Category Archives: TV

sunday salon/ currently … 3/6/2016

 

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Currently …
It’s Sunday evening and I’m just getting a chance to visit the Salon and catch up with blog posts. This weekend seemed to be a bunch of errands: an appointment for The Boy, the usual grocery shopping, and Kohl’s because The Boy needed ANOTHER pair of sneakers. (Teenage boys and their growth spurts are not friendly to the pocketbook, let me tell you.)

Celebrating …
The Husband’s birthday weekend. I took a half day from work on Friday and we had lunch together at Eat’n Park — simple, since that’s what the budget permits these days. We came home to discover an Edible Arrangements sent from his parents.  On Saturday, I made one of his favorite dinners (baked ravioli casserole) and we had Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Ganache cake for dessert. (I treated myself to TJ’s gluten free cupcakes so I wouldn’t feel deprived.)

Reading …

Scorpion Tongues

Given the current political climate, this seems to be an appropriate time to read Scorpion Tongues: The Irresistible History of Gossip in American Politics by Gail Collins. I’ve had this on my bookshelf for more than four years now, so in the spirit of #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, it’s my current read.

Sugar Crush

This week I finished Sugar Crush: How to Reduce Inflammation, Stop Pain, and Reverse the Path to Diabetes by Richard P. Jacoby, DPN and Raquel Baldelohar.  The cupcakes for The Husband’s birthday notwithstanding, I really am trying to be more conscientious about the amount of carbs and added sugar I consume.  I eliminated sugar in my coffee awhile ago and I really don’t miss it, but there’s a lot more I could be doing.

Watching…

House_of_Cards_title_card
House of Cards!  Absolutely love this show and Season 4 is FANTASTIC so far. (I’m only up to Episode 4.) True confession time: this may have been one of the reasons why I took a half day off from work on Friday. I mean, there were other reasons but that was a happy coincidence. (As it turned out, I didn’t start watching until after dinner.)

Anticipating …
Our first rehearsal and cast party for Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh is this coming weekend. I’m really looking forward to meeting all the other ladies who will be in this year’s show and hearing their stories for the first time.

And speaking of which …

Promoting…

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Tickets are on sale NOW!  I’m so excited about this show and for as many people as possible to hear the fabulous stories of the women in this year’s cast. If you’re going to be anywhere near Pittsburgh on May 6, I would love to see you in the audience.

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a quiet knotted faith

Pope Mass in Philly

I’ve been glued to the TV this weekend, captivated by the coverage of Pope Francis’ historic visit in my hometown of Philadelphia. My kids are perplexed at my interest (“Why are you watching this? We’re not even Catholic,” and “I’ve never seen you so religious, Mom,” have been common refrains, as if they’re expecting me to join a nunnery).

But with the exception of the Festival of Families ceremony last night, which struck me as .. well, kind of weird … I couldn’t get enough.  Like millions of others, I love this charismatic Pope and how his words and actions challenges and inspires every one of us to become better people.

The concept of faith is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past few months. Raised Lutheran, I attended a Catholic college where I met and fell in love with a guy who was raised Jewish. (We were the only two non-Catholics in the Religion in America class that was the catalyst for our becoming friends.)  We were married in the Lutheran church by a pastor who embraced a new, modern approach to Christianity that emphasized a message of hope and optimism and God’s role in making us better people. So much of who I am and what I believe is because of this pastor and his sermons that are still on my bookshelves today.

At one point during our Infertility Years, my sister-in-law invited The Husband and I to attend a local Unitarian Universalist congregation … and no one was more surprised than we were when we kept coming back. That church became a rock for us in those tough years.

But over the past two years, my attendance at a UU fellowship here in Pittsburgh has been sporadic at best to non-existent. It has nothing to do with the church itself, as I really like the people, the services, and the minister. Part of it is timing: in our house, Sunday mornings and afternoons usually find the four of us relaxing in our respective ways:  with football, baseball or hockey on TV, depending on the sport of the season; with a book and some time spent on the deck communing with the birds and weather; with writing; with a hearty soup in the crockpot. It’s a simple time, a quasi-Sabbath, a reprieve during the week. Mass offered at different times is something I’ve always thought the Catholics do right; in 2012,  82% of Unitarian Universalist congregations had 249 members or less, so there’s a ways to go there. (Then again, there isn’t that whole weekly obligation thing.)

Still, ours is a family that’s unchurched and unaffiliated. The consequence of such ranges from my kids not knowing the basic principles of religion (“What does ‘bless’ mean?” my son asked this morning, as I watched on TV the Pope embracing prisoners) to my frustration on how faith communities often fail to accommodate children with disabilities — yes, even UUs — and my guilt that maybe raising our kids with a lack of religious fundamentals demonstrates how much The Husband and I have screwed up as parents.

I’m not sure what the answer is – and to be honest, because I’m not even sure the UU faith is working for me right now, I can’t prescribe it as a balm for everyone in our family. (Although there will be a monthly Wednesday evening service this fall, so that might be something.) The Unitarian Universalist religion’s heavy emphasis on social justice and seemingly relentless focus on certain societal and political issues (important as they are) often leaves me weary because there’s only so much I can do, only so much attention I can give, especially when — as has been the case recently — my own world feels out of control and chaotic.

Where the brand of Lutheranism of my youth, the Catholicism of my college years, and the Unitarian Universalist affiliations in my adulthood have been the faiths I’ve identified with the most, my faith has become akin to a smoothie. It’s somewhat of a potpourri of the past and the present these days: reading Anne LaMott; listening to UU blogs and podcasts; meditating before bedtime; performing infrequent random acts of kindness; being observant of the skies; submitting a struggle online for a stranger to add to the Mary, Undoer of Knots Grotto.

I wonder if it is all good enough, and then, amazingly, as I watched Pope Francis celebrate Mass with hundreds of thousands in the streets of my beloved Philadelphia, the  Pope says yes, it is.

“Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures.

Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!”  (Text of Pope Francis’ homily, 9/27/2015, Philadelphia)

May it be so. Blessed be.

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Like Don Draper, We’re All Making Person-to-Person Calls

Don Draper

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet seen the series finale of Mad Men, WATCH IT BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER.

Spoiler Alert #2: I’m not kidding. Spoilers?  This post haz ’em. Get out while you can.

Spoiler Alert #3: All right, last chance. You’ve been warned.  And, here we go …

We are all making person-to-person calls.

We’re calling the people we love.  Our kids.  Our spouses.

Whether they accept our call is, ultimately, beyond our control.  In the end, what matters most in life are the connections we have with other people and making those connections in the first place. But it starts within, and if we don’t have that connection with ourselves – inner peace, harmony – then we have nothing.

That’s my takeaway, at least, from the series finale of “Mad Men,” which was perfectly titled “Person to Person.”

During the entire series, we’ve watched as Don has tried – and failed – to connect with nearly every single person in his life. His kids. His wives. His numerous women. His real identity as Dick Whitman. For the most part, he failed at this – except at work, where his inability to make personal connections provides a nice irony because Don is so damn good at his job. Advertising is all about connecting products with people, of that instantaneous recognition when we hear a brand name, of getting that connection (making the pitch) in the first place.

The finale reinforced the idea of connection through the characters’ disconnect to each other in a myriad of ways. We had Pete’s comment to Peggy that he has a 5-year-old, and the unspoken connection of the child they share. The lingering camera shot on the “Truth Well Told” sign in the McCann conference room during the meeting. The disconnect between Joan and Richard and that phone ringing, ringing, ringing while she is talking with him about their future.  Little Kevin being engrossed in the TV and the lack of connection with Roger, his father. Don lighting a cigarette as Sally tells him about Betty dying of lung cancer.

And of course, Don making his way back to California and reconnecting with Stephanie and his past during a hippie retreat by the sea.  I anticipated that we would see her or the ghost of Anna or that there would be some tangible reference to them during this episode because they are the connection to where the story of Don Draper started.  His whole life has been about struggling to connect Don Draper and Dick Whitman. (“I took another man’s name and made nothing of it,” Don says, in his person-to-person call to Peggy.)

As Don also said in the series finale, people just come and go and never say goodbye.

Yes, that they do, Don.

That they do.

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sunday salon: ides of march edition

The Sunday Salon

Time and Place:
Sunday evening / the couch in the living room. As per usual.

Weekend Happenings?
Not much. The Girl went to a SibShop yesterday. It’s a support group for kids who have a sibling with special needs. It took me awhile to find such a group and they’ve increased the number of sessions to three weekends per month. A bit of driving around on the weekends, but as much as I might complain about trekking around Pittsburgh, it’s worth it because The Girl loves going and the facilitators are wonderful with her. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch at Panera and I came home and took a long nap.

Today’s been a lazy day. Grocery shopping was the extent of my activity. I should have done more, but I’ve had a bad headache all weekend and wasn’t up to it.

Reading:
The last week or so has been a mixed bag on the bookish front, with everything from a book that will likely be on my Best Books I’ve Read in 2015 list to two DNFs.

The Paying GuestsLet’s start with what I loved. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is …well, I was unable to put this down. Set in 1922, Frances Wray and her mother live together in their large South London mansion following the deaths of Frances’ brothers in the War and then her father’s illness. Her father’s mismanagement of the family’s finances makes it necessary for Frances and her mother to rent out some of their rooms. Newlyweds Lilian and Leonard Barber join the household as “paying guests” and change the dynamic of the Wray house – not to mention each one of their lives.

The Paying Guests also is on the just-announced longlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction) along with 19 other contenders. I’ve read only one other nominee (Station Eleven) and if I had to choose between the two, I would definitely choose The Paying Guests.  Anyway, I’m hoping to have a full review up soon.

My DNFs were Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan – about a group of restaurant workers during their last night at a Red Lobster which is slated for closing – and Inside Madeleine, by Paula Bomer. The latter, a collection of stories, has been hyped for being evocative and daring; however, I read the first two (“Eye Socket Girls” and “Breasts”) and found both to be eh rather than edgy. It didn’t do much for me, so back to the library it goes.

Watching:

House_of_Cards_title_card
Still completely addicted to and immersed in House of Cards. I’ve just started Season 2 and will hopefully have a chance to watch episode 2 and maybe 3 tonight.

Listening:
ZZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald was on my TBR Goodreads list, but reading West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan made me more interested in picking this up.  Z is my audiobook this week.

Blogging:
Remember the #1000Speak post I did as part of 1000 Voices for Compassion? (Listening to Our Better Angels) Well, now this project has become a monthly thing and on Friday March 20 we’ll be writing on the theme of “Building from Bullying.”  Join us on the 1000 Voices for Compassion group on Facebook. 

Promoting:

 

Bloggiesta - Spring 2015Bloggiesta comes back this spring and it is better than ever! You guys, it is a week this time. A week! I have a to-do list a mile long for this blog, so I definitely could use that amount of time. Not sure what Bloggiesta is or what it involves? Click on the button to be taken to the Bloggiesta page or go here.

Loving:

Daffodils - 3-8-2014

Look closely … my daffodils are coming up after a very long winter! You see them? Full disclosure: this is a photo from last March, taken on 3/8/2014, but they look the same right now.

Hating:
This headache that I’ve had most of the weekend. I think it’s weather-related (yesterday was rainy and miserable) and I’m being very cautious about not taking much of anything like Advil or my Maxalt because I’m scheduled for a root canal tomorrow.

I actually hate the headache more than the root canal. This is long overdue – my dentist wanted to do this back in 2012, according to my chart (I conveniently forgot about that) and now this tooth is starting to bother me. So, as much as one can look forward to a root canal, I am.

Wanting:
Don’t laugh, but I really want to do some spring cleaning around the house. (I know … those of you who know me are probably thinking my blog’s been hacked.)  Every room in this house is a disaster and could use some freshening up. Nothing major – we don’t have the budget for anything crazy. I’m talking about some significant decluttering and deep cleaning (I might hire someone for that), framing some photos for the walls … simple things.

Hope your weekend has been a good one!

 

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Living in a House of Cards

House_of_Cards_Season_1_Poster

Perhaps you’ve heard about a little show on Netflix called “House of Cards”?

Chances are, if you’re not already immersed and completely addicted to this, then you have a Facebook friend or two who mysteriously vanished over the past weekend.  More than one of mine disappeared with a simple “#HouseOfCards! See you Monday!”

Sunday night, I finally hit play on my laptop.

And holy shit.

I didn’t need much convincing. “House of Cards” was on my list to watch because based on what I knew about it (admittedly, very little) this was my kind of show.

And what a show it is. I knew this was a political drama “with some serious sex,” as a few friends categorized it when I asked about the appropriateness of watching this with newly-minted 13-year-olds in the general vicinity of the television. (“Hell to the no!” was the most popular response and indeed, y’all were right about that and I thank you kindly.)

I’m six episodes into Season One and I. AM. HOOKED. Truth be told, I was sold from the first scene. This also means that I have watched about six hours of television this week, which is practically unheard of for me.

I just can’t get enough.

Not to mention that I am loving every single one of the Philly references in the first six episodes of the first season.

LOVE.

Speaking of love, it is nice to be in love with a show again, especially one that The Husband and I can both agree on and obsess over together. We’ve had a few over the years, most notably  “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “Big Love,” “Rescue Me,” “Mad Men,” and most recently, the all-too-short-lived and cancelled-too-damn-soon “Dallas.”

So yes, I am living in a house of cards this week.

Home sweet home.

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My Apology to Ron Howard, Jason Katims, and Everyone on “Parenthood”

Parenthood-Family-tree-infographic6

Dear Ron, Jason, all the writers and every member of the cast of “Parenthood”:

I’m sorry.

I owe all of you an apology.

A big one.

Back when your new show “Parenthood” premiered (how could that have been six seasons ago? seems like forever, yet not long enough) I underestimated you.

I mean, I seriously underestimated you.

I wrote in this post that I thought you were going to be yet another copycat family drama that we’d seen countless times before.

They’re all similarly formulaic. A white, upper-middle class family where everyone is more good-looking and put together than the next person. A matriarch and old-fashioned patriarch intact …a long-brewing kettle of DNA dysfunction. A family where you need a family tree cheat sheet to figure who is married to or divorced from who and who has slept with who and who wants to sleep with who. A home (usually in California) ripped from the pages of Architectural Digest where everyone eats gourmet meals together on gorgeous plates and secrets are spilled while cleaning up the mess. Tonight, the Bravermans join the mix, and they fit the bill perfectly. They are, according to the script above, right out of Central Casting.

What really irked me – and what made me skeptical, and even a little bit angry – was the inclusion of the Asperger’s storyline. It felt gratuitous. Pandering. A cheap shot. It certainly wasn’t how I felt like relaxing after work, which at that time, included a 3 hour commute every day.

Then yesterday, I heard about the Asperger’s storyline in Parenthood and thought – CUT! No freakin’ way. NO FREAKIN’ WAY I am spending an hour watching this. If I want to see a drama involving Asperger’s, I’ll watch the drama right here in my family room. Besides, I was convinced there’s no freakin’ way they will even come close to getting it. Not to mention, there’s another unmentionable aspect of this show that slams pretty close to home, so … yeah. No thank you.

I wanted no part of this show.

Of course I watched anyway. All in the name of the blog, mind you. Either way I would probably get a post out of it.

Which I did.

Max Burkholder is brilliant as Max Braverman, who in this first episode, is considered by school officials to have Asperger’s Syndrome. The frustrations over what is for others a simple fine-motor task in the classroom leading to a meltdown and biting incident (been there, done that), the brilliantly portrayed breakdown by Peter Krause and Monica Potter of the parents when the fear and uncertainty of the diagnosis sinks in while life goes on around them (that scene was particularly tough for me to watch – did that bring home the moment of diagnosis for anyone else?), the wearing the pirate costume to school each day, the missed social cues.

I thought this premiere episode had to be a fluke. How could one person’s experience get translated accurately onto the screen in such a way that could be universally felt by so many, including those who aren’t on this particular parenting journey? How were you going to keep this up, week after week after week?

That’s what I doubted. I didn’t think you could do it  – and I certainly didn’t think it could be done well. I fully expected to hate “Parenthood,” to write bitchy ranty blog posts about how you got some aspect of Asperger’s oh-so-woefully wrong. Because you didn’t know me and the Asperger’s world I knew. You didn’t live in my house.

At least not yet.

Sure, I knew that Jason had personal experience as a parent of a child with Asperger’s but as those of us in this community are fond of saying, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

It’s too early, I think, to say if “Parenthood” will become a groundbreaking show in this area – much as “St. Elsewhere” (my all-time favorite show, ever) was progressive in its day by having a child with autism as a central character – but I think “Parenthood” is off to a very good start. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Because make no mistake, I will most definitely be watching.

We’re a bunch of mama bears, those of us who have kids on the autism spectrum. Just look at all the crap you’ve gotten for Kristina’s frequent use of “buddy” as a term of endearment with Max, and how much their parenting philosophy is often criticized on the comment boards. We’re used to that from our own real-life families – people who think all we need to do is spank our kids a little more often or feed them a little less sugar and their issues will miraculously disappear.

So perhaps that was why, six seasons ago, I felt a little protective of Max Braverman – and of Adam and Kristina, too. I wanted you to do right by him, by them.

Maybe it sounds dramatic, but thinking back to 2010, perhaps I was at a point where I needed you to do right by all of us. As in, the entire autism community.

An unfair, unspoken burden, perhaps. But you know what?

You did.

For six seasons, you did exactly that and succeeded. You were our voice to others who needed to see the small big moments of our lives, how we feel when we’re overwhelmed for our kid’s future or when we don’t know how to tell a sibling what she needs to hear.

You transformed how people view people with autism. You shattered age-old stereotypes.

I didn’t trust that you could do that.

So, I’m sorry that I doubted all of you but so glad that I was wrong.

Which leaves just one more thing left to say.

Thank you.

UPDATED TO ADD:  And an additional thank you to BlogHer for featuring a version of this post on January 30. Click here to read “I Was Wrong About the Asperger’s Storyline in Parenthood.”

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State of the Blog: My Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2014

Delaware State Fair 2010

In some ways, 2014 was not my best year of blogging.

In other ways, it was excellent.

The not-so-good was in the quantity of posts.  I ended the year with 137 new posts. By my standards (admittedly, pretty high to begin with), that’s pathetic. How do you call yourself a blogger when you ONLY BLOG FOR A THIRD OF THE DAMN YEAR?!

But you know what? We’re not going to dwell on that. Another year is here and there’s always room for improvement, right?

Instead, I want to focus on the 10 most popular posts in 2014 here on the blog. By most popular, I’m talking number of views.

Unless you happen to be a big-name blogger with thousands of followers and a book deal (or three), every blogger wonders if anybody is out there reading. Even when you check your stats and see numbers that indicate that someone, somewhere in the world is paying attention, there’s still a lingering doubt that wonders if what you’re saying in this space makes a difference.

I’m not a big name blogger and I certainly don’t have a book deal (yet), but I know this: I’m incredibly proud of the 10 blog posts I wrote that received the most views in the past year. thanks to all of you. (Some of these were written pre-2014, but for various reasons, experienced a bit of increased traction over the past 12 months.

Links take you to the actual post.

10. The Sunday Salon: Yet Another Best Books of 2014 List
I love lists. I especially love lists that feature books. So, when everyone was sharing every possible incarnation of best books lists several weeks before the end of the year, I had to jump into the fray by offering up my list of “best books I read in 2014 that were published in 2014.” Apparently, other people like lists of books as much as I do. (That’s good because I have more such lists from 2014 in the works.)

9. Book Review: My Beef with Meat, by Rip Esselstyn
A post from 2013 that continues to get a decent amount of traffic. I’m not sure if this is linked someplace, but it resonates with people for some reason.  

8. Book Review: The Returned, by Jason Mott
I’m guessing that this review got some attention because of the TV show that it is based on. Of all the books I’ve reviewed, it was just okay … not one of my favorites.

Seinfeld - show

7. Punch Lines: On Jerry Seinfeld and Autism
When comedian Jerry Seinfeld mentioned in a November 2014 interview with Brian Williams that he thought he might be on the autism spectrum, several people saw Mr. Seinfeld’s statement as less than … what? Less than genuine? Less than heartfelt? In the ensuing backlash, I wrote, “If we truly believe that there isn’t one autism, then there’s no room for throwing punch lines when one of our own is vulnerable.  We need to truly reflect on what the meaning of “not one autism” means and we need to truly embrace the spectrum for what it is – as a place where we all need to co-exist together.  This isn’t a battle of who has the more difficult autism – because we are all fighting difficult battles.  And through it all, there is too much at stake for us, for our kids, for our friends and our loved ones.”

Kristin text

Text message Kristin Mitchell sent to her boyfriend, who was later charged with killing her. Photo credit: The Kristin Mitchell Foundation, www.kristinskrusade.org

 

6. forever 21: remembering kristin
I never met Kristin Mitchell, yet her murder at the hands of her boyfriend has profoundly affected me in a way I can’t quite put into words. I am humbled to use this space to remember her with this post (which has been repeated here several times) and to honor her memory however I can.

5. Book Review: Sea Creatures, by Susanna Daniel
My most popular book review, one that was written for TLC Book Tours in August 2013 but continued to get a lot of traffic this year. 

Philadelphia Flower Show

4. For Sonya
Probably my most controversial post, but one that I don’t regret publishing.  This case brings out the nasty in people in a way I never imagined.

3. #SaveDallas and a Piece of Our Childhoods
I was pretty active on Twitter during the six weeks after “Dallas” was cancelled by TNT and fans were trying to save this iconic show. Unfortunately, our effort wasn’t successful but I still think it was worth it.

Daffodils in snow 4

2. On National Adoption Day, Baby G. Still Waits
I am beyond humbled that this post is #2. Thank you for caring so much about Baby G. As we go into Year 4 of this ordeal, her story and that of my friends becomes even more heartbreaking and maddening. I hope and pray that 2015 is the year they are reunited as a family … because as we turn the calendar to another year without a resolution in this case, they are still waiting. (A disappointing update on this is that the ACLU of Wisconsin declined to take the case.)

And the most popular post of 2014?

1. Weekend Cooking: Hits and Misses with ALDIs LiveGFree Products
Seriously, I should send ALDI an invoice for this one because this has been my #1 top-ranked post since I hit publish on it back in May 2014. I even had the guy who worked on the LiveGFree packaging email me! For real. This has to be on some website someplace (I can’t figure out where) but it is has staying power. Who knew?

As I typically do at this time of year, I’ve been reflecting on the blog and my writing and what I want I do here. I have some thoughts and goals, but would like to hear from you. What posts resonate with you most? Do you most enjoy the book reviews? The food posts? The advocacy posts, such as the ones about Kristin and G.? What do you want to see more of in 2015?

Wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy and safe New Year!

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