Archive for the 'Books' Category

From Left to Write: The Earthbound Cook

Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman

Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman

There are good cookbooks, and there are special cookbooks. The Earthbound Cook is special, filled with delicious and healthy meals that are good for the body and good for the planet. I was offered a copy as part of virtual book club From Left to Write, and as a fan of delicious and organic food, I jumped at the chance.

This cookbook is filled with recipes that feature fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and herbs. The recipes are healthful and the photography is visually stunning. Happily, I found the colors of the ingredients translate to equally beautiful plates of food. I made several dishes from the book, and here are two of my favorites:

Shrimp and corn chowder (pages 14-15) = This amazing soup is a new staple in our house. The soup is both filling and light. It has a creamy feel, but is crunchy because of the potatoes. We live in Austin, Texas, so we were lucky enough to make the soup with fresh gulf shrimp, which added a subtle (and delicious) salty flavor.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Chard, Gruyere and Prosciutto (pages 106-108) = This is an elegant dish, that is perfect for entertaining and impressing your guests. This main course produces a dish with great color and flavor. I love Gruyere and proscuitto, but had never cooked chard before this recipe. I loved how easy it was to add such color (and extra nutrition) to a meal.

The Earthbound Cook has so many interesting recipes, and I have just hit the tip of the iceberg.  One section that is very interesting to me is the “innovative salads with substance.” I am so excited to try the tri-color potato salad, filled with potatoes, tomatoes and green beans. Of course, I might even try the German potato salad recipe just to see how it stacks up to my grandma’s recipe.

If you are looking for a unique cookbook that honors the Earth and the palate, you can buy your copy HERE.

Photo Credit: Earthbound Farms

Note: The book is provided by the publisher. I volunteered to write this post, without compensation. The words are mine and unedited.

From Left to Write: Staying Married and Personal Evolution

Author: Maddie Dawson

Author: Maddie Dawson

Despite the name of my blog, I really do more than work and watch TV. I actually love reading all sorts of books, from Paulo Coehlo to Barbara Kingsolver to Dan Brown. Luckily, I recently was invited to join a virtual book club with some of my favorite people. The newly formed club, called From Left to Write, is a collection of avid readers and writers, and we collectively read and share thoughts on a variety of books. This club is not designed to review books, rather we write about thoughts and feelings inspired by the books.

My first book-reading with this club is “The Stuff that Never Happened” by Maddie Dawson. The book is a reflection of marriage and parenthood, choices and mistakes, and personal evolution. The book explores infidelity, love, and the complexity of marriage.

I’ll be honest with you, I had a hard time getting this post started. Marriage is such a personal thing; no two marriages are the same and every couple handles their challenges and triumphs differently. That said, I am one of the lucky ones. I will proudly say — even at the risk of sounding smug — I might have the best husband ever. And I really mean it.

As I read this book, I felt a variety of emotions, randing from anger to compassion. I guess the constant emotion was my best life-lesson: no matter who you marry, you and your spouse are going to evolve as you age, just try to evolve on a parallel track.

My husband and I were married young. He was 26, and I was 23. Looking back, I would never advocate getting married that young (and will probably freak-out if my daughter wants to marry that young).  But, I was madly in love and I got married.  Sixteen years later, he’s still the love of my life.

As cheesy as that sounds, I have to say that he and I are both very different than when we married. How could we not be? We married so young. And since that time, we experienced a variety life-changing events both together and individually: we moved to the West Coast, built our careers, made new friends, traveled the world, had a child, dealt with deaths in the family and more.

I am a different person than when we met. And so is he.  Honestly, that’s how it should be. I’m glad that I have evolved into a happier (and hopefully) wiser person with experiences and memories shaping who I am. But I am even happier that my evolution was parallel to my husband’s. We both have grown and changed, and luckily, we stayed in-synch and together. The opposite could easily be true, and possibly the norm for people who married at our age.

– LTV Mom

Photo Credit: Maddie Dawson Web Site

What is my bedtime strategy? (and other signs of “corporate seepage” in my house!)

I am a proud writer for the Silicon Valley Moms Group, and every month, we have virtual book club meetings. A handful of bloggers read the same book, and we each post our thoughts on our personal blogs. It’s a great way to be part of a book club, especially when I don’t have time for non-family socialization… and I really love books. This month’s book is Just Let Me Lie Down by Kristin van Ogtrop, editor of Real Simple magazine.

I immediately fell in love with the book title, and then became enamored with the sub-title: necessary terms for the half-insane working mom. Instantly connecting to the subject-matter, I dived into the book.

Yep, I am a half-insane working mom: I choose to be a working mom, and respect any mom who is working (in the home, outside the home, and everywhere in between) to provide and care for her family. I connect with working moms, well, because I am one.  I get the madness of driving from home to school to work (takes me at least an hour everyday), leaving work early to watch 15 minutes of dance class and eating dinner as a family, and then working until midnight to make up the time. We all do it. We all have our reality. And this book made me know I am not alone. It even made me laugh at the madness of my wonderfully crazy (and never boring!) working-mama life.

As the sub-title alludes, the book provides an “A to Z” look at newly created lexicon for working moms to embrace as they journey through life. Kristin created a “Mom 2.0 dictionary” peppered with wit and sarcasm (two of my favorite things!) leaving me with a sense of “Good Lord, being a working mom is hilarious.”

Corporate Seepage: All that said, I want to deep-dive and focus on my favorite “necessary term” from the book: corporate seepage. This term is self-explanatory, it’s when corporate-speak spills into the home. And then your kid starts using phrases and expressions that a toddler should not know exist, such as “Mommy, what is my bed time strategy?” in response to “honey, bed time is in 10 minutes.” Oy.

Recently, corporate seepage has been taken a step further. You see, my five-year-old daughter has taken it upon herself to set-up an “office” with a faux workstation, computer and office supplies.  The other day, my husband was trying to get the kid’s attention, and simply heard the reply “Daddy, I am on a conference call, can you please hold for a moment?!” In fact, my daughter loves the conference call excuse. The other day, I was at home making dinner as Daddy and Kid were on their way home from dance class. The Kid blasts into the kitchen to hear me proclaim, “welcome home, honey, can I have a hug?” And what did I hear? “Mommy, I can’t talk right now! I have a conference call in 11 minutes!” So, she ran upstairs to her office… just in time to make her call. Whew!

Capturing her imagination: Despite the copious amounts of corporate seepage in my house, I also see some amazing and wondrous benefits of having two working parents in our house. I mentioned my five-year-old kid has a faux office in our house, but did I mention she uses her office to design buildings? She creates blue-prints, has meetings with clients, and has imaginary discussions about how beautiful her buildings look once they are engineered. She currently is working on designing a movie theater and an animal hospital. I swear, she comes up with all these ideas on her own… and I am bursting with pride.

Like any mother, I don’t care what career my kid chooses when she grows up. But I use these moments to remind her that she can be whatever she wants to be. I promise I am not pushing her into a world of competition and madness. But I love that she is learning to tap into her talents and imagination… just as long as she doesn’t miss that conference call in exactly 11 minutes!

Just Let Me Lie Down is available on Amazon.

– LTV Mom

Photo with Gina von Esmarch of Bowl Licker fame; Kristin van Ogtrop of “Just Let Me Lie Down” and Real Simple magazine; and yours truly.

Thank you to the Silicon Valley Moms Group for organizing a wonderful luncheon allowing us to meet Kristin and enjoy her wit and wisdom.

2010 Earth Day: Common Sense and Learning

Back in 2008, I watched an episode of Oprah called “Going Green 101” which shared basic tips to live a green lifestyle, tips like turning off the water when you brush your teeth, which inspired a blog post called “Green is the new Cheap.” As much as I love being smart about minimizing waste, conserving natural resources and recycling, I still think it’s funny that common sense and frugality is now labeled “green” and is (finally) cool in the United States. Of course, I am talking with a touch of sarcasm, but I do think it’s important to embrace green-living by simply using your noggin and minding your wallet.

In honor of Earth Day, I decided to set aside my cynicism and learn something new about leading a greener (and healthier) lifestyle and teaching my daughter about the environment. The catalyst for my enlightenment is this month’s book club selection for the Silicon Valley Moms Group — Green Guide Families: The Complete Reference for Eco-friendly Parents — and having Earth Day as the monthly blog topic for the Yahoo! Mother Board. I figured this is a great way to accomplish my personal educational goals for Earth Day (and a good reminder that this grumpy old lady still has a lot to learn!)

What I learned: We all know plastic water bottles in a landfill is not a good thing, but I really wanted to focus on the issues that are not in my immediate control, things like food labels and toxins. I wanted to explore topics that require more than common sense, issues that need a few minutes of research and an open mind. For example, the Green Guide is a great resource for determining when to buy organic foods (and which fruits and veggies are least likely to be contaminated with pesticides). I also learned that not all food additives are bad for you; for example, ascorbic acid is basically Vitamin C. I also learned I should buy soy-based crayons because standard crayons are made from petroleum. Like most action items that lead to a greener life, one change might not appear life-altering, but collectively are that important.

Where I need to improve: There are two areas of my life that are the least-green: technology and commuting. Common sense tells me there are easy fixes like carpooling and unplugging the TV and DVR when I go to work, but my crazy working-mom lifestyle (and lack of mass-transit in the Bay Area) makes those solutions impractical (and quite honestly and selfishly inconvenient.) So, I headed over to Yahoo! Green to find new ideas. I learned that telecommuting has a bigger impact that I thought, so I will be more diligent about working from home 1-2 days a week. Still not sure what to do about my love for the TV and DVR, but suggestions are welcomed.

What I want to teach my child: I discovered there are easy, free ways to teach my kid about the beauty of the world and why we need to take care of it. The Green Guide talks about taking your kid to Farmer’s Market to introduce them to the actual people who plant and grow food, and take them camping to show them the beauty of our vast world. Luckily, both are easy in the Bay Area, and camping is on my calendar for later this summer. I also decided to teach my daughter how to garden, and since I am a novice (yes, I was raised in Iowa), I found some great tips on Yahoo! Green. Lastly, I also discovered that BBC is sharing its wonderful series Planet Earth for FREE on iTunes until April 26. My kid and I will watch together, and hopefully a little inspiration will come from watching.

At the end of the day: I was reminded that being green is more than common sense. It’s also taking time to read and learn, and also making choices (and sometimes sacrifices) for the greater good of the world. And heck, you might even save a buck or two.

– LTV Mom

Photo Credit: National Geographic

This post was written as part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group Book Club, and I received the Green Guide Families at no cost.

Coco Chanel and Tiger Woods = Same Lesson

Coco Chanel & Igor StravinskyCoco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

I am a proud writer for the Silicon Valley Moms Group, and every month, we have virtual book club meetings. A handful of mom-bloggers read the same book, and we each post our thoughts on our personal blogs. It’s a great way to be part of a book club, especially when I really don’t have time to attend meetings and really love books. All that said, this month’s book club selection had me stumped.

This month, members of the virtual book club read Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky by Chris Greenhalgh, a novel based on the life of an historic designer and revolutionary composer. I love a good biography, even if it’s in the form of a novel, and I love a strong, independent woman. But I had no idea what was in store for me.

It’s important to note: I am not a fashion plate (um, far from it), and I don’t own a thread of Coco Chanel. But I love to read about women who change history. (My two favorites are Personal History by Katharine Graham and Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton.) So, I was so excited to read about a woman who changed the face of the fashion industry — in Paris, nonetheless — in the early 1900s. And while I learned a lot about the brilliance and vision for this woman, I was greatly disappointed by her personal character.

What I love about Coco Chanel

  • Her goal was to make woman’s clothing more comfortable, more wearable. She dumped stiff corsets and made clothes out of comfortable fabrics.  She even showed her ankles!
  • She was self-made. This woman came from literally nothing, the poorest of the poor in rural France. She earned her fortune by exercising on her vision and working hard.
  • She was a brilliant marketer. I read about how she crafted, and then sold, her now famous Chanel No. 5 perfume, and it was brilliant. I would even say she was the first viral marketer.
  • Her real name is Gabrielle Chanel, which is just beautiful

What shocked me about Coco Chanel

  • Where she was blessed with vision, intelligence and work-ethic, Coco Chanel lacked personal ethics. If the words of the book are true, she was a manipulative woman who had little concern about sleeping with married men. Well, as a woman who has a husband, reading this made me sick. The book tells the story of Coco’s obsession with composer Igor Stravinsky, and how she manipulated Igor and his family to move into her house as his wife was gravely ill. As Igor’s wife was bed-ridden and thought she was dying, Coco took Igor as her long-time lover. Now, don’t get me wrong, Igor was equally at fault here… but my point is while I was blindly impressed by Coco’s business sense, I was equally disappointed by her morals.

What I learned about myself

  • You know what, this book reminded me that no matter how much I admire someone or how revolutionary I think they are… my respect needs to stem from someone’s character rather than their accomplishments. Case in point: I am was a giant fan of Tiger Woods. That man made me want to watch golf on TV, which really is one of the most boring things ever. I liked his drive, his work-ethic, his intelligence (Stanford!), and his love for his parents. But you know the story, he cheated on his wife. And now I don’t care about Tiger Woods.
  • So, is Coco Chanel my Tiger Woods? Someone I held is high esteem until I read further? Yeah, I think so. It’s also a great reminder that we can admire someone, but we do not actually know these celebrities. They are not our friends, and they should not be our influencers. They are human, faults and all.

At the end of the day, this book was a good reminder that I need to judge and respect people based on their personal character… not their personal accomplishments.

– LTV Mom

Notes:

This book was provided by the publisher, but the words are mine and unedited.

Photo Credit: Amazon


Do One Nice Thing: and not just when it’s convenient

From time to time, the ladies and gents who write for the Silicon Valley Moms Group participate in a virtual book club.  We all read the same book and share our thoughts on our personal blogs.  I have been so overwhelmed with work and life, I skipped the past several books. But this month’s book selection was too intriguing to pass up. We read a book called “Do One Nice Thing” by Debbie Tenzer.

The concept of the book is quite simple: it offers more than a hundred easy ideas to show kindness to other people. The ideas range from donating baseball tickets to the Veterans Administration to smiling at everyone you pass on the sidewalk. Reading the book was a good exercise in self-reflection: Am I a nice person? Do I do nice things? Most importantly, am I teaching my daughter to be a nice person?

I grew up in a household that had one simple rule: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. (And I guarantee unkind words resulted in big trouble, especially if I was talking to my sisters!) More importantly, I grew up in a Midwestern community that was just that… a community. We treated each other with respect, kindness and generosity each and every day. If a neighbor had a baby, the neighborhood would fill her refrigerator with casseroles and lasagnas.  When our roof needed to be re-shingled, my dad’s buddies on the street spent an entire Saturday helping him. When the local downtown flooded after days and days of rainfall, the high school seniors filled and hauled sand-bags to help save the family-owned businesses.

Random acts of kindness, and making time to help others in need, fueled our community. It was who I was raised to be.

Sadly, reading this book made me realize that I have lost some of the kindness and generosity that is so important to me. I am so focused on getting through my days, so set on surviving the rat-race, I have forgotten to take time to care for others. Oh sure, I still make the goulash for the new mommy across the street and I gave my daughter’s stroller to a friend who was strapped for cash. But those things are done when they are convenient for me… not necessarily when they are needed most.

I already have working-mom guilt, always worrying about taking care of my family.  But I have had a wake-up call that I need to look beyond my four walls and care for the people who need it… when they need it.

And not just when it’s convenient for me.

– LTV Mom

If you want to explore other thoughts and opinions on being nice, please follow the dialogue on the New Jersey Moms Blog.

Comfort Food? Pass the Cream of Mushroom Soup!

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

My husband knows when I’ve had a bad day at work.  When he walks in the door to find me watching Cash Cab on television while making tater-tot casserole, he knows to stand back. And to pour a glass of wine.

Whether it’s a bad day at work, a cranky client or a pissed off family member, I can count on comfort food to make me feel better. I just dig through my mom’s recipe box to find some good, old fashioned Midwestern food.  Green bean casserole, hashbrown potato casserole, broccoli casserole, and (my personal favorite) tater tot casserole are bound to make me feel better.

And what is the common ingredient in all these foods?!  You got it, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. I always keep a can of the creamy goodness in my pantry. You can’t make a good casserole without the soup!

I love talking about my personal comfort food, so i jumped at the chance to read and talk about the new book from Kate Jacobs called “Comfort Food.”  The author says this about the book: “Comfort Food is about the power of food to bring people together and the joys of savoring every bite of life.”  How great is that?

This book also gives you a behind-the-scenes look at network cooking shows. If you are a fan of cooking shows, like my personal favorites Top Chef and Chopped, you will enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of a celebrity chef!  (Oh, if I could only have job — and looks — of Padma Lakshmi. I’d be in heaven!)

Food is such a part of my life, and this Iowa transplant always bonds over Midwestern food with other Midwesterners-turned-Californians.  Just this weekend, I met a woman from Ohio and we bonded over fried chicken, mashed potatoes and greens beans with bacon.  Sigh, I get hungry (and happy) just thinking about the food my mom made!

No matter where you grew your roots, there is always a special recipe of comfort food to calm your fears, fill your belly and warm your soul. What is your favorite comfort food?

– LTV Mom

This post was inspired by Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club selection Comfort Food by Kate JacobsUSA Today calls the book, “The kind of book you rush home to finish.”

Much to Your Chagrin: A Memoir of Embarrassment

Much to Your Chagrin by Suzanne Guillette

Much to Your Chagrin by Suzanne Guillette

“People who don’t have embarrassing stories are untrustworthy.  Or at the very least, they aren’t telling the truth.”  These words of wisdom come from author Suzanne Guillette, whose first book “Much to Your Chagrin” takes a fresh look at the moments in life — big and small — that are simply embarrassing but make you who you are!

I’d like to add a third category for people with embarrassing stories: people (like me) who are actually private and only tell their closest friends their most embarrassing tales.  Of course, many embarrassing moments are a direct result of being socially awkward or from over-consumption. Yep, PR speak for too much wine, beer, cosmos, or whatever potion I was enjoying at the time. My loud laugh and inability to keep my opinion to myself have certainly caused more than one embarrassing moment.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Reading this book brought back great memories of my dear friend Kristin, who has been an important part of my life since third grade. Kristin is the Queen of being goofy to the point of wrong.  Nine times out of 10, she will pull a stunt to get a laugh from her friends, and usually ends up with an “OMG moment” that lives in infamy.  Her spirit and energy are contagious, and even her goofs and spoofs are endearing and down-right hilarious.

With that, I am going to present my copy of “Much to Your Chagrin” to Kristin, the woman who could write her own memoir of embarrassment that I would love to read almost as much I loved witnessing.

– LTV Mom

This post was inspired by the Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club selection, Much to Your Chagrin by Suzanne Guillette.  The book is an honest memoir of embarrassing, laugh-out-loud, and oh-no-you-didn’t moments.  The book is available at Amazon,  and Barnes & Noble.

Celebrate National Reading Month and Win a LeapFrog TAG Prize Pack

Leapfrog's 1 Million Reading Hours Pledge

Leapfrog

Even though I blog about mindless television and working too much, I truly love and cherish reading.  I read magazines and newspapers daily, devour books when I can, and read to my four-year-old daughter daily. Equally important, I am the proud sister of a public high-school teacher and her principal husband.  Therefore, I jumped at the chance to work with LeapFrog to promote reading across the country.

The good folks at LeapFrog are working with the National Education Association (NEA) to promote National Reading Month which is held in March. LeapFrog and the NEA created the Leapfrog 1 Million Reading Hours campaign to encourage families to spend more time reading together, with the national goal of reading for 1 million hours this month.  Here’s how you can help us reach our goal.

If your family is like ours, you already spend time reading to your child daily. This month, we want everyone to pledge reading at least 10 minutes every day to help achieve our goal of reaching 1 million reading hours, all to underscore the importance of shared reading time with your family. You can pledge to read to your child for 10, 20 or 30 minutes each day, and you’ll receive a printable certificate, reading calendar and coupons good for discounts on LeapFrog products at your favorite retailer or online at Amazon.

Leapfrog, showing dedication to the cause, is offering one lucky LTV Mom reader a LeapFrog TAG Reading System with 5 amazing TAG books along with an expanded-memory LeapFrog TAG Reading System with 10 books to donate to your local library. My family has a TAG Reading System, and we love it.  It would be an honor to share this gift with you.  Here’s how you can enter:

  • Visit the 1 Million Reading Hours site and pledge to read at least 10 minutes a day to your child.
  • Return to LTV Mom and leave a comment below telling me how much time you pledged to read each day.
  • I will randomly select from everyone who left a comment, and Leapfrog will send one winner the LeapFrog Prize pack, along with the donation for your local library.

If you want to increase your chances to win, you also can enter the following ways:

  • Blog about the LTV Mom giveaway and leave a comment with the link to your post on this site.
  • Follow me on Twitter (@StacyLibby) and leave a comment on LTV Mom with your Twitter handle.
  • Add LTV Mom to your blogroll and leave a comment with the URL of your blog.

Leave a separate comment for each entry and make sure at least one of your entries contains a valid e-mail address so I can find you.  This giveaway will be live until March 31, 2009. I will randomly select the winner from all the comments on April 1.

I admire and respect LeapFrog’s efforts to work with its community to promote reading. And I really can’t believe the generosity toward LTV Mom readers.  Happy reading!

– LTV Mom

Even Moms explore reading with Leapfrog

Leapfrog Tag

While I blog about my obsession with television and random pop culture, I actually am a passionate reader who desperately hopes to share my love for books with my daughter.  (If you doubt me, I just finished 900-page Pillars of the Earth and quickly dived into 1000-page World Without End!)

Humor aside, I take reading seriously and quickly jumped at the chance to join the ladies of the Silicon Valley Moms blog for an afternoon event hosted by the good people at Leapfrog. I have always admired Leapfrog from afar, first as a non-parent and then the parent of an infant.  But now my infant is a toddler, and she is prime for Leapfrog products.  Needless to say, I was an eager participant in this meet-up.

The foundation of the afternoon was a Q&A session with Leapfrog Advisory Board member Dr. Anne Cunningham, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education.  Dr. Cunningham shared her ideas and research on how to help children learn to read… and how they can learn to love reading.  As an avid reader, I desperately want my child to love and appreciate books the way I do.  Thanks to Dr. Cunningham, I realize (or at least appreciate) how reading to a child is much more than a hoping for a lifelong hobby, rather setting the foundation for a life of education and success.  Here are highlights of the conversation with Dr. Cunningham and my blogging mama friends (in my words):

  • Expose your children to “rare, rich and extensive” language from 0-3 years.  The results have a huge effect on your child’s language development and reading skills.
  • Developmental milestones for literacy must be acquired at home or Pre-K to succeed in Kindergarten.
  • This can easily be achieved by talking to your kids and exposing them to multi-syllabic words and complex subjects. Just talk, don’t worry about them “getting” it all… they are absorbing words and concepts which are so important for language development.
  • Read out loud to your kids every day… they learn new words, and equally important, they learn the meaning of language and the structure of language.
  • The key to success is phonics… teaching kids how to sound-out and decode words.
  • Intelligence is not what you’re born with, but what you do with it.
  • Studies show that avid readers can trump people who are considered “smarter.”
  • The goal is a rich vocabulary by 3rd grade; if that does not occur, the delay becomes a bottleneck in 4th or 5th grade academics.
  • Teachers agree that most “overachievers” are the result of parental involvement with school.

Thank you, Dr. Cunningham, for your time and wisdom. I walked away feeling empowered and (quite honestly) more equipped to help my child read.  What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Of course, the huge bonus of a Leapfrog event is receiving Leapfrog gear to try at home. I came home with a Leapfrog Tag reading system for my 4-year-old daughter, and she has not put it down since we opened it.  She works with it (literally) every day, and I highly suggest it for other moms who want to help kids explore reading. 

If you want to learn more about Leapfrog, please explore the Leapfrog Community which can be found HERE. If you need smart holiday presents, go HERE and feel free to use the blogger discount code HY8BHPR at check-out!

– LTV Mom