just so you know


I write about a lot of things — whatever’s going on in my life at the time, whether that’s traveling, getting in shape, reading, etc, and sometimes thoughts about where I’m headed, or where I’ve been. As a former librarian I’m a little obsessed with books, and as a tech geek I love all things Apple, Kindle and in-between. I love food more than it good for me, and my viewing habits range from “Downton Abbey” to “Modern Family”  to “Game of Thrones” and back around again. I have two cats, a wonderful husband, and the rest is subject to change without notice.

I threw out my snow brush

Next month we’re moving to Florida. So this morning, I bit the bullet and threw out my snow brush.

snow brushOkay, let’s be clear, though. Not my ONLY snow brush. I mean, I still have a smaller one in the back seat. You never know, it might get misty. Or we could have an October frost. I haven’t completely lost my senses.

But my big, trusty, extendable brush, the one that I can use to push a foot or two of snow off the top of my car? I threw that out today. And I’m still kind of weirded out.

Snow doesn’t bother me and never has, except for driving. I know my husband doesn’t share this sentiment, but I’ll miss the white fluffy stuff now and then. I mean, I’ve already had my last white Christmas and I didn’t know it. On top of that I’m not usually great with humidity and I’m moving to a place where it gets downright sweaty.

But there’s air conditioning, just like there was heat up here.

And in Florida there’s our house, too, just waiting for us, with the patio for the kitties and a nice big tub in the gorgeous master bathroom and palm trees and pretty flowers and the Caribbean a short flight away.

The first half of my life had snowmen and winter boots and ice scrapers and cold frosty nights. The second half will have beaches and sun and swimming year round. I wouldn’t trade one for the other, exactly, but I’m ready to give endless summer a try.

FredCo Headquarters Moving to Florida

Fredco logoIn a memo to executives and minions, Fred Kamsler, CEO of FredCo, LLC, announced that the multinational corporation will be moving its headquarters from Long Island to Lake Worth, Florida, at the end of October 2016.

The move has been in the works for some time, although the timetable has moved up — corporate executives had been led to believe that a shift was more likely in 2017. “That’s generally how things work around here, though,” an employee told us. (This interview was given under the condition of complete anonymity and the option to be relocated through the Witness Protection Program.) “We might get a rumor of something coming, but we’re not considered worthy of details or information. We do and go as we’re told.”

FredCo poseNow that the news has gone public, we were able to get a few words from Mr. Kamsler himself, in a remote interview from an undisclosed location. “It’s true, we’re moving the company south,” he confirmed. “I would think the reasons are obvious. Warmer climate. None of that snow nonsense — the plows disturb me. Better flora and fauna. And closer proximity to my off-shore accounts.”

Joining Mr. Kamsler in Florida will be his brother and (honorary) Vice President of FredCo, George. (When asked for comment, George seemed confused and asked a number of questions about powder puff availability in the southern states.) Also accompanying the brothers will be, of course, their parents, Toni and David Kamsler. “This arrangement will allow my father to serve in his role as parental minion in a full time capacity,” the CEO explained. “Brushings were not being given as frequently as I required.” When asked about his mother, Fred looked possessive and ended the interview abruptly.

FredCo, LLC (“Using Your Money For Our Benefit Since 2008”) is a solely-owned and controlled multinational corporation with field offices located around the world. For more information, contact Publicrelations@fredanswerstonoone.com

Outlander on sale for $1.99 at Amazon

Outlander — the wildly popular New York Times bestseller that started a phenomenon and a popular show on STARZ is available on Kindle for just $1.99 at Amazon.

While vacationing with her husband in 1946, nurse Claire tumbles back in time to 1743 Scotland — where she encounters unimagined peril, unexpected love, and an impossible decision.


Little House is available for the Kindle

Last night I had a dream that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were finally available on Kindle, because that’s just the kind of nerd I am.

Well, I checked this morning, and lo and behold, they are. Here’s the whole set, but they can be purchased individually as well.

(Dave asked if I would please dream that we won a million dollars tonight. I’m working on it.)

Hair today, gone forever

Me with a fun hair moustacheI’m a fair-skinned Italian girl with dark, thick hair. Which is nice for the hairs on your head, but not so nice for other parts of your body, namely the upper lip. For years (decades) I’ve been embarrassed about it, but thanks to electrolysis, no more — and never again.

There’s a lot of things for a woman to feel self-conscious about. Her weight, her height, her clothes, her hair, her laugh, her voice, and her moustache. If you’re a lady who’s never experienced the misery of trying to keep facial hair under control, be grateful.

Otherwise, you know what I’m talking about. There’s waxing, of course, which hurts like a #$!@#%. Once the redness dies down, it looks pretty good. But it grows back. Then there’s threading, which I’ve never tried; I’ve heard it hurts kinda less than waxing, but still does. And it grows back. There are bleaches and creams, but as a friend once said, you can bleach that stache all you want, but it’s still there — it’s just golden-yellow now. Usually these didn’t even work for me and the cream is all burn-y and hurts. And the hair comes back. And there’s shaving, which is easiest obviously, and takes almost no time at all, and doesn’t hurt unless you’ve got really unsteady hands. The hair comes back right away, though, and even better: you get shadow, not just at five o’clock, but really all the time.

My personal method, btw, was plucking. I had it down to a science. A tedious, painful, required-growth-in-between science. But — you guessed it — the problem is, it always came back. (It turns out, it comes back worse — more on that later.)

Then my friend Amy Oztan (who blogs at SelfishMom.com) told me about electrolysis. I’d heard of it, but didn’t really know what it was. She told me how successful it was for her, but she didn’t sugar-coat the pain or the expense. I hemmed, I hawed, and finally, after my very awesome husband gave me the go-ahead, I made my first appointment.

I should tell you in advance that while a lot went right at that first appointment, I didn’t care for the practitioner I’d found at all. She was professional and good at her task, but she was also… well, uppity, and controlling. We listened to her weird Enya music which I didn’t care for and she wouldn’t change, I wasn’t allowed to speak during the treatment, she would only work according to her treatment plan (how often, what parts of my face to work on, and how long), with no input from me. She also informed me she was raising her price, at the end of that first appointment, from what she’d quoted on the phone. I wasn’t happy, and I promptly started looking for a new electrologist. Happily, I found Michelle Robinson from the Electrolysis Treatment Center. Michelle is just as professional, warm, comfortable to be around, and let me be the one to decide what my priorities were, and how we would proceed. If you are on Long Island and looking for an electrologist, I cannot recommend Michelle highly enough. If you’re from somewhere else, just make sure you find someone you like. This isn’t a process you want to go through with someone who isn’t willing to work with you in a helpful and professional way.

Electrolysis is the only method approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal. It works like this: a professional electrologist inserts a very fine needle (usually thinner than the hair being treated) into the natural opening of the hair follicle alongside the hair shaft. A tiny amount of electrical current is then applied to destroy the hair growth cells. Here’s more from the American Electrology Association on treatments:

Hairs have differing cycles of growth, many of which are not visible on the surface of the skin at the same time. The follicle produces the hair from the blood supply, and discards it eventually through shedding. The process of growth, rest, and replacement are known as the hair growth cycle. Since individual hairs are in different phases of the cycle at any given time, multiple treatments may be required to remove unwanted hair.

So, in other words… you go in for a treatment. The electrologist inserts a fine needle along each hair shaft, then there’s a flash of heat that kills the cells. The hair is then removed with a tweezer, having been severed off — in other words, you’re not tweezing the hairs out manually (tweezing alone can actually stimulate hair growth activity, so I was essentially making matters worse all those years!). Are you done in one session? No. Why not? Because hair has a growth cycle, and you will catch them at different cycles. Some hairs take multiple sessions to completely zap away. Also? You have more hair follicles than you think you do. Anywhere from 100 to 1000 to as many as several thousand per square inch. They just aren’t all activated or showing at the same time. So you think you plucked a hair away and that it grew back shortly thereafter, but that’s really from another hair follicle, nearby.

So here’s the nitty gritty: how long, how much, how painful?

How long?

Well, as I said at the beginning, I’m blessed with a full head of thick, healthy hair, and that unfortunately extended to parts of my face (upper lip, chin, etc) where I didn’t want it, and my hair is fairly thick. So at the beginning, I went in for a half-hour treatment every week. After about four months, we went down to every other week. At eight months, we dropped down to every three weeks. And just recently, at eleven months in, we shifted to every four weeks. Keep in mind, you could go every four weeks right from the beginning, if that’s what you want. You’d just see a lot more hair growth in between, especially at the beginning, and the entire process would take longer. For me, I wanted to go at it aggressively and stick with it. Eventually I’ll need to go even less often, every two months, three, four, and so on.

Does it work, by the way? Oh yes. Before, when I was waxing and plucking and shaving and so on, honestly, the hair would start to grow back almost right away. It was all just a maintenance game, trying to stay ahead of it, never really satisfied with the results. If I’d let it go and done nothing? I’d have been stubbly in days and Billy Dee Williams after two weeks. Now, after four weeks since my last treatment, there are just a few stray hairs here and there, easily taken care of at my next appointment. And the ones that are gone are gone, gone, gone.

How much?

How much electrolysis costs will depend on prices in your area, how often you go, and so on. Maybe the easiest way to say it is that in the past year — which was the first, most intensive year of treatment — it’s cost me about — brace yourself — $1200. Yeah, I know. It might be more than you’re willing or able to spend. You might not need as many treatments as I did, though — we’re not all this hairy — and your situation might be different. All I can say is that it is absolutely worth it, that it works, that it’s not a penny wasted. The shame and embarrassment I used to feel over unwanted facial hair made me miserable, and being able to put those feelings behind me is priceless. Plus, it’s permanent.

How painful?

Well, you know, in a word? Very. While the American Electrology Association says “you may feel discomfort”, I’d like to politely disagree completely with them on that score. No, to be candid, it hurts like nobody’s business. Now, much like getting a tattoo, some places hurt more than others. Chin, for example, was not really that bad. I find it itchy, more than anything else. But upper lip? Yeah. It’s not so great. Especially the little hairs right under your nose, you know the ones I mean? Just think about it, and try not to cringe. You can get a prescription for Lidocaine cream, to number the surface of your skin, and that helps a little, but not always. It hurts like the dickens. But it’s quick and then it’s over, and the result, to me at least, is worth it.

In the end, it’s up to you whether electrolysis is something you want or need, and whether it’s worth the cost, the time, and the discomfort. My mother used to brush the tangles from my hair and say, “It hurts to be beautiful.” And in a broader sense, she had a point: anything worth having requires effort, and anything important enough to you is worth whatever it takes to get it. Electrolysis has changed my life and made me more confident and happier with myself. For me, it was well worth the cost and effort involved.


(By the way, to anyone reading: if you have any questions about what it’s like to get electrolysis, feel free to comment or message me privately if you’d rather not discuss it in a public setting.)

Book review: The Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock

While this is technically Nick Bantock’s seventh entry in the Griffin & Sabine series, the story told within the beautiful pages of “The Pharos Gate” is in fact a much-desired epilogue to “The Golden Mean“, the third book. Here we finally see the last, most difficult steps Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem took to reach each other at the Pharos Gate in Alexandria. Set upon by forces determined to prevent their union, these two nevertheless become one in the most metaphysical sense. While we knew this had come to pass from the events of the second trilogy, nothing compares to experiencing their fusion first or, more accurately, secondhand.

Once again, Bantock’s physical novel itself is a work of art, in the styles of Griffin and Sabine both — two distinct yet harmonizing modalities. The sheer tactile joy of removing printed sheets filled with Griffin’s words and seeing once more Sabine’s distinctive brown script is enough to pull the reader right back into their story. While I am not sure this volume would stand cleanly on its own, it makes a treasured addition to an already fascinating tale. If you are unfamiliar with Griffin & Sabine, I recommend starting and the beginning and staying the course throughout their journey.

I received an advanced readers’ copy of this book for the purpose of review from LibraryThing.

guilty pleasures

Ross: Rachel claims this is her favorite movie.
Chandler: Dangerous Liaisons.
Ross: Correct. Her actual favorite movie is?
Joey: Weekend at Bernie’s.
(Friends, The One With the Embryos)

On my college application, I said my favorite song was the Commendatore scene from Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni. I do like it — it’s a compelling piece of music — but if I was being honest, in 1989, my actual favorite song was probably Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam’s “Head to Toe”.

Even sadder, “Head to Toe” came out in 1987. By 1989, my favorite song was probably something by Paula Abdul.

Sure, we all wish we had consistently high-brow tastes. And sometimes we do! I really do like Mozart, and my favorite book really is Anna Karenina. At the same time, when I want to wooby with a blanket and the cats, I’m usually reaching for something with a lower IQ requirement. So I share with you, with no small amount of shame, my guilty pleasures.


Selena (1997): The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart topping albums on the Latin music charts. This one stars Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos (if Olmos is in it it can’t be all bad!) and I could watch it FOREVER. I’m nearly physically incapable of changing the channel if it’s on, despite, yes, owning a copy as well. BIDI BIDI BOM BOM.

The Twilight Series, but especially Eclipse. Look, these movies are crap. There’s no two ways about it. I own them all, though. There’s no good explanation. The plots are trite, the dialogue is mediocre at best. I’m frequently rooting for the bad vampires. Mostly the wolves. The soundtracks are surprisingly good (Iron & Wine, for crying out loud!) and there are some neat visuals. I find Kristen Stewart oddly mesmerizing. And Taylor Lautner’s abs are distracting. As Edward says:

Edward himself is singularly unappealing to me (what happened to that handsome young lad in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire?). And they’re both young enough to be my kids, so there’s that. (Well, Pattinson only if I started REALLY young.)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997). This one is my husband’s fault. It’s his guilty pleasure movie, one he has a supernatural ability to find airing on TBS at any given time. Al Pacino gives the worst performance of his career (did he lose a bet?) and Keanu Reeves makes you wish he was playing a robot in a plot full of holes you can drive a semi through, while Charlize Theron changes her hairstyle and hopes you forget she was even in this piece of dreck.

Just about any dance movie, ever. Favorites include Center Stage, Strictly Ballroom, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, All the Step Up movies (all five!), Shall We Dance, White Nights, Mad Hot Ballroom, Coyote Ugly, Billy Elliot, Singin’ in the Rain, and Save the Last Dance. If there’s dancing anywhere in it, I’ll watch it. Repeatedly. Starting with when it premieres in the theater. Me and a lot of teenagers, usually. I’m there.


You know, I don’t feel guilty about these. They’re great books. It’s just the sheer number of times I’ve read them that borders on embarrassing.

Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay: I once started this book at a favorite scene somewhere near the midway point, finished, went back to the beginning, and read the entire book through again, to the end.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. The ones she actually wrote, not the ones her son has written since she died. (No offense, Todd.) I think what lies beneath this obsession is a deeply-rooted desire to able to communicate telepathically with my cats, along with the knowledge that we would be bonded for life. On the other hand, sometimes I think their thoughts might not be particularly flattering, especially on the days they haven’t had any Fancy Feast.

The Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still have the same yellow paperback set I had as a child. By the Banks of Plum Creek! By the Shores of Silver Lake! Nellie Olsen. Almanzo. Nearly freezing and starving to death in The Long Winter. Pa and his fiddle. Good times!

Having said that, there are a few books that only keep from embarrassing me out of an admiration for the written word in all forms. Judith Krantz’ Princess Daisy. Flowers in the Attic. Jean Auel’s books, especially the latter ones like The Plains of Passion — I mean, Passage. Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches saga. Janet Dailey’s Calder books. And oh, The Da Vinci Code. I hang my head in literary shame.


The Spice Girls, Wannabe. They sold, like, a zillion copies of that CD, but no one ever, ever admits to having owned it.

Britney Spears, Womanizer. I’ve got an excuse for this one. It was my favorite routine on the Wii “Just Dance” exercise program. I mean, with lyrics like “Womanizer, woman-womanizer, You’re a womanizer, Oh, womanizer, oh, You’re a womanizer, baby”, what’s not to like, right? But it does make a good workout song.

Carly Rae Jepson, Call Me Maybe. Every now and then a song is so annoying you end up liking it, which doesn’t make sense but it’s still true. I still feel like this song got published on a dare, but if so, it paid off.

The Backstreet Boys, As Long As You Love Me. Okay, I’ve got no defense for BSB. It’s not like they can consider themselves pseudo-cool like NSYNC for bringing us Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, and Joey Fatone (hey, he was good in My Big Fat Greek Wedding!). I can’t name a single other song of theirs, but I like this one. It’s nice!

Lastly, and this I say with no shame whatsoever, Sonny & Cher’s I Got You, Babe. You know, this song had a bad rap for a long time, but I don’t know why. It was sung by two kids who were nuts about each other, and stayed good friends for the rest of their lives, even after their marriage ended. I had this song played at my wedding and it’s one of my favorite memories of the whole night. So I’ll leave you with a very early performance, from 1965:

back again, a cruise, and dizzy

Last year turning into this one has been interesting for me, to say the least. It was sometimes amazingly wonderful, to say the best, and sometimes pretty lousy, to say the worst. I had a re-occurrence of back issues, followed by an amazing Disney cruise, followed by a bizarre (but familiar to me) case of dizzyness I’m still shaking off the dregs of now. So that was ouch, yay, and ugh, for anyone keeping score.

I had back surgery in 2012. It was, well, mostly successful, but not completely so. An oft-repeated mantra I’ve had to accept is that “the purpose of back surgery is not to fix your back, but to make it better than it was”. You rarely fix backs. Sometimes you make them better. Sometimes you don’t even do that. I’ve had a couple of bad back pain incidents since the surgery, and each one scared the bejeezus out of me. This one made it impossible to sit comfortably — that’s not hard on anyone’s life, right? (Anyone else ever have sciatica? Cringe with me now.) Luckily, I found a great new doctor, a physiatrist who helped me get past the pain and back on my feet, with some drugs, some physical therapy, and some patience. I also got a brand-new MRI that at the very least assured me there’s nothing terribly wrong with my back, just the usual bulges and whatnot everyone has — in other words, this time when a doctor looked at my MRI he didn’t say, “Oh dear god this is terrible”, so that was a step in the right direction.

Back pain Public Service Announcement: we were somewhat startled to realize that each time my back has been bad, since the surgery, it’s been the end of November/beginning of December. Like clockwork. My doctor says this is actually quite common — fall, and the change of seasons, is his busiest time. Moral of this story: go south.

As luck would have it, we had plans to go south, to the Caribbean, to be specific, for a wonderful cruise on the Disney Fantasy — back after having a terrific time on our honeymoon. I can’t say enough good things about the Fantasy. The rooms are spacious, the service is impeccable, the fun is everywhere to be had. A short glimpse of our trip:

The warm weather got my back feeling a thousand percent better on just the first day alone. (The jacuzzi helped too.) We had a terrific time.

But… the moment the cruise was over and we got back on land, something I dreaded happened. After the last cruise I found myself stuck with my sea legs. As the days and weeks went by, I still felt like I was on the ship, swaying back and forth, sometimes almost violently. It wasn’t a pleasant rocking. It wasn’t something that went away after a few days. Several different medicines and several different specialist visits later, we learned I had something called Mal de Débarquement syndrome. It’s super rare. It stinks. There’s no treatment. You just have to wait for it to hopefully subside. Luckily, that time, it did, after a miserable month. (Some people have it a lot longer. Like, even for years.)

Why did I cruise again, if this had happened to me before? Eh, I don’t know. I thought I hadn’t taken the right seasickness meds, I thought it was a fluke, I thought it wouldn’t happen again. But I did everything I could, this time, and it didn’t matter. They don’t know what causes this, but it tends to happen to women in their 40s who get migraines (raises hand) more than anyone else, so apparently I’m the poster child for MdDS. And this time it was worse. We came back from the cruise on January 9. This time it took closer to two months for my symptoms to fade, and they were stronger. Two really miserable months, and I didn’t want to talk about it, or the cruise, or anything much else for most of that time.

Today, though, I’m pretty close to being completely better. I feel like I’m just getting off the ship, in more ways than one. My back is in better shape, the world isn’t tilting precariously, and the snow is melting. So, it’s good to be back, finally. Land ho!

A new (for real!) Harry Potter book is coming — Harry Potter play script of “the eighth story” tops book charts

I haven’t been paying too much attention to the upcoming London production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — I think I wasn’t quite sure it was going to be considered canon, or if, like the upcoming movie version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it wouldn’t feature any familiar faces.

It will, however — Harry is back in a new story, that now will be released in script form (both hardcover and Kindle) at midnight after the play’s opening night, July 31, 2016. And now I’m all excited.

The upcoming book, which will reproduce the script from the forthcoming play by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, shifts the action of the Harry Potter stories to 19 years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry is now “an overworked employee of the ministry of magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children”, grappling “with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs”.

Source: Harry Potter play script hits No 1 on book charts a day after announcement of ‘eighth story’ | Books | The Guardian