April 26, 2007


Can you believe this? You can swap paperbacks (and hardcovers too) for free! Here's how it works: you post the books you have available to swap; you pick the books you want to read, order them, and voila! In a few days, they'll be at your doorstep ready for your reading pleasure ... at absolutely no cost! And when someone orders one of your books, you send it to that person and pay for the shipping cost (usually $1.48 or so).

If you're a reader and bookworm like me, you'll love love www.paperbackswap.com. What a wonderful, economical way to catch-up on all your reading, don't you think?! Sign up and swap some great books today!

April 25, 2007

parenting tips

I'm not a Mom but I have a 2 adorable rambunctious nephews so I do feel Mommiehood knocking on my door now and then. Being a parent and knowing the right things to do for your kids is not an easy job. I learn that from watching my little sister these past 12+ years. She's an incredible young Mom. I don't know how she does it!

So for all the parents out there (including my sister), I found these wonderful "Parenting Tips" from Susan & Bill Belfiore, parents of 5 children, in an old issue of Real Simple (February 2002). Enjoy!


Parenting Tips
  • RESIST OVERSCHEDULING. Give peace, family time, and good old hanging out their due. The Belfiore children (5 in all) ride, swim, play hockey, and more, but they spend their weekends at home together.
  • SIT DOWN FOR MEALS AT LEAST ONCE A DAY. "We get Bill when we can, but the rest of us always eat dinner together," Susan says.
  • ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE. "The more routine I gave them, the more secure they'd feel," Susan says. So the Belfiores now have breakfast and dinner at the same time each day, do their homework immediately after school, then have a bath and dinner. They get things ready for the next day, then hang out.
  • TEACH THEM TO LEAN ON ONE ANOTHER. When they get hurt, they'll want to come to a parent for comfort, but encourage them not to pass up a brother or sister on the way.
  • APPOINT AN ENTERTAINMENT DIRECTOR. That would be Bill Belfiore, responsible for planning trips, coming through with *NSYNC tickets, and rounding everyone up to attend theater or hockey games or to stay overnight at a nearby Marriott and pile into the pool. "It's a simple thing to do," says Susan, "but it's so much fun."
  • CREATE MEMORY BANKS. Make a conscious effort to capture memories together. At their last dinner of the summer this year, the Belfiores reminisced about the season. The children had taken lifeguard training, so it became "the lifeguard summer."
  • HOLD FAMILY MEETINGS. The Belfiores call a meeting whenever any family member thinks one is needed. Everyone has to stop everything and shopw up, no matter what. Meetings have been called for matters as profound as Bill's father's death and as routine as sibling squabbles.
  • DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN IN ADVANCE. Last-minute rushing leads to short tempers, so the Belfiores make lunches, lay out clothing, sort and label vitamins and medications, and pack for trips ahead of time.
  • ACCEPT SUPPORT. It's hard to meet every child's emotional needs. If a friend or relative can take someone out for some fun, welcome the help.
  • EVERYBODY CONTRIBUTES. Since the age of six, the Belfiore children have each had chores, now posted in the kitchen, with individualized notes. ("Ionel: Remember to bring your books home!")
  • USE AFFIRMATIONS. If there's family difficulty, say to yourself, "We're getting along in a peaceful way." Even if it isn't true at that moment, you can always hope.

April 17, 2007

my afternoon in Stars Hollow

The crazy fan has gone and done it again! Last month while in L.A. for a brief few days, I twisted my friend's arms and made her do another tour of Gilmore Land with me for another unforgettable visit of Stars Hollow. It's our 2nd visit, but the excitement of being in Luke's Diner is still the same for us. Our tour group had 7-8 women ... all HUGE fans of "Gilmore Girls" so we begged our very nice tour guide to let us visit Stars Hollow and as many of its places as we could. He was so nice. He indulged us all! And let me tell ya ... nothing beats sitting at one of Lorelai's and Rory's favorite tables in Luke's Diner! Oh and if you're wondering if this crazy fan will ever get tired of walking the streets of Lorelai's and Rory's ... probably not!
More pics of Stars Hollow to come! Meanwhile tonight ... see you in Stars Hollow on CW @ 8:00PM! Tonight's episode is a "fresh" one!

Gilmore Girls is one of the all-time best family show on TV! It's one of the only two television shows that I must own DVDs of. (The other is Felicity. And that can be another whole subject for this blog!)

April 13, 2007

the ulterior epicure

I found a great food blog today! Introducing ... The Ulterior Epicure ... and there's even a flickr blog to accompany the food blog too. Prepare yourself for mouthwatering feasts to come once you click on these links is my warning! :)

Happy Friday!

April 12, 2007

carefree on venice beach

I guess this says it all! Every time I'm in LA, I have to stop by Venice Beach. There's so much "life" in that corner of the world ... and I love it!

what Stephen King reads

Have you ever wondered what some of your favorite authors are reading?! I do all the time! I recently just rented "The Shining" to watch again since The Shining was one of those page-turner books that kept me up at night when I first read it in the 80s.

So why not check on Mr. King's most recent favorite books then, I thought.

And here they are ... Stephen King's favorite reads in 2006 ... written by none other than the amazing Stephen King himself (as published on ew.com). Coincidentally, the #1 spot belongs to a book that's currently also on Oprah's Book Club's list ... The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I haven't read it yet, but I'm working on getting there. Just like I'm working on building up enough gumption to read (and watch) Schindler's List.

Have I told you about the Columnist's Credo I had to sign — in blood, at midnight — in the offices of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY when I started writing these columns? Well, Uncle Stevie had to make lots of promises, and one was that I would never, ever promote my own stuff. So I'm forbidden to say that I have a new book out (Lisey's Story), or that copies make wonderful presents this holiday season. And I absolutely can't say that some people might even like to receive two (even three). I can tell you that I just got back from a tour where I flogged this wonderful book endlessly and shamelessly, and where one question cropped up again and again: Do I believe books have any real future as entertainment in a world stuffed with so much good TV, so many loaded DVDs, and such a bumper crop of big-budget movies?

The answer is you bet. Books are still very much a part of the total entertainment picture. They're portable, commercial-free, recyclable, and use no batteries. Also — unlike your Nintendo Game Boy — a book will rarely be taken away if you're discovered with one in study hall or even in the back row of math class. You can always claim it was for an assignment. Try getting away with that if discovered playing Grand Theft Auto. And finally, as Anthony Powell pointed out in 1971 (and the observation was not new with him), books do furnish a room.

Here are the best ones I read in 2006...and as always, please keep in mind that doesn't mean they were published in 2006. This is just my list of the ones that best furnished my interior room this past year.

10. Dispatch, Bentley Little
Little is the horror poet of ordinary things. In this surreal novel, a lonely young man discovers his letters to the editor — and to the famous — bring actual results. Of course he eventually finds out he's working in Satan's own office pool, but that's the fun of the damned thing.

9. The Egyptologist, Arthur Phillips
Pathological liar of dubious identity goes bonkers while looking for a hidden tomb in the Egyptian desert after World War I. Tragic, pathetic, blackly funny...and with a strange, growing undercurrent of horror. You have never read a novel like it.

8. Night Mowing, Chard deNiord
This is a slim book of poems, mostly pastoral. There's little narrative clarity, but deNiord evokes rural scenes with undertones of violence and a breathless, calm clarity that's close to déjà vu.

7. The People's Act of Love, James Meek
Samarin is an escaped Russian political prisoner who turns up in the village of Yazyk during the Russian Revolution, only to discover he's fallen into a deadly struggle between religious fanatics (the men have all castrated themselves), a lost troop of Czech legionnaires, and an officer descending into homicidal mania. The narrative drive is amazing. So is the cold clarity of Meek's imagination.

6. Crooked River Burning, Mark Winegardner
A great American novel about...Cleveland? Yes, children, this is the real deal — by the man who has revived Mario Puzo's Godfather characters with such wit and élan.

5. The Ruins, Scott Smith
Americans caught in an escalating nightmare on a Mexican hilltop in the best horror novel of the new century.

4. The Night Gardener, George Pelecanos
Pelecanos, best known for his work on HBO's The Wire, is perhaps the greatest living American crime writer. He proves it again in this story of how 20 years changes three cops when an old serial killer of teens seems to become active again. The ending is guaranteed to tear your heart out.

3. One Mississippi, Mark Childress
Great novels of adolescence should provide belly laughs and tragedy. This story, in which young Daniel Musgrove moves to Mississippi from Indiana in 1973 (his salesman father is transferred), delivers both. It also provides a priceless picture of the '70s and why we must never go there again. Suffice it to say that the high school's first black prom queen is hit by a car and wakes up thinking she's white, and the local church puts on a play called Christ! The Musical!

2. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
I keep thinking I must have seen all of Roth's talent, and I keep being wrong. This 1997 novel of an essentially simple, good-hearted man (Swede Levov) and his desperate attempt to understand how the radical movement of the late 1960s has seduced his daughter into madness and murder is probably Roth's finest book. There are no answers here, only a great story winding its way into the heart of American darkness.

1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Simple, stripped to the bare bones, this story of a man's effort to keep his son alive and to find any place of refuge in the wake of a great disaster is the finest achievement of McCarthy's career. I thought it was almost the perfect narrative — spare in its beauty and constantly driven forward by its own interior urgency. Impossible to put down, in other words.

These are only the best ones. As always, I'm haunted by the thought of the ones that got away. I tell myself there's always next year for them, but the older I get, the less consolation that seems to be. But it will have to do. And in the meantime, even unread books furnish a room.

April 9, 2007

JPG magazine

My first submission to JPG Magazine and ... holy canoly(!) ... my photo was selected for publication. Many thanks to Derek & Heather Powazek and all the cool folks at JPG! They had me dancing around the house for weeks on end! "Dreaming of Spring" was published in JPG Issue 8 for the "Embraced the Blur" theme sponsored by the one and only Lensbabies. And so lucky me, a beautiful, futuristic looking Lensbaby 3G arrived in a cute little box last month!

If you love photography, then a subscription to JPG Magazine is a must-have. It's "brave new photography" in its best forms!