Tag Archives: review

TWSM Book Review ‘Heartburn’

Heartburn by Nora Ephron is a novel that I have wanted to read for ages and finally did. I have always thought of Ephron as the cool, funny aunt that I never had (no offense to my actual aunts who are lovely women). Heartburn is a great read, and the story behind the story is astounding. 

Heartburn’s main character, Rachel, a successful cookbook writer, discovers seven months into her second pregnancy that her husband Mark is having an affair, just as Ephron discovered during her own second pregnancy while married to Carl Bernstein, the journalist who broke the Watergate scandal. In spite of the striking similarities of the novel to Ephron’s real life, the book is full of laugh out loud humor and personal empowerment. Rumor has it that she also bought a house with the proceeds from this best selling book, demonstrating that success is the best revenge. 

Some of my favorite quotes from Heartburn include: 

“I don’t like blaming family members for what goes wrong with children, because someday when my kids are arrested for grand larceny I don’t want anyone looking accusingly at me, but Mark’s behavior was so obviously Florence’s fault that even Florence knew it.” (Chapter two) 

“This reminded me of those feminists who are always claiming that male domination is not the natural state because there’s one tribe in New Guinea where the men lie around weaving and the women hunt bears.” (Chapter four) 

“I kept expecting him to reach out for my hand, or touch my face. He didn’t. Rachel, I said to myself, this will not do. You cannot go anywhere, much less home, with a man whose idea of an apology does not include even a hypocritical show of affection. Say no. Tell him to drop dead. Crack one of your father’s atrocious lamps over his head. Go into the kitchen and invent the instant waffle. Anything.” (Chapter seven) 

Heartburn is an authentic, painful, and humorous ride. Ephron herself was also a true inspiration. When she died at the age of 71, she had been married for over twenty years and was an award winning writer of books, plays, and screenplays. 

If you would like a good laugh (and perhaps a good cry), I highly recommend Heartburn

Rating 4 stars out of 5 

Heartburn by Nora Ephron Copyright 1983 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

‘Spies in Disguise’ Will Surprise You – And Keep the Kids Entertained

Many of us are making the interesting transition to being home with our children 24/7 in light of the current stay-at-home orders. If you’re like me, this has drastically changed what type of content you’re consuming on the daily. I was less than thrilled when my little one saw the “Spies in Disguise” movie pop up on our Vudu platform, which he promptly insisted on watching. 

I agreed to watch the movie, “Spies In Disguise”, where one of the main characters gets transformed into a talking bird for half the film. Needless to say, I went in with very low expectations.

I have to say – I was pleasantly surprised.

“Spies in Disguise” is full of heart, humor, and good messages. Not only that, but it’s got a stacked cast. The movie centers on Walter (Tom Holland), an inventor working for a government agency where Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is the alpha superspy. Walter, an outcast, spends his days watching soap operas and making inventions that are rather…unorthodox. 

Lance goes on a secret mission, where a database with all of the spies’ locations and names is stolen by an evil villain, Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) with a robot hand. During the fight preceding the theft, Lance tries to use one of Walter’s inventions to ward off attackers. Lance throws the gadget into the air, only to find out it is a Kitty Glitter Bomb. When Lance returns from his mission, he promptly fires Walter, citing the fact that Walter’s “weird” invention could’ve gotten him killed. 

Lance is called in by his boss, Joyless (Reba McEntire) to meet with an Internal Affairs investigator, Marcy (Rashida Jones). Marcy has video surveillance that shows that Lance is the one who stole the database, not Killian. Thus begins Lance’s journey on the lam. A series of events brings Lance to enlist Walter’s help, which is where things go awry.

Walter turns Lance into a pigeon. 

Yeah, they almost lost me there. But, trust me, there are plenty of antics to keep you and your kids entertained. Lance and Walter make an unlikely team as they try to track down Killian and retrieve the stolen database, all while running from Marcy and Joyless. 

One of the best parts of this film is that it begins with Walter being shy and afraid of what others think. Throughout the film, though, he learns to embrace his uniqueness. He is sensitive. He loves hugs and glitter bombs. This is not the typical male character in a movie. It was refreshing to see a male character on the screen that teaches young boys that it is okay to like hugs and glitter, to be smart, and to embrace their weirdness. 

So that’s how a movie about a talking pigeon made me squeeze my boy a little tighter and hope that one day when this pandemic craziness is all over and he is a little older, we can sit down and watch this movie again, and he’ll see a little reinforcement that being unique is his superpower.

Happy Streaming!

Katie

TWSM Green Souffle Brunch Omelet Review

I have a confession to make. I love brunch. I love the ritual of brunch. The mimosas; the savory, too rich dishes; the combination of “breakfast” foods and “lunch” foods; the idle chat with friends on a rare relaxed Saturday; the eggs and meat and muffins. Oh, my! And so when one of those videos from Tastemade designed to catch your eye caught my eye while scrolling through Pinterest one evening, I knew right then and there I had to make green souffle omelet for brunch with several of my theater friends following our most recent show. This fluffy, cheesy omelet is packed full of green spinach and flavor.

The technique has more steps and is slightly more time consuming than a regular omelet, but if you’re going to take the time to have brunch, it’s worth making the event special. If you have a stand mixer, it will make the process a little easier, but a hand mixer will work just as well. I felt there was too.much club soda and cut it to just a few tablespoons the second time I made this dish. (Use the leftover club soda for your cocktails.) Also with the generous amount of cheese, mind your salt levels.

It wasn’t clear what the recipe meant by “turn on the grill,” which I’m assuming were British instructions. After beginning the omelet in a cast iron pan on the stove for a minute or two, I baked this in the oven at 375° for 10 minutes. Then put the pan under the broiler for another two minutes. Keep an eye on it so as not to burn the cheese. You omlet could be divided in a myriad of ways. Cut into small wedges for a crowd or cut in half for a more intimate gathering. Leftovers do lose some fluffiness, but rewarm well. Serve with your favorite brunch cocktail and some fresh fruit.

~Laura

TWSM Book Review ‘The Five Love Languages for Singles’

The Five Love Languages for Singles by Gary Chapman

Reviewed by Liz Fendley

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman started with his original work designed for married couples over 20 years ago. Many of us have heard of the five love languages to help us understand how we prefer to give and receive affection: words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch. This book is dedicated to single adults and addresses our specific needs, including a chapter dedicated to the needs of single parents. It is a great read.

I should probably share the disclaimer that I originally took the five love languages quiz when I was a married parent. As such, I was a bit skeptical of how “real” this book would be for single parents dealing with issues like parenting, work, and dating. My skepticism was dispelled, and I found the book to be refreshing and respectful.

In the chapter on single parenting, Chapman addresses the fact that your children may not have the same primary love language that you do. This one struck home for me. My primary love language is physical touch, closely followed by quality time. When my teenage daughters took the quiz, they both scored with “gifts” as their primary love language. My first response was, “Uh oh. There is no way I can afford this.” Since then, I have learned that something as simple as adding a $1 “gift” to a grocery store or errand run and saying, “I was thinking of you today” can make my daughters’ days brighter. If a loved one tried to do the same thing for me, I would be polite, but I would probably be thinking, “How many calories are in that?” “Seriously, just give me a hug” or perhaps “This house has way too much clutter anyway”.

For most of us, The Five Love Languages for Singles is a great read and Chapman’s background as a pastor and references to scripture will be reassuring. If I have one criticism of this book, it is that Chapman assumes a heteronormative stance due to his specific religious beliefs. If you are an LGBTQI single parent, this book may be less likely to speak to you. Perhaps there are additional resources online that are more inclusive.

As many of us are spending more time at home with Covid-19, I am also happy to say that I found “my” free copy of this book via the Libby app from my local library. The Five Love Languages for Singles is an easy read, and might even keep our homes calmer and happier as we are spending so much time together!

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

~Liz

The Five Love Languages for Singles

Copyright 2014 by Gary Chapman

‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Returns for Season 7

One of television’s best comedies returned for its seventh season last week. Brooklyn Nine-Nine burst back onto NBC’s Thursday Night slate with two classic episodes that managed to encapsulate what B99 is all about. The rag-tag group of detectives is back, still reeling from Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) being demoted to a street cop in season six’s finale. In the first episode of the new season, Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) takes the lead on a manhunt after an assassination attempt, but he can’t seem to keep Holt in line as his subordinate. Meanwhile, Amy (Melissa Fumero) worries that she may be pregnant, and enlists Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) to help her acquire and take a pregnancy test in the midst of the manhunt. The episode brings back the laughs in all the right places, especially when fan-favorites Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) enter the case with a certain expertise that only they can offer. 

In the last few minutes of the episode, Amy lets Jake know that her pregnancy test was negative, which surprisingly disappoints both of them. This leads the couple to decide to start trying to have a baby! 

One of the best aspects of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that the writers are not afraid to shake up their routine, evidenced by Holt’s demotion and Jake and Amy’s decision to try to have kids. Granted, the latter could have been more convenient since actress Melissa Fumero (who plays Amy) is currently expecting a child in real life, but alas. The show always finds ways to switch up the narrative and place its characters in new situations.

The second episode of the season seven debut builds off of just that – our beloved detectives tackling new situations and uncharted territory. The new captain of the 99, Captain Kim (Nicole Bilderback) has arrived on the scene. Jake is sure the new captain will be evil, but everyone else takes to Captain Kim very quickly. Jake is still suspicious, though, and lets that suspicion get the better of him when Captain Kim invites everyone over to her home for a party. The cherry on top of this episode, though, is Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), who has decided to reinvent himself for the new Captain by becoming a more badass version of himself (thanks to a “magical” leather jacket Rosa loaned him). By the end of the episode, Jake uncovers the truth – that Captain Kim really was a good person after all, and wasn’t up to any evil at the 99. Unfortunately, Jake and Holt’s antics push Captain Kim to decide the 99 isn’t for her after all. 

So, after two episodes, the detectives are still without a Captain, Charles is back to his normal, nerdy self, and Jake and Amy have decided to have try for a baby. Whew. I can’t wait to see what season seven has in store for my favorite detectives. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back, baby! 

Happy Viewing! 

-Katie

Bring Your Tissues To See ‘Just Mercy’

The new film Just Mercy chronicles the true story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) as he fights for wrongly convicted inmate Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) on death row. Jordan delivers a solid performance as Stevenson, who graduates from Harvard and immediately moves to Alabama to provide free legal assistance to death row inmates. When Stevenson meets McMillian and hears his story, Stevenson cannot forget about the case and knows that McMillian is innocent. Stevenson vows to free McMillian and begins the arduous journey of uncovering the truth (and gross corruption) about how McMillian got to death row. With help from his assistant Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Stevenson fights to exonerate McMillian and others awaiting their fate. 

While Jordan and Foxx give fantastic performances, the true beauty comes from the performances of two supporting actors, Tim Blake Nelson, and Rob Morgan. Nelson’s work as the physically deformed, convicted felon Ralph Meyers was truly stunning, and will no doubt stick with viewers long after the credits roll. Nelson fully transforms as he twitches, stutters, and emotes his way through a challenging character. Somehow, he demands sympathy from the audience for a character who might not deserve it.

Morgan, on the other hand, turns in a breathtaking rendering of his character, Herbert Richardson, a PTSD-stricken war vet fighting for a stay of execution. His last scenes were the most gut-wrenching, yet fascinating, that I’ve seen in a while.

Just Mercy gives viewers a deeper look into how racism seeps into our justice system to this day. I had to remind myself multiple times that the film (and the case itself) didn’t take place in the 50s or during the Civil Rights Movement, but rather from 1987-1993, just two years before I was born. It is easy for some to believe that the days of racism and police corruption are just far-off stories in our history books, but learning about Walter McMillian’s story should remind audiences that the work is far from over. Bryan Stevenson has not forgotten, and he’s stayed hard at work fighting these injustices through his nonprofit organization, The Equal Justice Initiative (or EJI). For more information on EJI, visit https://eji.org/about/

Viewers may not leave Just Mercy feeling overwhelming happiness or joy. But, hopefully, they’ll leave having learned something. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll want to join the fight for a better tomorrow.

~Katie

TWSM Pork Chili Verde Review

Pork Chili Verde

Sharing 50/50 custody on a 7/7 schedule with my 15 year old son’s father allows me the opportunity to spend quality and valuable time with close friends. On a rainy night too long ago, my friend Kathleen and I made plans to catch up at a local taproom known for their burgers and wood fired pizzas. However as we skimmed the menu over gossip and news of our children, Kathleen mentioned the pork chili verde. Always anxious to try a new menu item and mindful of the weather, I took a chance on a bowl. Topped with sour cream and served with tortilla chips, the chili verde was a lovely bite. Enough so I had to try to recreate it at home.

A few days later, armed with a free afternoon and my good friend Google, I went in search of a good recipe. Elise at Simply Recipes delivered. I trust her recipes to be tested thoroughly. Her pork chili verde was no exception, and all of the ingredients are readily available.

Tomatillos sound exotic and difficult to find, but they are merely a tomato relative. They often hang out near the avocados, garlic, shallots, or tomatoes in the produce section of your local grocery store. If you can’t find them there, try a natural foods store. Peeling the husks of tomatillos is an interesting experience as well. Those little suckers are sticky under the husks!

I was so excited about trying a bowl of chili verde with my dear friend River who is also a foodie, that once completed, I froze two servings until we saw each other later in the week. Freezing the chili worked wonderfully. No texture was lost. We both agreed that the soup was a perfect early after a day of exploring the winter farmer’s market and attending a craft show.

Sour cream on top of the chili verde is a must. The dairy helps cut the slight acid of the tomatillos and the heat of jalapenos and poblano peppers. Tortilla chips add a nice crunch. River and I both felt some added cumin for some smokiness would be a nice touch. We also would have preferred more heat, but there is opportunity to control that by including another jalapeno in the verde sauce.  I feel the pork could also be substituted with chicken.

All in all this is a solid recipe for pork chili verde by Simply Recipes and excellent alternative to to a red chili or beef stew on a cold winter evening when you’re craving comfort food.

~Laura

Almost Family Leaves Us with Two Major Cliffhangers

If you haven’t been keeping up with FOX’s new series Almost Family, you should be. The show, adapted from an Australian version of the same moniker, follows Julia Bechley (Brittany Snow), a young woman who finds out her father, Dr. Leon Bechley (Timothy Hutton), went rogue at his Fertility clinic. For years, he used his own…specimen to impregnate his clients. The scenario is a bit far-fetched (and honestly, kind of creepy), but the show brings enough heart to overcome the unsavory plotline.

Soon after learning about her father’s choices, Julia starts the search for her siblings and bonds with her new sisters: childhood friend Edie (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and former Olympic gymnast, Roxy (Emily Osment). Throughout the last few episodes, each girl has been dealing with her own life chaos, until a midseason finale where some shocking twists were revealed. Spoiler alert: don’t keep reading if you want to start binging from the beginning (all episodes are available on Hulu!).

In the last few episodes, viewers were glad to see that Roxy entered rehab for her addiction to pills and came out with a newfound strength that propelled her to publicly accuse her past gymnastics coach, Nick (Jeff Hephner) of sexual assault. We’ve also seen Edie struggling with her decision to leave her husband, Tim (Mo McRae), for her rival lawyer, Amanda (Victoria Cartagena). But Julia takes the cake here, dealing with the newfound revelation that Leon is not her father. Whew.

The newest episode brought even more drama into the mix, leaving viewers with the Julia and Edie cliffhangers. Edie randomly hooks up with Tim again, which will no doubt have immense repercussions in her continuing to DTR with Amanda. Julia visits the dance studio her mom used to frequent and gets lost in the music. The episode ends with a shot of a man’s feet strolling into the studio watching Julia dance, but the audience does not get a clue as to who it may be.

Some viewers may think the mystery man is Donovan (Michael Stahl-David), who Julia had just amicably broken up with, but some are skeptical. The mystery man was wearing slacks and dress shoes, a look that Donovan never sported.

Although this show may seem like a soap-opera, with far-fetched storylines and high stakes, the performances are anything but cheesy. As someone who grew up watching Emily Osment and Brittany Snow, it’s nice to see them gracing the television screen once again. The writing of the show never seems too on the nose, and the show has pleasantly surprised viewers. If you’re looking for an easy watch, Almost Family provides the drama and just enough laughs to keep you hanging on for the next twist in the girls’ chaotic lives. At the forefront, the show is about family….however that may look. You can catch Almost Family on Wednesdays at 9/8c on FOX, or on next day streaming with Hulu.

~Katie

TWSM’s Book Review of ‘My One and Only’ by Kristan Higgins

Found this one to be romantic and dramatic with unexpected twists… “My One and Only” was a heartfelt and fun read! It is actually a bit addictive and hard to stop listening to. The characters are compelling and you are quickly woven into their lives.

The lead character, Harper is a top-notch divorce attorney which certainly helps skew her view on the institution of marriage. Add her failed marriage of less than a year many moons ago and you’ll begin to see why she views all things romance as better for somebody else.

Infamous and despised by many of the losing divorcees on Martha’s Vineyard, 30 year old Harper James is driving even the local priest crazy with her dry wit and scathing cynicism regarding all things ‘love’. Harper believes herself to be a ‘habitual realist’. That said, she proposes to her boyfriend at the beginning of the book with what is more like an opening statement in a court case rather than a romantic plea…needless to say it doesn’t go quite as planned…instead the phone rings and she finds out that her younger sister is going to marry her ex-husband’s brother in 2 weeks’ time. THIS is news since Harper didn’t even know they were DATING! Since Harper has not seen or spoken to her ex (Nick) since they spilt this throws her completely off her well-organized game.

We are then off and running with Harper on a series of adventures that takes us all over the country and end up teaching Harper how to become a better person. She is also confronted by the fact that she never really got over her first husband…and that is all that I am going to say about that!

Higgins again delivers us an excellent heroine in an engaging story full of what it really means to love people. Lots of making peace with the past in this one and I am quite certain that everyone will find something here to relate to.

Another book that I highly recommend! 🙂

***Although this isn’t part of the promotion, I am currently part of a paid sponsorship for Audible’s Romance Package. Also please note that I truthfully LOVE the books that I have been listening to and this endorsement has been one of my favorites!

The Past Is Not To Dictate The Future

Don’t let the past dictate your future.  Leave the it back there where it belongs, it served a purpose and now it’s time to move on.

There is something to learn from every thing that has happened to us.  If you are stuck on something from the past then ask for the lesson to reveal itself so that you can be freed from constantly reviewing history.

Often the holiday season will become a time for reviewing old situations or old circumstances, let’s not do that this year.  This Christmas season let’s remember what we are grateful for and start thinking about what we want to create for 2017.   Time to move on….