Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Five - October 29, 2010

  1. What has there been too much of in your life lately?
  2. Too much drama. Too much going on in my head. Too much time wasted.
  3. In what areas of your life might you currently be overextended?
  4. I'm the parent to a special needs child. I think that speaks for itself.
  5. What seems about to be going into overtime?
  6. Our Medicaid application.
  7. In what way does your cup runneth over?
  8. My loving family - despite all the ups and downs, I am surrounded by love, joy, and beauty.
  9. What’s your favorite INXS song?
  10. All I can think of is Need You Tonight, but I really was a huge INXS fan in the 80s/90s. I had Shabooh Shoobah! Sassy magazine did it to me - I even had the INXS poster from Sassy on my wall.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fifteen years - October 28, 2010

Fifteen years ago (on either the 28th or 29th of October, but let's just say it was the 28th), I dressed up as a goth girl and went out to see some bands at TT the Bear's in Cambridge, MA. My friend pointed out a cute guy, and we went over to talk to him between sets.

We've been married for seven years now and have one beautiful daughter.

And hey, we didn't have mutual friends introduce us and we didn't meet via any dating service and we didn't meet on the Internet! We met at a club! Go figure.

Happy Anniversary Lance!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday rambles - October 26, 2010

  • Today I drove to Kroger again. It's only the second time I've done that particular drive, but it was actually really easy. 
  • I'm pleased that I'm getting better about driving. I've done things like drive to a friend's house, gone to the farmer's market in the late afternoon, and the aforementioned Kroger trip.
  • I saved about 54% at Kroger today, but the entire trip was frustrating. The cereal deal I wanted to do wasn't clearly marked. I tried guessing and doing the whole thing at self checkout, but I guessed wrong and had to void the whole transaction. I found a manager helping another woman with the same deal - he too was stumped. It just wasn't worth the hassle, so I skipped it. Then the cashier forgot to scan one of my coupons and another e-coupon didn't come off. I've written the company about all of this. We'll see what happens.
  • I did get my favorite soup - Campbell's tomato - for a great price. I also got very cheap hand soap (in fun holiday scents) and 9 cent bags of rice to donate to the food pantry. But the deals and the service at Publix are both consistently better and I'll probably stick to them instead.
  • My bottle openers, mirrors, interchangeable necklaces, and buttons are all now for sale at HomeGrown Decatur. I'm excited about this new development.
  • I am going to a Halloween party where the theme is to dress as a rock star. I realized *I* am a rock star and therefore I think I may just dress up in my funkiest outfit.
  • I sold the following bottle opener this morning on Etsy and it is now relisted:

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Monday morning deals - October 25, 2010

    It's a dark and stormy morning, but we haven't had any rainy days in a while so I figure we're due. What brightened my Monday a little bit was the plethora of amazing deals from the half-price sites today. As in, I bought more than I probably should have...

    [Note that the Groupon and Plum District links are referral links - it would make me so happy if you'd use them though!]

    Groupon Atlanta's deal of the day is $20 for $40 worth of stuff at the Body Shop. While I personally cannot resist good-smelling bathy stuff and could probably spend this all on myself, I think it will instead make for some great teacher/therapist gifts for the holidays. This deal is limited (but they don't say how limited), so if you're interested you might want to hop on it ASAP.

    Plum District's deal of the day is $25 for $50 worth of toys/puzzles/clothes (and more) at ShopZoolu.com. Shipping for orders from $25-$50 is $5, so that's $30 for $50 worth of toys. I scored my daughter's Hanukkah haul: three Melissa & Doug puzzles, a Melissa and Doug stacking train, and a juice box holder (she rarely gets juice boxes/milk boxes, but when she does she squeezes them and makes a mess - this should help) for $36 total, including shipping. Woo!

    Scoutmob Atlanta's deal of the day (this isn't a referral link, by the way) is 50% off clothes at Boogaloo's boutique in Decatur. Scoutmob deals are free free FREEEEEE so of course I grabbed this one. I still probably can't afford nor fit into Boogaloo's clothing, but this deal will definitely bring me into the store to check.

    I had planned to bring my new inventory over to HomeGrown Decatur so they could start selling my interchangeable magnet necklaces, bottle openers, mirrors, and one-inch buttons, but the weather may keep me home. We'll see.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Friday Five - October 22, 2010

    Courtesy of Friday5.org.
    1. What gives you the heebie-jeebies?
    2. Cockroaches/palmetto bugs. When the cat sits up and stares intently at something that I can't see. Total darkness.
    3. When were you most recently in double trouble?
    4. I can't think of a witty answer to this one.
    5. What puts you in the mood for some hanky-panky?
    6. Ha. I don't really want to get into that - this isn't that sort of blog.
    7. What easy-breezy task is still a pain in the neck to accomplish?
    8. Button making! It's so easy to do, and it's so fun to do, but it requires me going to another room and making myself sit down and concentrate.
    9. What area in your life seems especially rife with mumbo-jumbo?
    10. My daughter's medical issues - including specialists and health insurance and Medicaid. Blah. 
    I've been busy making things for both my Etsy store and the new retail store (a local artist coop) that will be selling my products.

    Many boxes of interchangeable necklaces, all destined for HomeGrown Decatur.
    Interchangeable magnet necklace inspired by the Magic 8 Ball. For sale now in my Etsy store.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

    Room: A Novel
    Room by Emma Donoghue
    Oddly enough, I came across this book via a post on Oh No They Didn't, which is really a celebrity gossip site. Someone thought that the trailer for this book (by the way, video trailers for books amuse me greatly) was worthy of a post. I clicked and was intrigued. The book has been on my library request list for a bit, and I finally got to pick it up yesterday. I read the whole thing in about three hours, unable to put it down.

    The book, as you may already know because it's on various bestseller charts and is getting lots of press, is told from the perspective of Jack. Jack lives in Room with Ma. And we find out that Ma was kidnapped when she was 19 and has been kept in Room ever since. She's now 27, Jack is five. All Jack has ever known is this Room, and Ma works hard to make sure he doesn't question his living situation. She also makes sure he's educated and doesn't let him watch too much TV, using it as a tool only when necessary. And as I said to a friend who had already read the book, 200+ pages set just inside Room would probably be a bit much...but I'll refrain from giving you any true spoilers.

    Jack talks and thinks like a five year old. A five year old who has never been outside and who has no concept of what's real and what's not. He's the traditional unreliable narrator in that respect. So it might take you some time to get into the rhythm of his world (I jumped right in, but I'd also read a bit about the story ahead of time). It's worth it though. And I had to read a section of about five pages midway through reallyreallyreallyfast because it was so intense. But there were times when I did wish the camera would swing away from Jack and show me other parts of the world, or where I wished Jack would overheard just a few of the conversations he simply reports are muffled. I always want more detail though.

    This isn't a happy book, but it's also not gory or graphic. It's a fast read and a haunting one. I can't stop thinking about it, since it's unfortunately based on a few true stories. And it made me cry, but not for the reason you'd think. (I can't tell you or I'll spoil it for you, but there was a scene that is very close to my heart.) So yes, I'd say this is worth picking up if you can. I rarely read fiction and I liked it, so that should say something. Now I'm going to run back to the Great Typo Hunt, which I had started but put aside, to cleanse my palate.

    And no, I guess I'm not giving you a full on review of Medium Raw after all. Here are my brief thoughts:
    • It was disjointed and uneven, with some chapters telling far more interesting stories than others. I skipped a few.
    • Parts of it were weirdly redundant within a few sentences; where was his editor?
    • I loved reading about his attempts to turn his kid off of McDonald's.
    • I was less interested in the autobiographical bits and the where-are-they-now pieces.
    • Bourdain has a way with words that always sucks me in. I can't help it.
    • And I'm a vegetarian who reads his work and is always amused at his vitriol. But I appreciated his honesty in how he reacted to a vegan asking him for support just after returning from a war zone.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Kale Chips - October 18, 2010

    A snack that's fast, healthy, and tasty? Sign me up. I read about kale chips on Snack Girl's blog and have made them a few times. As lunch approaches (and it's time to get my daughter from preschool), I was hungry and wanted something quick, so I threw these in the oven. I know I called them healthy, but the amount of olive oil and salt I used probably negates that a wee bit.

    Behold:

    Before - kale coated in olive oil and sea salt.
    After - delicious, light, crispy treats

    Om nom nom kale chips in a bowl
    I also want to tell you about my new favorite snack - Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Nibs. A nib has ONE calorie and fills your mouth with chocolate. They're good when I just want something quick and sweet but not filling. Nom. Plus the tin is adorable and I want to turn it into something crafty. I actually found cocoa nibs at YDFM and am thinking I may try to make something like this myself...

    Low calorie chocolate goodness
    I have a busy week ahead, full of chiropractor and doctor appointments, dinner with friends, and more. Tomorrow I have a meeting with a local artist coop/store about carrying my mirrors/necklaces/bottle openers/other stuff - wish me luck!

    I did finish Medium Raw and am still figuring out if I have enough to say to warrant a full blog post. (I didn't love it, I found it uneven, but parts of it still really got to me.) And I've started the Great Typo Hunt - boys after my own heart, let me tell you.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Sunday morning randomness - October 17, 2010

    • I just found out that the final book in the Earth's Children series by Jean Auel is coming out in March 2011. And apparently this is old news (announced last May) but it's new to me. And kind of ridiculously exciting. I started reading her books when I was (too young) in middle school or maybe junior high, and I'm hooked despite the fact that they're a bit on the trashy side and that the last one wasn't as great as the rest. Still! Still! I'm hooked, and they tell a great story and they are extremely detailed and researched. I respect that. 
    • I'm currently reading Anthony Bourdain's latest, Medium Raw. I haven't decided if I'll write up an extended review or not. Right now I am loving some parts but underwhelmed with others.
    • I can't decide what to read next - The Great Typo Hunt (from my library pile), Room (waiting for me at the library), College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Coeds, Then and Now (library pile), When Bad Things Happen to Good People (recent booksale score), Odd and the Frost Giants (library pile), Fury (library pile), The Penderwicks (library pile - yes, I have far too many books out at once), or Everything About Me is Fake...And I'm Perfect (recent thrift). Or something else.
    • On Friday, my husband and I went to the High Museum of Art for a member preview of the new Titian exhibit. (I wish we'd taken the tour the author of that article took, but time was limited.) While there were only (only!) four spectacular Titian paintings on display, they were surrounded by equally striking pictures from his contemporaries. (My husband reminded me that we'd seen a larger Titian exhibit on our trip to Spain years ago.) Gorgeous. Words fail me. I fell in love with Titian when I was in college and studying abroad in London. I was wandering through a museum (I think it was the National Gallery, but I can't remember now) and met up with a tour of little kids. So I sat down and listened to the tour guide explain, detail by detail, one of Titian's paintings. She didn't talk down to the kids at all, but she also took her time with them. And with that, love.
    • We also walked quickly through the Dali: The Late Works exhibit. I need to go back to fully process that one. Wow.
    • And we also managed to get to a friend's art opening briefly that evening. We had the kid with us, and she was displeased with the entire situation, so we didn't stay long. But at least we got there at all, which is unusual for us. The gallery was in the backyard of a private home and everything felt really private and intimate, like we'd stumbled upon a secret (that a ton of other people happened to be at - maybe not so secret...). Thus ended my day-of-culture...
    • I had wanted to go to the Little Five Points Halloween parade yesterday and then blog about it and show you all sorts of pictures, but everyone else in Georgia had the same idea. We couldn't find parking (yes, we should've just taken MARTA) so we gave up and went to a playground instead. 
    • Tomorrow I'm mailing what hopefully is the final part of our Medicaid application for the kid. A few pages, kicked back for additional signatures, now acquired. Think good thoughts for us.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Friday Five - October 15, 2010

    Courtesy of Friday5.org. (I think these questions are fun!)

    In honor of the sixty-fourth birthday of Richard Carpenter, this week’s Friday 5 is inspired entirely by the songs of the Carpenters.

    1. Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

    I've been lovingly called the Animal Princess in my past. Seriously. Feral cats lay on their backs. Baby bunnies don't run away. Something like that.

    2. What always gets you down?

    I could get all gloomy with this, but I'll just say that dark mornings get me down. I much prefer long days with sun streaming in the window as I wake.

    3. If you had to live yesterday once more (literally yesterday, as in Thursday the 14th), which part might be worth writing a pretty pop song about?

    I'll write you a little song about the simplicity of letting your cat snuggle up and purr in your lap instead of doing chores.

    4. Where’s the coolest place you’ve been where you could look “down on creation?”

    The CN Tower in Toronto! The glass floor!

    5. What’s something in your life that has only just begun?

    Watching my girl grow and get stronger and more able every day. (She's just figured out how to lift her feet and ride her walker instead of walking with it. Silly kid.)

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Fun iTunes Meme - October 12, 2010

    Instructions: Type these words into your iTunes (or whatever) search. Name the song that comes up first. [I sorted by Album, since that's my default.]

    HAPPY: "Happy to Be Here" by Kay Hanley
    LOVE: "First Love" by Adele
    HOME: "Hometown Glory" by Adele
    HATE: "August Day Song" (Remixed by Chateau Flight) by Bebel Gilberto
    LIGHT: "I Saw a Light" by Bat for Lashes
    DARK: "Dark Heart Dawning" by BT
    GOOD: "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam and the Ants
    BAD: "Iesha" by Another Bad Creation
    SMILE: "Smiley Faces" by Gnarls Barkley
    CRY: "Boys Don't Cry" by the Cure
    GIRL: "Barking Up the Wrong Girl" (live) by Ad Frank
    BOY: "Timing is Everything" (Boy in Static remix) by Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women
    SAD: "Sad Eyes" by Bat for Lashes
    LOST: "Lost Message" by Air
    NIGHT: "Nox Animalium Nobilium (Night of the Noble Beasts" by Sandra Boynton/The Ad Hog Camerata
    DAY: "Daydreamer" by Adele [I never even listen to this album!]
    WOLF: "Careless Whisper" Live at Wolftrap by Ben Folds featuring Rufus Wainwright
    ROBOT: "Robot Rock" by Daft Punk
    DANCE: "Aganju" (Spiritual South Contempi Repercussion) by Bebel Gilberto
    TIME: "Brevus Somnus (Naptime)" by Sandra Boynton/The Ad Hog Camerata

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    CVS - Two boxes of Quaker Oatmeal for 8 cents - October 11, 2010

    Eight cents!
    I haven't been shopping CVS as religiously as I did in the past. I don't have time and the deals haven't been as good - I don't really need more toothpaste at this point (even for donation purposes). This week's got me back in though. I'd spent all $11 of my ECBs a few weeks ago on batteries and was down to zero; last week I bought a friend a Coke and used my Green Bag Tag (GBT), so I got a dollar back...

    This week, Quaker Oatmeal is on sale two-for-$5. You get back $2 in Extrabucks when you buy it, which is a decent enough deal with no coupons. Then there is a $2 printable available, so two of those plus my dollar from my GBT made the oatmeal free. I paid 8 cents out of pocket (tax) and I got back the $2. Yay!

    Today we're trying out sending the kid to preschool for two extra hours - a full, regular day. I'm really nervous about this for a lot of reasons, but we'll see how it works out. If it goes well, we'll have to have an IEP meeting to make it official. Ah, meetings.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Book Review: Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh

    Rat Girl: A Memoir
    Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh

    I am pretty sure the first time I became aware of Throwing Muses (at least in a conscious way) was around 1990, when a friend (an older guy in a cool local band - he was friends with my dad!) made me a mix tape to introduce me to music beyond my top-40 worldview. Hate My Way was on there, and he called it one of the best pop songs he'd ever heard, if I remember correctly. (The tape also included everything from Shonen Knife to the Sundays and it changed my life, as did the zines he sent me.)

    Since then, I've been a fan of the Muses, of Kristin solo, of the Breeders, of Belly, of Tanya Donelly solo. (I like 50 Foot Wave too, yes, but they're not entirely my style.) I've seen Kristin perform solo many, many times, and she's simply mesmerizing to watch. Love her. Love her lyrics, love how she stares into space in a trance while she sings, love her energy. (I've also seen the Muses, Belly, and Tanya perform, and I've met Kristin and Tanya - both wore my tiara - click the links for more about that...)

    Digression: The last time I saw Kristin perform was at Criminal Records in Atlanta. I was barely pregnant, not really showing but feeling like I was already giant. And a little girl pointed at me and said "Baby!" and her mother looked kind of terrified and horrified. I was ecstatic and let the mom and the girl know that yes, there was a baby in there...

    In any case, I wasn't surprised to find that Kristin Hersh's memoir is intense and profound and also really, darkly funny. It's based on a diary she kept when she was 19, during a time period in which she was diagnosed as bipolar, was hearing voices and songs (she says she doesn't write the songs, they just swirl around her until she writes them down - which mostly seems...less than pleasant) and then became pregnant (which changes how her songs channel themselves and how she interacts with the world). The story is interspersed with flashbacks from her childhood and with Muses song lyrics that are relevant to the narrative. This book is a bumpy ride through chaos and out of it, and it offers an incredible insight into such an amazing musician. And it's simply a great story - particularly when she's discussing her friendship with actress Betty Hutton, when she's describing the ridiculousness of recording the band's first EP, and when she's thinking about hiding a snake in a bag in her lap. And as a mother myself, I loved reading about her pregnancy and how she handled it. (She's now a mom of four.)

    I'm getting gushy. It's hard not to be fangirly about this book, in a way. It's like she invited me into her house for a few hours and said "let me tell you about this transitional time in my life" and then spilled it all. I could totally hear her gravelly voice telling the whole thing. Oh and I know I said it before, but it's WICKEDLY funny - a funny book with a not-so-funny core. I love that. And I don't feel like I'm doing this book justice with this review so just trust me on this one -even if you've never heard of Kristin, you just need to grab Rat Girl by the tail and immerse yourself in it. Meanwhile, I really need to buy Crooked: An Album (which is sort of a book too) when I earn enough Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks. Or maybe sooner. Yeah, probably sooner.

    Kristin makes money by offering her music up for free and requesting donations, by touring, and by being awesome. Do check out http://throwingmuses.cashmusic.org and http://kristinhersh.cashmusic.org/ see what I mean.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Friday Five - October 8, 2010

    Ah, finally Friday5.org has been updated, so here's the "real" Friday Five (though I think my earlier post was just as real):

    1. Do you still have your senior yearbook? Where is it?

    Yeah. It's on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf in my bedroom. It's a classy looking document of my past, full of big hair and people I barely knew. I have my college senior yearbook too - that thing is a disgrace, with pictures of people vomiting and people drinking (I'm not joking) and poorly reproduced senior pictures. My mother insisted I buy it and I gave in.

    2. What souvenir did you bring back from your last trip?

    I haven't taken a trip just for fun in so long. Most of our extended trips now are to visit family in Massachusetts. Souvenirs for those are pictures and a few extra pounds from eating lots of really good ice cream.

    3. What visible signs are there of your most recent injury?

    I have a new shiny scar on my leg from a splatter of oil when I was making fried eggs.

    4. What’s the neatest wedding favor you’ve ever seen?

    It's also been a while since I've been to a wedding. I think our wedding favors were neat - a 1" button with the date, our names, and two ladybugs. The button was attached to a little box with some Lindt truffles tucked inside. Edible or tiny. I liked it.

    5. What do you do with playbills and movie-ticket stubs?

    I keep them. I mean, I don't actually organize them or make them accessible, but I do keep them in drawers and piles and boxes. And then sometimes I clean and come across them and smile.

    General ramble for a Friday in a Friday Five sort of way - October 8, 2010

    I wanted to do a Friday Five today, but friday5.org hasn't updated (yet?) and the Friday Five on Livejournal is all about Disney, and I'm not really into talking about Disney. So I'll give you a list of five things instead:
    1. Yesterday we kept the kid home from preschool with a slight fever and a bit of sniffles and pukeyness. Thus, it was a Very Long Day. 
    2. We went to Target and I could not resist buying her a black shirt with a shiny pink skull on it. Halloween clothes are so cute - and cheap. We have a princess birthday party to go to tomorrow - do you think that shirt is appropriate? (Rhetorical question. But we don't really have any princessy outfits since a kid who can't walk can't really wear dresses very well, so I will have to figure something out.)
    3. The kid's private speech therapist came by to try to do a session yesterday, but illness and crankiness cut the visit short. However, we all played with shaving cream and it was more fun and less messy than I expected. Plus as I knew already, my kid doesn't have many sensory concerns. 
    4. I often wonder if people think my daughter is autistic because she's three and can't walk or talk. It's a hard thing to randomly address, so I often keep quiet. I have found that as the years go by, it becomes easier and easier to simply say "She has mild cerebral palsy" in a straightforward way, with a smile, without flinching quite as much.
    5. It's the weekend! We have the aforementioned princess party, which should be fun. And my friend Meredith will be in town - she's the tour manager for Rachael Sage, who is also a friend of mine from way back when. We can't go to the show at Eddie's Attic (we're working on finding babysitters in general, but we don't have any quite yet) but we always manage to grab dinner with Meredith and say hello to the ever-so-sparkly Ms. Sage (whose music you should check out immediately).
    I leave you with a new design of mine - a spider button (I drew the spider and also just learned how to make a photorealistic-ish shiny button image). He's not in my Etsy shop yet, but if you'd like one I can always make you a special listing. (And hooray, Blogger image uploads work again!)
    Super cute Halloween spider one-inch button.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Dieting: My Love and Not-Love Relationship with Hungry Girl - October 5, 2010

    As I've mentioned a few times, I'm on a quest to lose weight. I can say it's the "baby weight," but my kid is three, so yeah, not so much. The fact is that my metabolism has changed as I've gotten older but I still eat like I did when I was 19 and pounds just melted away. I was far more active in my late teens/early 20s than I am today. I'm much more likely these days to wind up on the couch for more time than I should whenever I have a spare minute. Having a kid who can't walk unassisted means I'm not doing the usual chase thing (she crawls fast, but not that fast) and I have my mornings to myself. I have been trying to at least do the "free step" program on my Wii Fit while watching TV (similar to walking slowly on a treadmill, at least it gets me moving and upright). Look back and you'll see my efforts to do the 30-Day Shred, but that hurts my knees so I sort of abandoned it.

    But I need to eat better too. I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I think I eat on the healthier side of the spectrum. I buy organic most of the time, I try to avoid processed foods and eat whole foods (imperfect as I am, I don't always succeed, but it's a goal), I get really mad when a label says 0% trans fat because they actually have up to 0.49 grams of it per serving (which adds up quickly) (that link is sponsored by Smart Balance, so it's not entirely impartial, but it has some good info under the tab "The Truth"). But I still like ice cream. And pizza. And french fries. And going to restaurants - maybe it's not fast food in the traditional sense, but it's still usually not the healthiest thing around.

    Which brings me to Hungry Girl. When I started really trying to change things up, I requested several of her cookbooks from the library, and I subscribed to her daily emails. And now that I've been reading her stuff in print and online for a while, I wanted to share what I like and don't like. (I titled this post "Love and Not-Love" because I don't hate her one bit, but I don't like everything she says either. There was a blog - since abandoned, it seems - that was devoted to hating her. I don't hate her!)

    I like that she has turned me on to products that I now incorporate in my diet on a regular basis: Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze (delicious - I use it in everything), Vitatops (love love love the chocolate flavor - I usually eat them frozen), Amy's Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque (I buy the Trader Joe's version of this, which I believe is identical/made by Amy's yet costs a bit less, though still a splurge for this frugal gal), Laughing Cow (I was already a HUGE fan but she just made me love it that much more, and she uses it in recipes I'd never have thought of - and yes, shamefully, it is processed cheese, but the ingredient list isn't terrible and, um, it's yummy, so there!), and tofu shirataki noodles. (I also am not a fan of 100-calorie snack packs, but she indirectly got me to try the Trader Joe's oatmeal cookie packs. They're made with real ingredients, including eggs, and they taste great. So let's count that too.)

    Plus, I like the emails that have product news and reviews in them; she tries out the low-calorie food options in the grocery store and gives what I believe to be an honest opinion of them, and she often gets the scoop on new flavors/options that will be coming out in the future. I also like the emails that break down the calorie counts of many restaurant/fast food items; I find those very eye opening - I may have known something probably wasn't good for me, but seeing the numbers makes it very real. (An aside: I went to IHOP recently and they had calorie and fat counts right on the menu. I knew IHOP wasn't health food but man, that took all the fun out of it. Probably for the best...sure....) And I like that she often substitutes non-meat products for meaty dishes or that I can vegetarian-ize the recipes that I find interesting. She's definitely vegetarian friendly, which I think a lot of diet-type writing isn't.

    On the other hand, I just don't like her recipes 99% of the time. She relies on substitutes so that things taste like the fuller fat/caloric version, but the substitutes are usually not particularly healthy. She likes Splenda - I won't touch it (I don't use artificial sweeteners). She likes low-calorie cheese and fat-free dairy (yuck). She likes non-fat Cool Whip - I think that's not a food item at all. She has at times suggested products that substitute healthy fats for fillers or may have that lurking not-really-zero-grams trans fat. And she's suggested products with gelatin, which is only annoying to me personally because I'm a vegetarian and don't eat that - not her fault (although why gelatin is a filler in so many things, including low-calorie yogurt, boggles my mind and kind of grosses me out). I was really disappointed with her cocktail book (though, honestly, what was I expecting?) because it's all "use diet soda and Splenda" over and over.

    And I don't like her emphasis on calories. Because I've heard her say that fewer calories means weight loss, and she's right, but there are calories and there are calories. For me, it's worth eating real peanut butter (with just peanuts and maybe some salt as ingredients), which has more calories, yes, but also healthy fats and things that are good for me, rather than a product that adds a ton of other stuff to make up for the fat. It's the whole Michael Pollan idea that eating real food is important. Also, moderation is key and I think a once-in-a-while 300 or 400 calorie coffee beverage isn't going to kill you. (I had a Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Latte today. I got it with low-fat milk. It's not healthy, but it's a treat, and it tastes better than my own pumpkin-y lower-calorie concoction I make at home. Hungry Girl rants about how many calories are in a medium; I got a small.) Her language about things being "dangerous" or "to be avoided" gets to be a bit much after a while, and sometimes it worries me because you could get a bit obsessive about that (which is not her point, I know).

    I respect her perspective, which she's stated in several interviews, that she's not about teaching people how to eat their regular meals every day, that she's about making good-tasting snacks and lower-calorie meal substitutes, that she's about sticking to what people tend to eat and updating that. And she's not a nutritionist and says it up front. Fine, maybe people eat a lot of crap and eating lower-calorie faux-fried crap is better than fatty deep-fried crap. It doesn't mean I have to agree with either option. But I am not an all-or-nothing person (well, I try not to be) and I appreciate that I can pick and choose what I want to use from what she says. If you want something a bit more healthy, try Snack Girl instead, as she is focused on healthy and low-calorie snacks, and I got my kale chip recipe from her.

    So if you're looking for cutesy diety tips (sometimes too cutesy, too cartoony, too "you go girl!" for me, but hey...), ways to turn your favorite snack foods and restaurant treats into lower-calorie items, reviews of new products, and a lot of interesting ideas, I think it is worthwhile to subscribe to the Hungry Girl emails. They're free, they don't take up space, and they're archived on her site as well. Pick and choose carefully. I just personally am not into the books and the fake food and the "low calorie or bust" mentality. Then again, if I found one at the thrift store or a used book sale, I'd probably grab it...