Everything that is made on the farm is used on the property. Vermont’s culture of sustainability is so cool. The people of this state are so respectful of their land and environment. I felt so alive breathing in the fresh air and my belly was so satisfied with the amazing food that is served with love and attention to every morsel. There were farm animals, walking trails, fresh bread and cheese, afternoon tea and scones, great cocktails and wine, fireplaces, superb food…it was a home run.
Oh, did I tell you the Inn has no air-conditioning and no heat! YEP…it is only open May to October and it would be prohibitively costly for the organization to heat the place. Well, we went the last weekend they were open and it turned out to be record cold. LOL…The Inn keepers do provide nice down blankets to keep you warm, but…. OMG…baby it was cold at night. I slept with a couple of layers and even socks (something I hate to do and find it cuts off my blood supply!) Although there are lovely beautiful fireplaces in the main lobby and library areas, the fireplaces in the rooms are not to be used. We found if we turned the shower on as hot as it could go, we could get warm by standing in the bathroom. Thank goodness for cocktails and wine with dinner! I won’t go into details but snuggling with a lover helps too!!Ok, forget about the cold room…. it was beautiful and I highly recommend it.
P.S. f you are interested in receiving a wonderful winter soup compliments of the Inn, complete the below form and I will email you the recipe.