“Jane Austen Ruined My Life”

Jane Austen Ruined My Life

Jane Austen Ruined My Life

How can anyone resist a title like that?  As a former English Major and Jane Austen devotee, when I spied this title in the bookstore I couldn’t pass it up.

In Jane Austen Ruined My Life, Beth Patillo tells the story of Emma, a Jane Austen scholar who believed in Jane Austen’s happy endings until she found her Mr. Knightly in a compromising position with her teaching assistant on her kitchen table. To add insult to injury, the teaching assistant backed by her paramour, a revered Professor and Milton scholar, accuses Emma of plagiarism. Losing her husband and her job, Emma heads off to London, and Hampstead in particular, to try to revive her academic career by finding the long thought destroyed letters of Jane Austen and exposing her as a fraud.

Upon arrival at her cousin’s townhouse in Hampstead, however, she finds that the only other occupant is her former best friend, who just so happens to be male and attractive, whom she hasn’t spoken to since she married her faux Mr. Knightly. The plot thickens.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life, has elements of romance – without being predictable – and mystery as Emma chases the missing letters of Jane Austen.  But at bottom it is the tale of a woman putting her life back together and carving out a new life on her own and on her terms.

Emma takes us on a fast, enjoyable ride and shows you how one woman learns to stop compromising for a “fairytale ending” and to follow her essential self’s desires.

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Tuesday Treat: Run to the Finish’s 3 Changes Challenge

One of my go-to blogs for inspiration and running tips is Run to the Finish.  Starting today, Run to the Finish is kicking off a 30-day challenge.  Commit to making 3 changes in 30 days, rack up points, get encouragement from other challengers, and be in the running for some seriously sweet prizes

Here are the changes I’m challenging myself with:

1.  Keep a food journal – every day.  I continually struggle with this one, falling down most often on weekends and when traveling.  This time I’m going to get it right!

2.  Eat 3 cups of veggies every day.  This one was imposed by my nutritionist.  Nothing like a competition to make me commit!

3.  Do 1 strength training work out per week that is not pilates.  I love me my pilates, but you need to shake up your routine to get results.  By mixing in the weights, stability ball, and exercise band I’m hoping to jumpstart my results.

Join me in the 3 Changes Challenge then tell me what challenges you’re taking on in the comments below so we can cheer each other on!  Here’s to a life-changing 30 days!

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Bring on the Acupuncture!

Last summer I was with a friend going to lunch (she was driving) when we were rear-ended – hard.  The effects on my body were instantaneous – severe neck and back pain radiating to my legs.  The next several months were spent in Dr.’s offices, physical therapy and massage therapy.  I progressed, and progressed, until I stalled. 

At this point, I can function regularly with minimal pain as long as I make my every other week massage therapy session.  Miss one session – disaster – neck, shoulder and low back pain ensue and refuse to go away.  This is completely unacceptable.  I’ve always liked massages once in a while for relaxation and health but I don’t want to HAVE to get one every other week for the rest of my life.  And this is massage therapy, not a relaxing spa massage.

So, I headed to my Dr. to find out what we could do to push past this plateau.  Her suggestion?  Acupuncture.  I know several people who swear by acupuncture so I decided to give it a try.

Before my first visit, I had to fill out five pages of medical history asking for details as specific as what I usually ate.  After the acupuncturist reviewed this novella, she explained to me the different methods she would be using in addition to the traditional needles I was anticipating. 

We started the session with “cupping”; a method that entails pulling the muscles up through glass suction cup type devices.   The muscle release was pretty immediate although not complete.  And as I’m slightly anemic these days it left some lovely round bruises on my upper back – hmmm. 

Next up the needles.  This was fascinating.  For the most part I couldn’t feel the needles entering my body at all.  But once in a while – ping oohtender spots.  Not sure why, and completely random (tender on one hand, not on the other, although in the same place).  In some areas she used an herb called moxa with the needles.  Moxa is warming and apparently helps redistribute energy.  The needles were placed in my neck, upper and lower back, feet and hands while lying on my stomach and between my eyebrows and on my hands, feet and knees when lying on my back.  After all of the needles on a side were inserted, I rested with the needles in place for about 10 minutes, then the needles were removed.  On each shoulder she placed a small magnet strip to continue the treatment for 24-48 hours.  And that was all there was to it.

Result?  I definitely feel better, although I’m still sore.  My next session is on Sunday and then we should be able to go to once a month treatments.  From the people I’ve talked to the treatments build upon each other.  In the meantime?  I need a massage.

Tuesday Treat: Let Us Eat Cake!

Chocolate Cake with Coconut, Pecan Frosting

Chocolate Cake

Saturday night we had friends over for dinner.  I failed to do my usual two-week menu planning and so the meal was kept pretty simple.  

  • Brie and baguette to start served with wine in the living room. 
  • A salad of spinach leaves, dried cranberries, goat cheese, Trader Joe’s spicy and salty pecans (the star of the salad) and Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinaigrette. 
  • A main course of roasted root vegetables (carrots, parsnips and red onions) and pork tenderloin (a Real Simple recipe). 

To step everything up though, I decided to make a cake for dessert.  Chocolate cake with coconut, pecan frosting.  What is it about cake that makes the evening feel so special?  Is it the time and care that goes into the making?  The perceived difficulty?  The rarity these days of a home-made cake?   

The cake and frosting only took about an hour to make plus an hour to bake, so it wasn’t a huge time endeavor.  Jim made the cake look beautiful by taking over the slicing (one large cake sliced into 3 layers) and frosting.  Difficult?  Not as difficult as some other desserts we’ve tackled that have less WOW factor. 

Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting

Jim's Handiwork

 Rarity?  Growing up my Mom thought of chocolate cake as the perfect breakfast food “because it has eggs and stuff,” so cakes from a box were pretty normal in our house.  (Although her “slide cakes” were unique as she frosted the cake before it had completely cooled leading to a sliding layer effect).  Now, I only make about 1-2 cakes a year and in my adult life I’ve rarely been served a cake that doesn’t come from a bakery.  So maybe rarity is the secret. 

Or maybe cake just makes us feel special because cakes are tied to birthdays and other celebrations.  I don’t know, but after tasting that home-made cake this weekend, I say “Let us eat cake!”

Tuesday Treat: Kiehl’s Creme de Corps

Kiehl's Creme de Corps

Kiehl's Creme de Corps

 When I first arrived in Vancouver a few weeks ago, I noticed that my skin was rapidly becoming as brittle as a fallen leaf.  As Jim and I walked down Robson, looking for a place for a quick lunch, I spied my salvation – Kiehl’s.  Kiehl’s Creme De Corps Body Moisturizer has been my go-to for serious skin breakdowns for years.  

Creme de Corps, Kiehl’s trademark all-over body moisturizer promises that “continued use for 10 days will provide a skin texture heretofore unattainable.”  That’s a bit vague for me, so here’s what I know.  

Within 24 hours of using Creme de Corps, my hands are no longer cracking open (yes, they do this, frequently in dry weather, like little paper cuts).  48 hours later my hands are no longer dry.  Within 72 hours, my skin is once again moist and dare I say it?  Supple.  Sounds like a Tuesday Treat to me.

I’m always looking for new beauty secrets.  What’s your go-to for winter skin relief?

Tuesday Treat: “The Girl Next Door” by Elizabeth Noble

"The Girl Next Door"

"The Girl Next Door"

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a big Elizabeth Noble fan – anything she writes, I read.  I stumbled upon her first book, “The Reading Group” when I lived in “THE OC” and my girlfriends and I had a “book club.”  In searching for a book for the group to read, my friend Tal and I stumbled upon “The Reading Group” and she made it her pick.  I devoured the book while on a trip to Hawaii with Jim and Tal and I discussed it at the next “book club” meeting.  We were the only ones who had read the book, but we were both happy at the find.  

The book club went down the path of only Tal and I reading the books, even ones others had picked and were, quite frankly, sometimes painful -“Eat, Pray, Love” comes to mind (yes, I know it was an international best seller and has inspired numerous blog titles, but she lost me right off the bat whining about her life and marriage while having an affair).  So while the book club quickly turned into the cocktails and dinner club, my addiction to Elizabeth Noble remains. 

Genre? 

I hesitate to call Elizabeth Noble’s books “chick lit” because she deals with heavy topics, death, premature birth, abortion, infidelity, single motherhood, to name a few.  But, her books also have all the elements that make us devour chick lit books.  Hmmm.  Genre suggestions? 

The Girl Next Door centers around a New York apartment building.  15 flats, 15 windows into the lives of the dwellers.  The story focuses on six women – three married, three unmarried – and four men, with a strong cast of supporting characters weaving in and out of their lives.  The timeframe is April through January.  It is amazing what Elizabeth Noble accomplishes in the span of 331 pages.  By peeking into her characters’ lives for a 9 month window we see Eve, an English expat, struggle to battle loneliness, find her place in a new city, and cope with her husband’s new workaholic life; Violet, an 82 year-old British expat, come out of her shell and embrace life once again by befriending the lonely Eve; Kim battle to save herself and her marriage; and several characters have their worlds turned upside down, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in the most heart-breaking ways.  In the end, there are some loose ends and some gift packaged ones, because, well, that’s how life is at any given moment. 

Elizabeth Noble’s true gift, however, is that in each of her books, no matter what your current lifestyle or background, there is always someone or something that will resonate with you.  I think that is what makes her books so addictive.

Elizabeth Noble’s new book, The Way We Were, comes out in May of this year.  I can’t wait.

Tuesday Treat: “Not Becoming My Mother” by Ruth Reichel

"Not Becoming My Mother" by Ruth Reichl

"Not Becoming My Mother" by Ruth Reichl

Editor in Chief of now defunct Gourmet magazine, restaurant critic and author, Ruth Reichl has dipped her hand into every aspect of the food world.  But Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way is not about food.  At least not in any but an incidental way.  Instead, it is the story of her mother Miriam; a vibrant, intellectual woman who lived in a time when women were supposed to get married, have babies and not have a career. 

As beneficiaries of the feminist movement, women now are coping with the expectation that they will have a career, raise children, run a household and be active in the community.  The superwoman mantra of the 90s is over though and most of us are just plain old tired and sometimes a bit resentful if we’re honest about it.  I for one am happy to have the option to work, to decide if I want to marry (I did, but for a long time I didn’t want to ever get married), and to decide whether or not I want to have children (I don’t) but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be grateful if once in a while one of those damn overweight businessmen would get off their a$$es and help me put my luggage in the overhead compartment!  And seriously, when did opening a door for someone become a crime?  I do it for both men and women (and I help women with their luggage when the aforementioned men can’t be bothered).  Being a gentleman is not a crime or insulting to women. 

In this atmosphere of today, Ruth Reichl’s book is timely.  While some of us are exhausted and many women I meet want nothing more than to be able to quit working, Reichl tells us a story of an intelligent woman trapped in a societal prison.  Miriam was not a good cook, she was not particularly good at housekeeping but she was successful at running a bookstore before she married and writing a few “How To” books early in her second marriage.  She was not successful at being inactive and like many women of her day she became depressed and eventually hostile for many years as a result.  She also became subject to the pharmacopeia of the day, with a continuously changing cocktail of pills to cure an illness that could be remedied by gainful employment.  Miriam finally turned things around after her husband died and her children were grown through employment in an area that engaged her.  She also, throughout her journey, made darn sure that her daughter didn’t end up like her. 

Miriam taught her daughter and she teaches us to be thankful for the options we are given as women today.  It’s a good reminder, especially on those days when you just want to throw it all in.