Last year, The New York Times’ weekly column, Modern Love, featured a piece by Mandy Len Catron and her look into a study by psychologist Arthur Aron that revolved around 36 questions that supposedly, if answered by two people looking into each other’s eyes, would lead to love.
The writer, tried this, and is now married to the person she shared her answers with that night.
Now, I know I’m not doing this correctly, but I always wondered what the questions in the study were and if it would work. I’m super skeptical that these questions would lead me to anything, or anyone special, but hey, let’s see.
So, below are the questions and my answers – unless the question is not applicable to me as I sit here on my couch with my cat Blanche.
Here we go:
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Living or dead? It would have to be the fabulous Jackie Collins. She lived a life of glamour, while capturing my two favorite things: Hollywood and writing. Okay, and scandal, too. And she did it with grace and style.
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Yes. Not in a household name type of way, or in a way that was dangerous, but I have always wanted to be well-known for my craft, whether it’s because I’m a great writer or a cool blogger, a fantastic podcaster (yet to come) and film writer (coming soon), that type of thing. As a creative, I feel like you have to be well-known in some way if you expect to pay bills while doing what you love.
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
I suppose it depends on the type of phone call I’m making. If it was a really professional call, say an interview for an article I’m working on, I would definitely prepare for that call. But if I was calling a friend, no. I am a firm believer in being yourself, no matter what.
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I always say I want to do nothing, or just sleep, but at the end of each day, I like feeling productive. The perfect day would involve all things creative – whether it’s a great meal, perfect drinks, or a great concert. I love expression and I’m energized by talent in many forms.
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Uh, probably today? I always sing to myself or to my cat. I sometimes sing cover songs or make up songs on the fly. I wish my life was a musical.
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Definitely the mind, even though this is something I am always working on. I am much more aware of my age now, at 31, and I know it’s only going to get worse as I get older. My body, well, I’m just hoping that’s something I’m not worried about at 90. I’m not worried about it now, mostly.
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Breath in my lungs. I feel very lucky to have even lived this long and am terrified I’ll die before I’ve accomplished anything I really wanted to. I am fearful of illness or injury, and I’m grateful to be healthy.
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
My father was very tough on me as a child, and although I’m sure it instilled work ethic in me – I wish I had the chance to just be a kid sometimes. And I know if he read this he would disagree completely.
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
What path to take – career-wise.
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
So. Many. Things. Write another book, move to California, travel the world, write a movie, record a podcast. Why not? Fear.
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Moving out of Indiana at 18.
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
My most treasured memory is being on Pensacola beach in a lounge chair at the end of summer. I had my bare toes in the white sand, I was reading a Nicholas Sparks’ book, and I was drinking a beer. Pure heaven.
18. What is your most terrible memory?
Anytime I’ve had to say goodbye to someone good.
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
Yes, I would change my day-to-day life to actually get somewhere, or accomplish one of those dreams I’ve dreamed about for so long.
20. What does friendship mean to you?
Friendship means the world to me. I don’t have much of a family, so my friends are often all I have. There are times I feel like I barely even have friends – and when I do, it’s only a few, who mean everything.
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
Love and affection to me means romantic love and affection, and this hasn’t played a part in my life in a very long time. I worry that it’s been so long, that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I don’t even have a desire anymore to have a partner.
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
Not very. My family isn’t very close, and I’ve always felt some of them were even pretty cruel to one another. I’ve had family members call me fat, try to sue me, and make fun of me for my job. I do not feel my childhood was happier than most people’s.
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
Great. My mom is my best friend. We’ve had down points, but I feel like we’ve resolved it, and talk every day. I really appreciate the relationship we have.
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
Everyday, little moments.
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
Quality time is really important to me.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
Ugh, there are so many. I peed my pants at school in second grade. I also threw up during art class in elementary school. I screwed up during a dance recital and my dad laughed at me. I honestly feel like I did a lot of things kids do, but either got in trouble or was laughed at by my family.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
A few months ago, at work. By myself… hmm… Saturday.
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
Donald Trump becoming president, and mass shootings.
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
I probably owe people some apologies. But I haven’t come to terms with it yet.
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
My framed picture of a dear friend and I. I had a very deep connection with this person and I believe he watches over me by way of the photo.
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
My mom. Because I talk to her every day, and she’s really my only family. She knows pretty much everything about me.
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
…So that’s it. Have you ever asked anyone all of these questions? How did it turn out? Would you ever ask anyone these questions?
Fact: the weekend went by way too fast. I looked around for cars, fell in love with one, but am still tying up a few loose ends on it. Making adult decisions is really exhausting. I also finished reading a book, started another one, did my laundry, hit up a sale at Ulta, and got groceries – I’m making a few delicious meals this week.
But it’s Monday, and that means I spent most of yesterday plopped in front of my TV while eating brisket pho takeout. Whoops!
Last night was episode three of “Divorce” on HBO. The episode opens with Francis interviewing someone for work – he’s older and says he’s switching career paths just to “see what’s out there”. Francis obviously takes this into her own situation and asks him, “What if there’s nothing out there?”
And this is probably why she’s so willing to give her husband another chance, yes?
Robert meets Francis at a counselor’s office, and he’s annoyingly awkward with the secretary. I definitely think this show is going to have to give us reasons to like Robert and Francis, or else we’re not going to pull for them to be happy – whether or not they end up together.
During the counseling session, Robert brings up the affair and makes a big deal about her lover being French, which naturally turns into an argument because the guy isn’t French. Robert wants to know how many times they slept together, which also does not end well.
Meanwhile, it appears Francis went through with her gallery space, so she’s got that going for her. Robert has taken to pretty much living within one room in the house, and leaves his dirty dishes outside the door for Francis to pickup.
Back at counseling, Robert talks about a pretty deep friendship he had with someone of the opposite sex. He admits they did have feelings for each other, but he still remained faithful in the marriage. They start talking about the difference (if any) between a physical affair, or an emotional affair.
This is another conversation that does not end well.
Robert heads to the hospital to visit his friend, Nick, who’s been in a coma. He’s telling him all about the counseling, and miraculously, Nick wakes from the coma to tell Robert to “shut the fuck up”.
Once again at counseling, Francis tells Robert about the art gallery space. He doesn’t agree that’s how she should be spending her time, and Francis says counseling is obviously a waste of their time. So, they leave.
He tells her he’s going to stay somewhere else, and they have a somber goodbye. We’ll see how this goes… next week!
…And then there was also a new episode of “Insecure”. I am seriously LOVING this show.
Issa is back home with her boyfriend, and it’s awkward AF. However, he’s trying to prove himself and is out looking for jobs.
After her presentation flub in last week’s episode, she is still having some issues at her job. But, she’s determined to prove her coworkers wrong and make her next project awesome. Her project, “Beach Day”, turns out to be rocky at first, but the kids end up loving it, and her coworkers take notice – we even get to see another one of Issa’s raps. It’s pretty amazing.
Her boyfriend keeps going on interviews, but takes the advice of his recruiter and gets a small job to start getting paychecks aside from unemployment ones. So, he gets a job at Best Buy and cooks Issa dinner. She tells him she’s proud of him, and things seem to be looking up.
Meanwhile, Molly (Issa’s friend), goes on a few dates with another guy she met online. She seems to really like him, until he tells her friends that he actually did not go to college, and he has no regrets about it. This really bothers Molly, and she tells him she’s “not looking for a relationship right now”. Hmm!
Oh my God… was this week the longest week for anyone else besides me? I felt like every morning I woke up I said, “Ugh, it’s only Tuesday?” or “Ugh, it’s only Wednesday?”, and so forth. But alas, Friday is here, and I’m trying to psych myself up to spend my Saturday looking for and probably buying a car – you can get the entire scoop by reading the Great Jeep Debacle of 2016. I’ll let you know how this turns out…
In the meantime though, let’s talk about the lastest read for Blanche’s Book Club: “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven, because I’ve got lots to say about it.
For starters, I heard about this book on one of the podcasts I listen to regularly, “What Should I Read Next?” When the host of the podcast proposed someone read this book, she didn’t give much details, and she said when she read it, she didn’t even read the description – she just opened up the book and started reading it. That was her recommendation on how to read it, as well. So, that’s what I did. Now, I’ll go ahead and paste the description here, but if you don’t want to read it, skip down! Here it is:
* * *
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might kill himself, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground— it’s unclear who saves whom. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. . . .
* * *
Now, I obviously do NOT want to give anything away here, so I’ll end the direct conversation about this book by saying that yes, it was very good. It was well-written, it was detailed and visual, it was sweet and made me miss dating in high school, and I enjoyed reading it. Would I recommend it? Yes.
But… I noticed a lot of similarities between this book and those of John Green’s books.
And it’s not like, oh they have similar writing styles, it was so much so that it sort of made me uncomfortable. Here’s what I noticed, aside from the fact that it was a YA novel regarding two teenagers in love:
- Setting: Indiana (An Abundance of Katherines, The Fault in Our Stars)
- Details: Finding one person/adventures by way of a paper map (Paper Towns)
- More details: Series of sticky notes as clues (Paper Towns)
- Setting: Therapy group (The Fault in Our Stars)
- Even more details: Naming a car something humorous (An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns)
- Random: References to stars, life and death (The Fault in Our Stars)
So, my first question was… when was this book written, in comparison to John Green’s books? So I did some research, and found that The New York Times made a brief comparison:
Still, it seems inevitable that “All the Bright Places” will be compared to Rainbow Rowell’s “Eleanor & Park” and John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” and deservedly so, at least in the case of its central characters.
Then, I saw a reader review on Barnes & Noble’s website, which compared the book to “Looking for Alaska”, also written by John Green:
Definitely one of the more intense YA books I’ve ever written. If you enjoyed Eleanor and Park or Looking For Alaska, you will enjoy this book, although it stands on its own and is only really comparable in its intensity.
I also found a GoodReads thread in which the participants were wondering if they should even read it, given its close comparison to “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in Our Stars” – I don’t want to give it away, but if you’re interested you can read the entire thread here.
And finally, I found a list created by Bustle, that recommends books to read if you like John Green – and “All the Bright Places” is definitely on it.
However, there didn’t appear to be anyone out there thinking Niven basically took Green’s Intellectual Property, which is what I feel like. I mean, maybe all YA novels are just similar to each other and I happened to read Green’s first… but, I’m going to need further proof that Niven is original. Just saying!
The next book the BBC will be reading is “Modern Romance” by Aziz Ansari! So excited for this one! You should read it with us, and by us, I mean me and my cat Blanche. Discuss it with us via the comments on this blog, or by social media @OrangeJulius7.
Have a fantastic weekend everyone!
Today concludes the 23rd annual Austin Film Festival – an event I honestly never pictured myself being a part of, but this year, I was! Let me explain.
I know I’ve mentioned that I have had a recent interest (turned to minor obsession) in screenwriting, and back in May of this year, one of the many screenwriting podcasts I listen to suggested to get involved in your local film community, especially if there was a film festival.
Well, hello Google, and voila – turns out the Austin Film Festival is one of the biggest, most anticipated film fests of the year. Whoa. So, I signed up to volunteer. If you volunteered for 10 hours, you earned yourself a pass to see any and all of the films at the fest for free. Work more hours and you could get into panels, contests, parties, and roundtables.
But honestly? I just wanted to see what this world was all about.
In August, I heard from the volunteer coordinator and things got started. Immediately, we were invited to free movies and events to created to help us meet each other and be a part of the event. It was really exciting right from the start.
In late August, I attended an orientation session where I learned that not only were we going to be volunteering with one of the biggest film festivals, but it was also a massive writers conference. Wow! Without knowing it, I’d signed up for something that was going to benefit me in so many ways – ways I couldn’t have even imagined.
At the orientation, we were also informed of the areas in which we could help. There were tons of jobs to do – in fact, much of the work of the festival is completed by its volunteers. I knew immediately that I wanted to work on areas of the writers conference, but I’d have to sign up for the shifts first.
And I did. I signed up to help with two very special events: the pitch competition, where participants are given 90 seconds to pitch their feature film or tv series, to a panel of judges, in attempts to win a badge to next year’s conference; and then the script library, as a part of the screenplay competition.
I also signed up to help with some of the pre-festival activities, such as stuffing swag bags, and filing registration forms.
Naturally, the pre-fest stuff wasn’t glamorous, but it did a lot of good for me a few weekends ago: for starters, it got me out of the house. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a bad habit of staying indoors all weekend catching up on sleep or reading or TV.
So, the volunteering got me out of the house, and it also got me downtown (I live in North Austin), and I got to meet cool people, all while stuffing 3500 giveaway bags for a massive festival. Not too shabby!
Last Saturday, I signed up for a 9-hour shift (I was feeling really eager), and it was going to be 9 hours of the pitch contest. The coordinator for this event was really nice, and she let me be the timer – meaning I had to time each pitch and raise my hand at the 90-second mark for the pitcher to quickly wrap up.
I knew the pitch competition was going to be fun and cool – hearing everyone’s ideas for TV and movies. However, what I didn’t expect was the other half of this event: getting to hear the feedback from respected professionals in the industry.
I kid you not, these panels were LOADED with talent. There was a writer from “Thor” and “X-Men”, a writer from MTV’s “Awkward” and “The Fosters”, a writer from “Justified, writer from “Adventures in Babysitting”, writer from “The House on the Left”, a producer from “Lost” and “Castle”, and so many more. Y’all… my jaw was on the floor for pretty much the entire 8 hours.
There were so many cool aspects of this competition: 1. All of the amazing, diverse ideas that were pitched, 2. How kind and supportive everyone was to each other, and 3. The positive and constructive feedback the judges gave to the contestants.
At the end of my 9-hour shift, yes, I was exhausted, but I was also so inspired. I am just now dabbling into screenwriting – researching it and finding out how to even construct a script – and it was so, so cool to see people (both amateurs and professionals) come together on a mission to improve their craft.
On Sunday, my shift was in the script library – a room within the Intercontinental hotel that houses all of the semi-finalists and finals in the screenplay competition. There are scripts for feature films, tv series, and hour-long dramas, and there are all sorts of genres. The screenplays are all neatly printed and bound and laid on a table in alphabetical order, meant for anyone attending the conference to come in and look at and/or read any of the scripts.
Uh, yes! My shift was about five hours, and I read several scripts during my time there. I read a paranormal crime thriller, a romcom with a devilish twitst, and a spec for “Broad City”, among many others.
Many of the writers of the scripts even stopped in to see their own scripts, take photos, and read others in the room. It was a really neat experience, to say the least.
Coincidentally, my weekend ended at The Ritz in downtown Austin, seeing a viewing of “E.T.” in the theatre.
I had a new perspective on it, watching it as an adult, and as a person who just got a crash course in script-writing, and a new outlook on the craft of writing.
As a child watching it, of course, there were parts that really scared me. As an adult, though, I could relate to Elliot (pretty much the cutest kid ever) on so many levels – on going through a parent’s divorce and remarriage; on not fitting in at school or with family; and doing what we do when we need to connect – finding it anywhere, whether it’s via a stuffed animal, an imaginary friend, a long-haired sassy cat, or a wrinkley extra terrestrial.
It was perfection – the movie – and the weekend.
A few weeks ago, “CBS News Sunday Morning” aired a feature on Wendy Williams. Yes, I know, Wendy Williams probably isn’t the person you think of when I mentioned daytime television. It is my impression that to Hollywood, and perhaps the general public, Ms. Williams is to the TV world what tabloids are to news and journalism – insulting.
But, in true “CBS News”-fashion, the feature opened my eyes to a different side of Williams. I’m sure most people, or at least fans of Williams, are aware of her past as a radio personality – I was not.
She got started in radio in college, and quickly made a name for herself as she did not hold back, and actually was one of the first people to make claims regarding Whitney Houston’s drug abuse, even asking her on air about it. Over the years, she gained a listenership of 12 million. Wow!
“The Wendy Williams Show” aired in 2008, and was supposed to be a simple, trial run. And here we are in 2016, with her show still running, and very successful. However, the CBS news program failed to touch on her controversial comments regarding historically black colleges and the NAACP; for which three producers were fired, along with a dropped sponsorships.
Either way, I always appreciate hearing someone’s backstory – especially if it shines a little light on why things are the way they are. Perhaps I’ll have to DVR some episodes of “The Wendy Williams Show” and see more for myself.
Also two weeks ago, Dr. Phil hosted Lynn Hartman on his show – she is engaged to “Making a Murderer” star Steven Avery. Umm what? When I heard this, I set my DVR immediately.
Over a span of two episodes, Dr. Phil interviewed Hartman and her daughter, and even talked to Avery from prison, via a telephone intervew. Ms. Hartman, recently divorced, told the story of how she watched the Netflix documentary starting Avery – like many of us did, but felt a connection with Avery.
She felt compelled to write him a letter, enclosed with a photo of herself, and two weeks later he’d written her back. They corresponded via handwritten letters and phone calls for eight months before they were engaged, and she eventually got to meet him in-person at the prison.
I’ll admit, the entire thing was a little creepy, and it made me feel sorry for Lynn. It’s obvious she was looking for love, and possibly in all the wrong places. Of course, it was still an interesting story to hear.
Just a day after these episodes aired, a story came out reporting that Lynn and Steven broke up. Here’s the scoop from ibtimes:
According to E! News, Avery called off his engagement to the Las Vegas legal secretary because he believes she’s a gold digger and was just trying to use him for fame and money. The outlet reported that news the pair had split was announced in a Facebook post by Avery’s former fiancée and friend Sandra Greeman.
“I have a statement that I need passed around to groups,” she wrote. “Steve called me two times tonight and wants everyone to know that Lynn and him are done. She has been in this relationship for money and publicity. His eyes are finally opened.” Greeman said in her post that Lynn received at least $5,000 from Dr. Phil for an appearance and another $1,000 for doing other TV appearances. Avery and Hartman are scheduled to talk about their whirlwind romance Monday and Tuesday on “Dr. Phil.”
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out – they brought up the gold digger accusations on the show, but she denied them, and that seemed to be the end of it. Even the phone call with Steven seemed genuine, and he didn’t say anything to allude that he was not into the relationship.
Are there any daytime TV shows that you record on a regular basis? I’d love to hear them – you know I’m a TV junkie!
I know I’ve mentioned my dabbling in essential oils over the last few years. A dear friend gave me a starter kit and a diffuser for Christmas in 2014 and I’ve been hooked ever since. Aside from smelling great, essential oils have proven to be fantastic for my health.
I’ve used various oils and blends to help me sleep, aid allergy symptoms, and assist with immunity, and I’ve really enjoyed searching for new oils to aid in additional problems, and in general, improve my quality of life. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say the oils will work for everyone, but it’s worth speaking to a health professional you trust to see if they could work for you!
So far, I have developed a small group of oils I always keep on hand, and they are: peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus. There are a few blends I enjoy, but they usually revolve around relaxation and sleep, or easier breathing. I know many people who use essential oils for just about everything – and I’m envious of this! I’ll get there one day.
Today, I just wanted to focus on essential oils that will come in handy during the fall season, and in particular, the oils that help us when we’re feeling a little under the weather. The top three oils for that are:
- Peppermint: Relieves headaches caused by congestion
- Eucalyptus: Decongestant; soothes respiratory problems
- Oregano: Proven antibacterial; fights sinus infections
I’ll be honest, my first experience with peppermint oil came at the end of a hot yoga class. During the relaxation portion, the instructor quietly came around and placed cold washcloths on our foreheads that had drops of peppermint oil on them and it was FABULOUS. So refreshing!
A small bottle of peppermint came in my gifted starter kit, and I used it when I was feeling congested, and I would dabble some on my chest pre-workout for a whiff of energy (swear, it works). Before I got hooked on eucalyptus for allergies, I often slept with my diffuser loaded with peppermint and it would clear my sinuses while I slept.
One important consideration with oils is the application – I find it’s a personal preference. When I was feeling under the weather around the holidays, I put a single drop of peppermint into my coffee for a festive, yet sinus-clearing, sip. Sometimes, I put the peppermint oil on the back of my neck, or on my chest. Of course, I use my diffuser nearly every night.
You can also use pill capsules and take the oils orally, in water or tea, or create a compress with a wet washcloth. You can also take your oiled compress and place it on the floor of your tub during a hot shower. Fantastic!
I purchased Eucalyptus oil about six months ago because of its healing properties. It has a minty scent, but it’s not as strong as peppermint. I usually use it in my diffuser or on the back of my neck when I really feel terrible. I keep this one in my work bag because it’s good if allergy symptoms or illness creeps up in the afternoon.
And then there’s oregano, which may sound a little funny, but it’s a good one to keep on hand for an antibacterial aid and to help with sinus infections.
The final thing I was to mention is HOW to buy essential oils. Because they are so popular right now, it seems like companies are coming out of nowhere to say they’ve got essential oils. However, there’s not a lot of regulation in this industry, so it’s difficult to know if what you’re getting is pure.
I get my oils from Melaleuca, which are steam distilled, depending on the plant itself. You can find out more information on Melaleuca’s extraction process here. When you’re purchasing oils, look for companies that post how they extract the oil. The oil should also not be labeled as “perfume oil” or “aromatherapy oil”, or anything of the sort. The oils should be packaged in dark glass bottles, and should not contain a rubber cap. Finally, the oils should be priced according to their oil. Rare oils, or oils that are more difficult to extract, should cost more than those that are readily available.
…So, that’s the scoop on just a few essential oils! I’m sure I’ll come back with more information as I continue trying to new oils and blends. If you’re already well into oils, I’d love to know which ones you love!
Is anyone watching HBO on Sunday nights? Because it’s pretty much the best way to beat the Sunday blues – aside from straight up calling in sick on Monday, of course. Honestly, I had a fantastic weekend, but more on that another day, because I want to recap last night’s episode of “Divorce” and “Insecure”.
First up, “Divorce”.
After last week’s interesting pilot, this week’s episode starts of with Francis locked outside of her own home. Her daughter lets her in and she tries speaking with Robert, but he will only talk to her thru a door – with her on the front porch and him inside the house. Did I mention, there’s snow outside?
She apologizes for her affair, and insists she wants to fix things in their marriage. But her husband isn’t having it, and instead of letting her back inside, he puts a suitcase of her belongings outside. She asks her neighbor if she can use their phone, and they actually have a landline – seriously?!
Meanwhile, Francis’ real estate agent shows her a space for a gallery. Although it hasn’t been revealed what Francis does for work, it’s obvious this gallery would be a stray from that. She’s not sure it’s the right time to make a big purchase, for obvious reasons.
While visiting Nick (her best friend’s husband) at the hospital, Robert arrives and tells the group of ladies, along with Nick who is asleep, that he’s offended that everyone knew Francis was sleeping with Julien. The ladies try to explain they didn’t know details, but the scene is already quite chaotic.
Francis seems to be pretty concerned about what her children will hear from Robert, and what they will think – and it seems he’s already on the path to “make them hate” her, as he promised in the first episode.
At the end of the episode, Robert is searching Julien’s name online – and although it seems simple, the look on his face when he sees Julien’s picture is really sad.
Is anyone else watching this show? I know it got rough reviews after the pilot episode, but I’m enjoying it! I’m invested enough that I want to know if they can really make it work or if they will go their separate ways.
“Insecure” premiered last Sunday, and I have every intention of watching it and reporting on it THEN, but I totally got caught up in the debate aftermath, and still had to watch “Divorce” and “Chesapeake Shores”, AND write about it! So, I saved it until this weekend, and was able to watch last week’s and this week’s episode.
This show was highly anticipated, and snagged the Sunday slot right behind “Divorce”, though it has an incredibly different tone. “Insecure” was co-created and produced by its star, Issa Rae, and is the story of Issa (yes, herself), as she is in her late twenties, and struggling to fit in among her peers.
She’s in a committed, 5-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend, and is unsure of where the relationship is headed. She’s got similar questions about her career. Girl, story of my life (minus the boyfriend, of course)!
There are two things I love about this show so far: the importance of words, and the kick ass music.
Issa, who has a circle of black friends and family, places emphasis on her verbiage depending on who she’s catering to at the moment. With her coworkers being primarily white, she stays “aggressively passive” when it comes to street lingo, and performing as the “token black person” at her job.
And the music? It’s west coast hip-hop, and there’s lots of it. Even Issa does some rapping of her own that’s not too shabby.
In episode two, Issa has mended things with her best friend, and she apologizes again for her stint at the open mic night. Issa swears nothing happened with her old high school fling, and she is still unsure what the future holds for her and her boyfriend.
At the nail salon, Issa expresses interest in seeking other options – perhaps a dating app? Her friend shows her Tinder, Hinge, The League… but she says no matter what the app, all the guys want is sex (telllll meeee about it).
Issa relunctantly heads home to “deal with” her relationship… cut to Lawrence (her boyfriend) at the Rite Aid buying birthday supplies… and he sees Issa in the aisle. This does not end well, and she stays at her friend’s house another night.
At work, there’s a pep in Issa’s step as she’s wearing a spiffy suit borrowed from her friend. I don’t want to give it away entirely, but there is a scene with her coworker that’s very much worth watching…seriously. But a presentation she’s been preparing for, pretty much goes to shit at the hands of her office, and you can tell she feels low afterward.
Her friend heads out on a date with a guy she found on a dating app, and although things seem to go well at first, he turns out to be just like every other guy she’s met. Issa finally heads home to Lawrence, and when the episode comes to a close, it seems like things may be on the mend.
Whew! Another crazy week is in the books, y’all – and I’m exhausted! I’ve got a semi-busy weekend ahead at the Austin Film Festival, but am looking forward to some quality time on the couch and perhaps a movie. I have a decent stack of books I’ve been wanting to read, so maybe I can make a dent there.
But first, the Book Club’s latest read! It’s “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler, which I heard about on a podcast. It sounded like the book about restaurant life I’ve always wanted – the gritty truth about that lifestyle, while featuring the beautiful side of it: learning about the finer foods and wine. Here is the book’s description from Amazon.com:
Twenty-two, and knowing no one, Tess leaves home to begin her adult life in New York City. Thus begins a year that is both enchanting and punishing, in a low-level job at “the best restaurant in New York City.” Grueling hours and a steep culinary learning curve awaken her to the beauty of oysters, the finest Champagnes, the appellations of Burgundy. At the same time, she opens herself to friendships—and love—set against the backdrop of dive bars and late nights. As her appetites sharpen—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess is drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle that will prove to be her most exhilarating and painful lesson of all.
Stephanie Danler deftly conjures the nonstop and purely adrenalized world of the restaurant—conversations interrupted, phrases overheard, and suggestions below the surface. Evoking the infinite possibility of being young in New York with heart-stopping accuracy, Sweetbitter is ultimately about the power of what remains after disillusionment, and the wisdom that comes from experience, sweet and bitter.
So… as you can see from the description, this book was not what I’d originally planned. It was more about her relationships and sexcapades than it was about food, wine, and life as a waitress in New York City.
I’ll be honest here, this book hit a little too close to home. And because of that, it was difficult for me to get through. I’ve worked as a waitress, and in different forms of food service, and I’ve also worked as a bartender.
This book brought me right back to that world, which can be very dark at times. It’s an industry all its own, and there’s the people you work with who are right in that same world, and there’s the people you meet at the bar/restaurant.
There’s often drugs, heavy drinking, late nights, and early afternoons; there’s shift drinks, and meals from the chef and tip share and shift work. I had some great times in the industry, but I can’t say I would ever go back. So, I’m proud of myself for finishing this one.
It was well-written, there’s no doubt about that, it just wasn’t surrounded with food like I’d hoped – I was looking for another round of “No Reservations”-style writing. But, if the restaurant world, and the relationships that come with it interest you – this is your book!
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “All The Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven. Want to read it with us? Simply message me via social media @OrangeJulius7, comment here on the blog, or shoot me an email at Holly@thebitterlemon.com and let’s chat it up! I love talking books.
In other news, is anyone watching the latest season of “Real World”? I know, I’m like, way too old for this, but I couldn’t help myself. It started Wednesday night and… it. is. so. good. Juicy! I’m telling you, DVR it, save it for the winter months, and when you’re snowed in, turn that shit on. Good stuff.
Okay – have a fantastic weekend everyone! I’ve got another batch of fun stuff lined up for next week, so I’ll see you right back here on Monday!
I was sporting my #CatLady trucker hat (for sale in the merch store) last month, and a guy asked me if I really was a “cat lady”. Yes, I said. “Well, how many cats do you have?” he asked, half disgusted, half intrigued. “Just one,” I said. “It’s a lifestyle.”
It was then I realized that I’ve never really explained my personal campaign to celebrate cat ladies, everywhere. Let me spill my story.
Let’s start with where this all came from. So, here’s the Wikipedia definition of a cat lady:
A cat lady is a single woman who dotes upon her pet cat or cats. The term is usually considered pejorative, though it is sometimes embraced. A cat lady may also be an animal hoarder who keeps large numbers of cats without having the ability to properly house or care for them. They may be ignorant about their situation.
So, there’s that. In general, to call someone a “cat lady” is an insult. Why? Well, way, way back – there were Egyptian goddesses who had cats, and even religious symbols who had cats, but eventually cats came to be synonymous will the devil. So…yeah.
And then came the movie “Clockwork Orange”… *rolls eyes* – the movie that all pretentious English majors obsess over. This is when the more modern-day crazy cat lady appeared in pop culture. And then, Eleanor Abernathy was born as a character on “The Simpsons” – and she is a true cat hoarder.
When you think about it, the cat lady stereotype goes beyond just a single woman with a lot of cats. She’s often insane, out-of-sorts, and generally dirty. She’s cranky, and no one wants to be around her. How terrible, right?
And so, I’ve embraced this stereotype in the opposite way via my merchandise, and the use of #CatLady. Being a #CatLady has nothing to do with the number of animals you own, or cats, at all. It’s about celebrating who you are and not being ashamed of any aspect of your being.
A true #CatLady is confident in herself, in her life, and she’s more interested in doing what she wants than worrying about what others think, or following societal norms. Maybe she is married, maybe not. Maybe she has kids, maybe not. A #CatLady has no age, no holds, and basically gives zero fucks. #CatLady – celebrate it!
Because when you think about it, this whole “Crazy cat lady” stereotype is just another way to degrade single women. It’s an easy way to dismiss emotions, a simple way to label someone we don’t know, and a socially acceptable way to insult someone that isn’t “typical” in terms of American culture.
And I’m over it. There’s no male equivalent, because single males are accepted and rewarded in our culture. As women, there’s so much expected of us, and at times, we give so much just to be treated equal from others, and we still aren’t satisfied.
So, I’m sticking with my #CatLady ways – yes, I do have a cat, and yes I am single, and I live alone. Am I crazy? No. Am I a spinster? No. Do people piss me off? Sometimes. But I have a successful career, great friends, know how to laugh, and I’ve got a few kitchen skills up my apron. So, yeah, I’m a #CatLady – for life.
I’ve been searching for the perfect pair of destroyed denim for MONTHS. Let’s face facts – 90’s fashion is back in the form of loose, flannel shirts; graphic tees, and destroyed denim so ripped, it puts Abercrombie to shame. And I LOVE it.
But, when I started shopping around for said denim, I found that the prices were way out of my budget, and downright ridiculous. I don’t want to pay $80 for pristine denim, let alone a pair that looks like it’s been hit by a truck. Some of the pairs I came across were even more than $100, and one pair was $1,000! Shew!
I knew there had to be a way around it, and I was excited to see that one of my favorite fashion bloggers whom I follow on SnapChat and Instagram was offering her tips on DIY destroyed denim. Her name is Kathleen, and her blog is “Carrie Bradshaw Lied”. She collaborated with The Every Girl to offer her distressed denim tips.
For her project, Kathleen bought a pair of men’s denim from Forever 21 – as she was going for a baggy look. Me, however, I do lots of my shopping at Goodwill, and after a few weeks of hunting, I bought two pair of jeans to destroy. I bought one super skinny pair of light, stretch denim for $4, and a pair of darker, more straight-leg jeans for $7.
For step one, Kathleen says to put the jeans on and mark where you want distressed areas, using a marker. So, I tried on my jeans and got in front of a mirror to make my marks. I also took a look at some of the pictures I’d saved over the months for inspiration – I have loads of pics and clips for fashion ideas and I use them for help in times like these!
After marking, it’s time to start destroying (after you take the jeans off)! Kathleen suggests using scissors, sandpaper, and tweezers to get the job done. So, I gathered up those supplies and got started on the skinny stretch denim first. I started with the sandpaper – I had a variety pack I’d gotten at the Dollar Tree awhile back and tried various pieces on the jeans.
It does give the jeans a faded look, but you’ve really got to work at it. I wanted mine to be pretty faded and ripped, so I searched my apartment for additional tools. I ended up finding: a beer bottle cap, a wine opener, a serrated bread knife, and a bristly sponge.
It’s about this time I should suggest putting on a good movie or TV series, because this process takes HOURS. Who knew denim was so, so sturdy? After getting some good faded spots, I made slits using scissors and the wine opener. Of course, you don’t have to cut actual holes if that’s not the look you’re going for.
You can use the tweezers to pull out the denim threads (that run vertical) and that will reveal only the white, horizontal threads if you’re going for that look – which I love. However, this does take time.
I made some sections using the tweezers, and also used the wine opener to rip small holes and pull white threads through. You could also splatter white (or any color) paint on the jeans for added flair.
While it seems like a long process, I enjoyed a “craft” project that forced me to sit on my couch and watch some TV on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve worked on my jeans a little each night, and found it’s a nice way to wind down. And, at the end of the project we’re all going to have completely custom, destroyed denim that didn’t break the bank. I consider that a major win!
I read “The Girl on the Train” a few months ago, and I just loved it (read my full review here) – and I was counting down the days until the movie adaptation made its way to theaters. But, I’ll also admit I was a little bit scared. It’s no secret that this story is jarring, and violent. Luckily, I had someone to see it with me.
We went to the Alamo Drafthouse, which is where I’ve seen every single movie since moving to Austin. Not familiar with the Drafthouse? It’s your typical movie theater, but it has comfy chairs and tables… and waiters, because there is a full menu and adult beverages. It’s pretty fantastic and I don’t know why anyone would see a movie any other way.
I did have a beer and a burger with this movie – and it helped to ease my nerves a little. So, the premise of the movie is this: (don’t worry, I will alert you before mentioning any spoilers) Rachel, the girl on the train, watches a couple from her train seat. She starts to idolize this couple, as they appear to have a beautiful life and be deeply in love.
Her obsession with the couple and their home derives from the fact that she used to live just a few doors down from them; with her now-ex-husband. He still lives there with his new wife and their baby.
It should also be known that Rachel is an alcoholic, and sometimes it seems as though her drinking is what has built a seemingly low life around her: no friends, no real home, no job, and no real purpose. That is, until, she sees something happen with her ideal couple, all the way from her seat on the train.
Then, she starts a small investigation inside herself as to what could have happened to the couple, and why? But before she can get very far, she’s approached by police and investigators, and they need her alibi, because something really wrong has happened. The problem? Rachel’s drinking has gotten in the way of her memory, and now she’s in deep – but she’s about to get herself in even deeper.
So, okay, I’d already read this book, so I pretty much knew what to expect when going to see the movie. And I’ll say, the movie really brought the book to life – although there were some parts that were definitely more sensationalized, for film’s sake.
However, there were a few themes in the movie that seemed obvious, but I didn’t notice them while reading the book. I don’t know if I just didn’t notice them in the book, or if they weren’t there, and were added into the film. These themes are:
Yes, obviously Rachel is an alcoholic, so there is lots of drinking throughout the movie. However, there’s also things outside of the drinking: such as, what people around her think of her drinking – from strangers on the bus and people in the park. Her ex husband also tells her that her drinking is what got him fired from his job – which turns out not to be true. Alcohol is also used as a truth serum, as Rachel is offered it many times in order to tell stories or act a certain way.
The memory is an interesting thing; and sometimes our mind does us favors by altering the way we remember things – which is huge in the movie. In Rachel’s case, she often relies on others to tell her what happened, because she was usually to drunk to recall. However, what if they’re not telling the truth? Then her memory has to make itself up – and she’s technically remembering things that didn’t happen. This really hit home for me. I’ve definitely had my ways with alcohol, and have had many nights where I need to stitch things together in order to remember them. I’ve also been “that girl”, drunk in public, and unaware of my surroundings. Seeing these parts of the movie was jarring to me.
- Guilt, Blame, and Manipulation
Whew! This one is a difficult one for me. But all of the women featured in this story are in manipulative relationships – and I’d say the saddest part is, many of these seem like typical relationships. There is a lot of blame – blame on Rachel that she couldn’t have children; blame on her for her addiction; blame on the wife because she was too tired to have sex; guilt for the story line with the baby… and a lot of this hit very close to home for me. I’ve been in too many relationships like this, and it’s so damaging. It was very difficult to watch.
- Women as Meaningless Objects
Another difficult topic here, but I noticed sex was a bigger theme in the movie than what I noticed in the book. And a lot of the sex was just physical – in fact, taking a women into the woods to have sex is so demeaning to me. That’s where people burn trash. And by the things said during those scenes, I’d venture to say the man didn’t give any shit about the woman involved. There was a lot of this attitude that women are basically expected to be sex servants, and that was very difficult to see. And frankly, a lot of what I saw were things women have to constantly worry about, but men do not: walking alone, riding public transportation, being out after dark, being drunk in public, having non-consensual sex, being pregnant, having an abortion, raising children… the list goes on.
None of this is meant to bash the movie, as I thought it was a really great adaptation of the book. However, it was difficult to watch; perhaps my mind was able to only focus on certain things when I was reading it. I drove home from the theatre a little unnerved, and was happy once I got home safe. It’s not a movie I would ever watch again; as it hit me to the core. But, would I recommend seeing it? Absolutely.
Sunday night, I went right back to the Drafthouse to watch the second presidential debate! Before the first one, I saw that the Drafthouse, along with many other restaurants and bars were showing the debates and I thought that sounded like a lot of fun. After all, a presidential election only comes around every four years, and this is one for the books.
And what better place to watch this spectacle than in a movie theatre with beer and burgers? However, my nights during the week are pretty busy with dance classes and my blog class. But a Sunday night, I can handle.
I was happy to see that upon arrival, there were booths set up to help people register to vote, since the deadline is TODAY! I thought this was so neat! Once I got into the theatre, there were little American flags at each seat, and they were playing the “pre-debate coverage”. An employee came out to explain the rules – clapping and cheering were allowed, but no negative comments or shouting, and yes, we could use social media!
All-in-all the experience was fun. I got to eat a giant pretzel (with queso) and hard cider with about 100 strangers and watch this crazy spectacle of a race. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh. My blog class falls during the next debate, so I’ll have to DVR it – if it even happens, right?
I can’t believe it’s already the season finale of “Chesapeake Shores”! After last week’s episode (starring Abby and Trace’s hot little date), I was curious to see how things were going to wrap up.
And the episode started right off with a kiss between the two of them – yeeee!
Abby’s dad made his flight safely, and he’s arrived on site of a project – I’m guessing the project he was upset about over the phone. And his in-person visit isn’t much different; it’s still unclear what’s happening here but it’s something shady and we only have 50 minutes to clear it up!
At Sally’s, Jess is talking about food with her new guy… and she orders a “breakup” – no, really. Then, she cancels the order… no, really. She explains everything to him, about her sister, and then she tells him he may have an opportunity to cook for her at the B&B… and even though she can’t afford to pay him, he’s oddly thrilled by this offer. What?
Abby’s dad, Mick, is confronting his partner – seems he’s (the partner) is backing out on funding due to too many variables; though still not many details here.
Meanwhile, people are STEALING books from the lending library. Oh, Chesapeake Shores and its crime-ridden streets…
Later, Abby gets a text from Wes and it shows her phone screen and she has the font set at, like, 72. Is she blind? It looked crazy. Anyway, she meets him and they go for a walk. He oddly backs down and says Abby and the girls SHOULD live in Chesapeake Shores and that he’s telling the court to go back to the old custody arrangement.
Kevin is still rehabbing, but he’s totally insane on the physical therapy: like doing push-ups when no one is looking kind of thing. Then, he tells Conner he doesn’t think he can get married. Duh!
Abby runs over to Trace’s building to tell him about her custody success, and mid-hug, Lee pops in, and Abby is a lit-tle pissed. Trace assures her that Lee arrived without warning and is excited to work on the album.
While the cook is prepping things in the kitchen, a man comes in looking for Brie – I’m guessing it’s her ex. And I’ll say, cook (can’t remember his name) seems a little jealous. And yes, it is indeed, Brie’s ex-boyfriend, who cheated on her. And it’s really obvious that Brie is not excited to see him.
Guess who else is staying at the B&B? Lee! Wow, this just got awkward…
There’s a BBQ at the B&B, and everyone’s exes have gathered. Then, Trace gets a call – something about needing an ambulance, and he speeds off in his truck. And he speeds right by a State Trooper, who goes after him. After showing his license and registration, Trace is arrested on an outstanding warrant.
Back at the party, Brie finds out she was accepted as the in-resident screenwriter, while Abby just now discovered that Trace is nowhere to be found.
So, then, Abby’s dad gives a beautiful toast to the campfire crowd, and the episode is over. I’m not kidding!! So Trace is in freaking jail while his dad is in the hospital… now I’m wondering if this wasn’t supposed to be the finale, and they just cut the season. Hmm…
One thing I kept thinking about as I watched this last episode was, will there be a season two? Unfortunately, a little bit of Google research didn’t provide me with any clear answers – I did find an article that says it hasn’t been renewed yet, but that article was from April, so who knows. I hope so!
You may remember HBO’s “Divorce” as one of the shows I listed on my Fall TV Guide – and I have been counting down the days ever since! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t wowed by the season preview, I think I was mostly excited about Sarah Jessica Parker’s return to HBO.
The 30-minute pilot starts off with Parker’s character getting ready in the bathroom, and her husband is upset because of the time spent in the bathroom between his wife and his daughter, and claims he actually had to take a shit in a coffee can in the garage.
Later, at a party, we meet Molly Shannon’s character – Diane, which is pretty much the same character she’s played in everything. The party is for Diane’s birthday, and her husband gives an oddly rude toast, saying how old she looks.
Parker’s character’s husband (they haven’t mentioned his name at this point) is outside the party looking in and he just looks said – he can see Diane and her husband arguing, while SJP sits inside talking to friends. He is also witness to Diane finding a gun, and frantically pointing it at everyone – even shooting it, but missing. While the bullet misses Diane’s husband, he grips his chest as a result of a heart attack, and Diane is arrested.
Afterward, SJP – I think her name is Francis – is wondering how this happened to a couple who was married for 8 years. She is asking her husband and talking about a memory she had of when he threw her laptop out of a window. She continues down this road, and basically tells him she doesn’t love him anymore, and she wants a divorce.
The next morning, her husband (Robert) wants to know if she really meant what she said. And she assures him, yes, she meant it. He’s frustrated because she won’t go to counseling, but she says they’ve already been to counseling.
Francis walks her kids to school to which her daughter calls her a bitch – yeesh. Francis is riding the train and telling her friend about the divorce. Her friend alludes to a man with whom Francis has been sleeping with, so that’s interesting.
She meets this man – Julien – for sex after her train ride, and she tells him she told Robert about her wanting a divorce. And Julien does not seem amused, at all, by this, which is not the reaction Francis was hoping for.
Back at home for the evening, she seems to kind of go back on her decision – and tells Robert this is their chance to go back and figure out where things went wrong.
The next day, Robert confronts Francis about Julien, and tells her he wants the divorce and that he’s going to make her miserable, and he’s going to make her children hate her. Whoaaaaa!
And then the episode is over. You know, this show got some pretty bad reviews, and many said it was sad. Sure, divorce is sad. But, I kind of liked it. I’m definitely going to stick with it for at least a few more episodes and see where it goes.
I “read” the latest book club selection, “A Girl’s Guide to Moving On“, by way of audiobook; and I’ll say that I’m pretty picky about audiobooks – I have to enjoy the voice(s) of the reader(s) and it’s got to keep my interest, and this one is a goodie!
I’d never heard of author Debbie Macomber until I watched the Hallmark television series “Cedar Cove”, which was adapted from her series of books. While the Cedar Cove series is around 12 books in bulk, she’s written dozens of books outside of that! It’s pretty impressive. Here’s what her website says about her:
Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 950 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Ten of these novels hit the number one spot.
A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington (the town in which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.
I was looking for an audiobook to keep my interest for a road trip, and I’ll admit, I liked the cover of this one, but then I read the back:
When Nichole discovers that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered. While juggling her young son, a new job, and volunteer work, Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. Though blunt-spoken and rough around the edges, Rocco proves to be a dedicated father and thoughtful friend. But just as their relationship begins to blossom, Jake wagers everything on winning Nichole back—including their son Owen’s happiness. Somehow, Nichole must find the courage to defy her fears and follow her heart, with far-reaching consequences for them all.
Leanne has quietly ignored her husband’s cheating for decades, but is jolted into action by the echo of Nichole’s all-too-familiar crisis. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming, talented baker from Ukraine. Resolved to avoid the heartache and complications of romantic entanglements, Leanne nonetheless finds it difficult to resist Nikolai’s effusive overtures—until an unexpected tragedy tests the very fabric of her commitments.
An inspiring novel of friendship, reinvention, and hope, A Girl’s Guide to Moving On affirms the ability of every woman to forge a new path, believe in love, and fearlessly find happiness.
Good, right? And yes, I know it sounds a liiiiitle far fetched – two women, related by marriage, find out their husbands are unfaithful around the same time… but that is the beauty of fiction! I really liked the fact that the story was told by both perspectives – Nichole and Leanne – because they are very different in age and career, so it makes for a well-rounded story.
I don’t want to spoil it and tell you what happens, but you can probably guess… right?
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler. If you want to read it with us, we’d love to have you! Feel free to send comments via this blog, on social media (Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat) @OrangeJulius7 or email me at Holly@thebitterlemon.com.
I hope you guys have fantastic weekends lined up! I’m heading out tonight to see “The Girl on the Train” – and I am SO looking forward to this one! I’m also spending a good chunk of my weekend as a volunteer for the Austin Film Festival. I’m so excited to be a small part of this huge event, and seeing what it’s all about. I’ll definitely report back on all of my adventures. Cheers!
I currently drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, which I purchased almost three years ago. I want to take a moment to explain that when I bought this Jeep – I was on top of the world. I had worked really hard to save the money for it, and it’s my first “luxury” vehicle. I absolutely LOVED this car.
It’s a 2012, and when I bought it, it had 31,000 miles on it. Today, it has almost 64,000 miles on it, and is still under warranty. It’s had at least four recalls on it, three of which I took care of a few years ago.
When I called to get the most recent one fixed – the fuel pump – I was told there was a three-month wait. Yes, a three-month wait. So, I put my name on this list and went on with my life.
And then, my check engine light came on about a week before I was set to make a 10-hour road trip (each way). I called a local dealership to make an appointment and was told there was a two-week wait. I didn’t feel safe driving that far with the light on, so I took my car to a Firestone near my apartment for a diagnostic.
$95 later, they told me it was a pretty serious issue, an engine misfire, and said I should take it to a dealership to get it fixed, as the affected parts were under extended warranty. So, I called the second dealership, who said it would also be a two week wait just for a diagnostic.
“But, I already got a disgnostic,” I said.
“Well, we have to do our own to prove it’s under warranty,” he said.
I explained that I didn’t feel safe driving it 20 hours under the current engine conditions, to which the employee started yelling at me through the phone, “AS LONG AS THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT ISN’T FLASHING, IT IS FINE TO DRIVE!”
I hung up on him. I’m not going to be treated that way by anyone, let alone someone I am looking to get help from. I will be damned if someone from Jeep tells me to drive my car across the country with a faulty engine.
So, I called customer service and explained the entire situation. He instructed me to not drive the vehicle that far, and that if I rented a car, I would be reimbursed by Jeep as long as I kept all of my receipts.
I looked online for additional Jeep dealerships in my area to see if I could find another one that may be able to help me. A nearby dealership had an open appointment in three days, so I made the appointment.
But when I arrived, it was not an appointment. They simply took my name and wanted me to leave my vehicle there “for weeks”. Umm what? I asked.
“Ma’am, as you can see we are busy,” he said, gesturing to the dozens of cars in the service lot.
“Yes, I get that, but what am I supposed to do?” I asked him.
He pointed to the car rental building and said I could rent a car for $35/day.
So, let me get this straight: Because Jeep built all of their vehicles like a piece of shit, I have to PAY for another car to drive, while my own car (which I am still making payments on) sits in line for servicing, and just saying this again, it’s still under warranty.
I was visibily upset, and my eyes started to water as I explained this to the employee. He waved the paperwork from the Firestone diagnostic at me: “Maybe you could have spent your money on a rental car and not this diagnostic,” he said.
UM, EXCUSE ME!?
First of all, I’m not going to have a mother fucker from Jeep tell me how to spend my money. Apparently my biggest mistake was spending money on a Jeep, since it’s such a piece of shit. And yes, I got the diagnostic, because no one, and I will say NO ONE at Jeep can help me, and I was hoping it was a minor issue that I could get fixed. So, excuse the fuck out of me.
So, I told the employee to kiss my ass, and hopped in my Jeep and rode off. I called customer service again, and explained the entire situation. She told me that I could rent a car but I definitely wouldn’t be reimbursed for it, until I got an official diagnostic from a Jeep dealership. And, even once that happened, I can only get a rental for five days, and she said that if Firestone was correct in their diagnostic, the repair would take “much longer” than five days, so I’d have to get a case manager to help me get reimbursed.
She then looked up my car’s VIN and got saucy with me and said, “Well you DO have a recall on your car, maybe it’s that! When are you planning on taking care of it?”
“I’m on a waiting list for December,” I told her.
Her tone changed. “Seriously?”
I ended up renting a car for my trip ($250) simply to have peace of mind. Not only did the rental car cost money, but I also had to pay to park my car at the rental lot, so in total it was about $300 just because my Jeep’s engine isn’t reliable and no dealership could help me.
When I returned from my trip, I called the fourth dealership and got myself on a waiting list. It’s been three weeks and I’m still waiting; driving around with my check engine light on. And while, my car does drive okay around town, the more I drive it, the worse the problem gets.
I’m honestly reaching my breaking point here. This is my second Jeep, and until now, I’ve really had some positive experiences with the vehicles I’ve had, and I thought I would have this car for many years. But now, I’m considering getting rid of it.
What’s the point of having some extended warranty if no dealership is going to fix it? What’s the point of having a good car for road trips if the engine just might explode while you’re driving it? How do I get the recalls fixed when there are waiting lists three months long?
Once I get to the top of the waiting list, who knows how long it will take for my car to actually be serviced. And truthfully, I don’t want to pay for a rental car. A rental car for one month, plus my monthly car payment would be at least $1500. Just to fix the car I already have… that’s under warranty.
The part about this that upsets me the most is how I’ve been treated by Jeep as a brand. Is that the type of company Jeep is – the type that is okay with their customers driving around in a ticking time bomb? Shouldn’t Jeep want the best for its drivers; want them to feel safe and taken care of in their vehicles?
The recalls and engine problems are no secret in the car world, and you’d think that Jeep would want to make up a little for it by treating their customers with a little respect and kindness. It’s pretty stressful driving around a car that, at any point, could break down, and could injure myself, my passengers, or other drivers. And Jeep wouldn’t care a bit.
Is that what they mean by “It’s a Jeep thing”? – That all they care about is the sale, and once that’s over you may as well drive the damn Jeep off a cliff? Mmmk.
I’d love to hear from Jeep, and understand what they expect their drivers to do – especially for something that isn’t our fault.
In the meantime, I’ll be researching other places to take my money. I’m looking for a reliable vehicle, and a brand that’s going to appreciate my business. I’m open to ideas – what kind of car do you have and what are your experiences with the brand?
So, fall is here, and I know it was official about two weeks ago, but it doesn’t ever feel real to me until I make my first batch of chili. Why? Well, because I love chili, I love making it, and it just seems like the perfect thing to have simmering on the stove or in your crock pot all day before curling around a bowl of it before the day’s end. Right? Plus, most chili is pretty healthy – and for that, I’m really thankful!
I made my first batch of chili on Sunday, and I happily made enough for me to eat leftovers all week – everyone knows leftover chili is even better than the first bowl! There’s so many different types of chili, and thousands of recipes out there, but I wanted to share three that I’ve made, and love, with you: a vegetarian option, my signature chili, and a paleo option. I’ve got it all!
Vegetarian: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili
This is the recipe I made this weekend! It’s the first time I made this particular recipe, from “What’s Gaby Cooking”, but it was very similar to a recipe I had in my kitchen notebook from Self Magazine. At first thought, sweet potatoes don’t sound great for a chili option, but since they’re simmering in spices all day, they really don’t taste like sweet potatoes, and they end up adding to the texture, in a good way.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced (I definitely am too lazy so I didn’t peel mine)
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chipolte pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed
- 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (I got the one with the chilis)
- 1/2 cup dried quinoa
- 4 teaspoons of lime juice
- Any toppings: avocado, cilantro, cheese…
- Heat a large heavy bottom pot with the olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the sweet potato and onion and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is softened.
- Add the garlic, chili powder, chipolte, cumin and salt and stir to combine.
- Add the stock, tomatoes, black beans, and quinoa, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir everything to combine.
- Cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes until the quinoa is fully cooked and the sweet potatoes are soft and the entire mixture is slightly thick.
- Add the lime juice and remove the pot from the heat. Season with salt as needed.
- Garnish with avocado, cilantro, cheese… and serve!
I definitely doubled this recipe so I’d have plenty of leftovers for the week ahead. I also wanted to note that I used my own vegetable stock – if you don’t already make your own stock, it’s really easy, saves money, and you know exactly what’s in it. Simply keep your “food trash” (i.e., chicken bones, carrot tops, celery stalks, onion ends) in a freezer bag in the freezer. Once the bag is full, dump it in a pot with water and salt and cook for as long as possible. Strain, and freeze! I haven’t bought stock in years, and it’s amazing how much you can use for chili, soups, and sauce bases.
Signature: Turkey & Bean Chili
I hate to play favorites, buuuuut this is my FAVORITE! Why? Because I have spent YEARS perfecting this recipe. I got the original recipe from Real Simple Magazine, and have been tweaking it along the way, so it has the best amount of heat, a nice dark color, rich flavor, and a thick texture. I love it! I know, all the guys are groaning at the turkey choice, but it takes to the spices so well, I just love it – plus, there’s bacon in there, too!
- 4 slices bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 pounds ground dark-meat (7% fat), turkey (NOTE: this is one tweak I’ve made. I get a lean turkey breast, and shred it once it’s cooked to get a thicker texture. But if you like ground meat, go for it!)
- 4 cups chopped onions
- 1/4 cup minced garlic cloves
- 2 medium fresh jalapeno chiles, ribs and seeds removed for less heat, if desired, minced
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes in puree
- 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (If you don’t have molasses on hand, use brown sugar or honey)
- Coarse salt
- 3 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I use dark red kidney beans)
- Fresh cilantro leaves, sliced pickled jalapeno chiles, reduced-fat sour cream, crumbled cornbread, grated cheddar cheese (all of these are optional toppings)
Heat a Dutch oven (or other heavy 5-quart pot) over medium heat. Add bacon; cook until crisp and brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Raise heat to high; add turkey. Cook, stirring and breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add onion, garlic, and jalapenos; cook until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cocoa powder, and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute.
Break up tomatoes with a spoon or your hands, and stir them in along with the puree. Add molasses, 1 cup water, and 4 teaspoons salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 30 minutes.
Add beans; continue cooking, uncovered, until meat and beans are very tender, and chili is thick, about 30 minutes more. Serve with desired toppings.
So, I pretty much make all of my chili in the crockpot – that way, I don’t have to worry about the gas stove (I don’t like keeping it on longer than necessary), and I can store it right in the fridge. If you want to make this recipe crockpot friendly, cook the bacon and the chopped onions in a skillet before adding to the crockpot. I like to start the meat (turkey breast) in the oven, but that’s up to you.
Paleo: Spicy Chorizo Chili
Several years ago, I went Paleo for about three months. In general, I enjoyed the experience, and I really liked finding recipes that fit my diet and tasted delicious. This recipe was one I found online, and made it one night when I had some friends over. They were a little skeptical when I said it was “Paleo friendly”, but pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. It’s definitely one for the books – and if you’re looking for something meaty to impress your guy, this one is for the win.
- 1 pound of grass fed beef
- 2 fresh chorizo sausage links, casings removed (about 1/2 pound)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (omit if you want the chili less spicy)
- 1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
- 1 can of rotel, spicy was used but you can limit heat by using mild
- 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons of chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon of cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- avocado, red onion, and cilantro optional for garnish
- In a medium skillet brown off beef and chorizo.
- Drain and toss into a crock pot
- In the same skillet add 1 tsp of fat and cook the onions and garlic just until the onion get a bit of color. You can skip this step if you like and just throw it into the crock pot. I just like giving the onions a bit of color before putting them in the crock pot.
- Add remaining ingredients, stir together, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6.
- Garnish with diced avocado, minced red onion, and cilantro.
If there’s a chili recipe you go-to every year, I’d love to know about it! I never get sick of this fall favorite, and I’m already looking forward to my next batch!