Book Review: The English Wife by Lauren Willig

cover117794-mediumThe summary and promo for The English Wife interested me. The story itself did not. It is a novel occurring at different times, at two different places, with two interwoven stories. It is a murder mystery set from 1894 to 1899, during The Gilded Age. Like The Gilded Age, this book was shiny on the surface but rather lacking underneath. The story moved along at a leisurely pace. Each person was somehow not fully formed yet had an intricate background. The characters are very unlikable, barring a reporter named James Burke. The main character Janie was, we presume, intent on finding out who killed her brother. She simpered and quoted Shakespeare most of the time. Janie was easily and often offended by most actions from every character and was a wisp of a heroine. There were long chapters describing homes, art, plays, and what everyone was wearing.  The anti-climactic ending was the most exciting moment of the book, but you have to work to get there. If you want to read about how important one’s reputation was during that era, it’s spot on. If you want to read a book about intrigue and a murder most foul, this is not the book for you. 

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Book Review: Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown

 

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Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos is a smartly written introduction to one of the world’s most celebrated artists. It begins in childhood, where we learn about Frida’s life in the famous La Casa Azul. Frida had a menagerie of animals; a parrot, two monkeys, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a fawn, and a black cat. Frida lived most of her life at La Casa Azul with her family, pets, and eventual husband Diego Rivera. The story tells much about Frida, like when she contracted polio at age six. Though it is never called polio in the book, it does mention that one of her legs was shorter than the other. It also mentions the accident that happened when she was 18 that highly impacted her life. It spares the detail that it was a bus accident.

What this book does best is tell the story of how she persevered through illness and pain to become an amazing artist. We learn that Frida’s mother made her a special easel and hung a mirror over her bed so she could paint. Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos is about how Frida’s animals inspired her paintings. It explains how they often accompanied her in self-portraits. While reading, you get to enjoy a lush, lovely illustrated book with bright colors and beautiful pictures. With the young in mind, the author created a great resource for simplifying a complicated life. I recommend this book for anyone wanting to introduce children to the unforgettable legacy of Frida Kahlo and her work.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own. 

 

The Girl With The Gallbladder Bruises

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12/23/2017. Affinity Medical Center Emergency Room. Massillon, OH
“Don’t come back here if you are in any more pain.”

That was what the emergency room doctor told me, in front of my husband, after he told me my gallbladder looked fine.

Me: “But the woman who did the ultrasound said my gallbladder has stones in it.”
Dr. McNasty: “She did?”
Me: “yes…stones.”
Dr. McNasty: “Well it was fine. Just schedule an appointment with a surgeon, but don’t come back here if you are in any more pain.”

12/24/2017 Aultman Hospital Emergency Room Canton, OH
Me:….so long story short I’m not supposed to go back to Affinity, and I’m having another attack.
Nurse: That was completely uncalled for.
Me: (pacing the tiny room because I am in an incredible amount of pain) I know, I am shocked he said that. I’m confused and really upset. I am not a drug seeker you can see it in my file. Dr. McNasty prescribed me Percocet but I’ve taken one and it’s made me sick, along with this attack. (fun fact, only ever took one Percocet out of the 12 he prescribed me. Percocet I DID NOT ASK FOR, by the way)
Doctor: We can keep you and you can get your gallbladder out tomorrow but it’s Christmas so it’s a skeleton crew.
Me: I’d rather be home with my kids, I will schedule an appointment with a surgeon.

Christmas night I have a terrible attack, but I rode it out at home, boss style. (There may have been whining and rolling around my tub like an Orca but there is no proof!)

12/26/17
Make an appointment with a surgeon for a consult for January 8th.
Attempt several times to reach a patient advocate at Affinity. They need to understand how unprofessional and rude their ER doctor was. Left messages. Radio silence.

12/29/2017
Drove to Aultman Hospital Emergency Room, Canton OH at 4 a.m.
I was in horrific pain, worst than my labor and kidney stones (and I have a high pain tolerance)
Am admitted within an hour and a half
The surgeon I was supposed to meet with on the 8th shows up and says “we are doing this today”
Got my gallbladder removed laparoscopically that afternoon
Never had one bad nurse, rude doctor, no one made me nervous or made me feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there.

1/3/2017
Am healing well. Thankful to the surgeon I had never met before who took his time off to come in and remove my gallbladder.
Finally received a phone call from Affinity Hospital, Massillon OH from someone who wants to talk to me about what happened. Missed the phone call, could not get through when I called back.

I have dates and times, but nothing compares to the mental issues I was starting to face. I have several mental illnesses and they were all coming out in full effect as I battled this pain. Being dismissed was incredibly disheartening and made me feel like I was overreacting to the pain. And that I had done something wrong by going into the first E.R. Then my anxiety kicked into overdrive, I ended up having several panic attacks as I battled the pain at home. They would also occur when I was waiting for the pain to come back. I was mentally disintegrating while my body rejected every gentle bland food, even water.

So melodramatic, you may be thinking. When someone like me, who suffers from severe anxiety on top of BP and Major Depressive Disorder, gets dismissed it tends to start invading your mind. Little tendrils of self-doubt.
“Am I overreacting?”
“Is this pain in my head?”

“Is this a symptom of something far worse?”
“Is this ever going to end?”

It becomes a Merry-Go-Round of mental trash.

The fact was: the gallbladder needed to be removed, the pain was not in my head, and the people at the first hospital were, pardon my language, douchebags.

The writing on this post is terrible. I am on some pretty intense pain meds, and I’m still healing. Healing pretty darn well! When I come down from Unicorn World maybe I can come back and lay this all out in a well-written post. For now, you get The Girl and Her Organ Removal Scars.

Also, I will update when I hear from Hospital #1 and their opinion on Dr. McNasty.

Has anyone else been dismissed when their body was telling them something is super wrong here? I’d love to know. Share in the comments.

Swan Song

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Frenzied winter wind blows
I am in a place that doesn’t know my name
I walk slowly in this world of cold
All that is wrong begins with this chill in my heart
All that is wrong begins with my longing for the mate of my soul

I feel home calling
My skin smells like the hot sun
I wake up with sand on my feet, my hair wavy with salt
I lay languidly in the tub for hours, I am safe when I am in water
It is my sanctuary

I feel home calling
I find shells scattered on my floors
Sea glass winking in the meager sunlight
I dream of waves crashing, spinning me around, laughing at the fish darting around me
Telling me its time
Telling me they miss me

I feel home calling
I will freeze until the fierce winds coming off the water slash around my body, pulling me towards the foamy sea, until my toes meet the shoreline,
the hot sun turning me into walking fire.
I will become one again with that which calls me sister, lover, family, friend, twin.

Home is calling
I will be whole again someday
I will return to the island and never leave again
It will be my swan song

Daily Prompt: Calling

Book Review: Sweet Revenge: Passive-Aggressive Desserts for Your Exes & Enemies by Heather Kim

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This is going to be a two-part review. I want to start by saying that I like this cookbook. It’s bright, it’s fun, it has interesting ingredients. The names of the recipes are great. “Kiss My Molasses” “You’re A Piece of Sheetcake” “TBH, You’re A Total D-Bagel” 
 
I laughed when I read, “In a big ‘ol mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and you’ve expelled all your pent-up rage.”  
 
The part of me that enjoyed reading the cookbook is warring with the part of me that attempted to make two recipes. Part two of the review: Neither one worked. I wouldn’t call myself a “master” baker but I am proficient in the kitchen. I know my way around some good homemade bread, cakes, and cookies. I was up for the challenge this book presented. I made “You’re A Total Monster aka Cap’n Crunch Monster Cookies” and “You’re The Devil Food Cake.” 
 
“You’re A Total Monster aka” Cap’N Crunch Monster Cookies” have 19 ingredients. I had part of the list at home. The things I needed  I bought from Walmart:

Corn Syrup $4.46
Mini M&M’s $2.88
Mini Chocolate Chips $1.98
Butter $3.05 (calls for one cup)
Heavy cream $4.14
Graham crackers $3.00
Milk Powder $2.98
Nacho Cheese Dorito’s $3.98
Cap’n Crunch $2.98

 
I already had: sugar, brown sugar, 1 egg, vanilla extract, flour, baking powder, baking
soda, salt, old-fashioned oats, and cornmeal
 
I spent 29.45 on the ingredients, and I bought store brand as much as possible to save on cost. 
 
So what went wrong? The ratio of wet to dry ingredients is way off. I had a huge bowl of oats and flour and the rest, and I had to mix it with scant wet ingredients of butter/egg/sugar/corn syrup/one tablespoon of cream. I realized after I purchased the milk powder it only called for one tablespoon. (What was the purpose…I still muse) What I ended up with was a dry, crumbly dough that did not want to stick together. At all. I baked the first batch for 18 minutes as recommended and they were dark and hard as rocks. I put more in and shortened the time to 16 minutes and out popped dark hard cookies. The third batch, 14 minutes, super hard cookies. Last batch, 12 minutes, after they cooled they were as hard as the 18-minute cookies. And I don’t mean crisp, I mean bang on the table and they don’t break, hard to bite into cookies. And all you could taste was the chocolate chips. The flavors of cereal and Doritos were missing. Even after a day, you ended up with a mouthful of dry cornmeal and chocolate chips.

 
The idea of this recipe is super fun. Cap’n Crunch, Doritos, M&M’s, oh my! But the result was not great. But forging on I said, eh, I’m going to make this cake, it sounds and looks amazing! “You’re The Devil Food Cake With Chocolate Frosting & Brownie-Streusel Crunch” 
 
This recipe is in three parts: cake, frosting, streusel. I had most of the ingredients for this recipe but still had to buy:

Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips $1.98
2 packs butter $6.10 (24 Tablespoons for the whole recipe)
Dark Chocolate Chips $2.73
Brownie Mix $.99
Cocoa Powder $3.18

 
I had: coffee, flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs, milk, (the heavy cream from the cookies) more sugar, and oil. 
 
I spent 14.98 on the ingredients for this cake, and I bought store brand as much as possible to save on cost. 
 
So what went wrong? Everything, everything went wrong. The mix overflowed in this unexpectedly wild cake-explosion, the middles never cooked, the icing never set. I threw in the towel and didn’t make the brownie-streusel so I have no opinion on that. It took me a long time to assemble this cake, or I should say: the attempt to make this cake took up a huge chunk of Christmas cookie baking time with my family. Once again, the ratios seemed off as I was mixing and pouring (and praying). The icing was pure liquid, it looked like a ganache. The picture shows an iced cake and mentions nothing of ganache. What went wrongI asked as I shook my sticky fist at the sky. I stuck the icing in the fridge after it cooled and it hardened into a delicious, soft chocolate. One could use it to dip fruit, but not as icing on a cake. I had no cake to ice.

 
When I was buying the goods for the two recipes I also picked up:
Cake Flour $3.98
Cool Ranch Dorito’s $3.98
(to use with other recipes in the book)
 
I was (and maybe still will) going to make a couple more recipes. In total, I spent $52.39 on recipes that bombed so hard.

That’s the problem with this cookbook. It’s so cool, it looks like my teen and I would have the time of our lives whipping up these crazy cakes and cookies. The pictures in the book are great. The author is fun and engaging, there are “helpful tips” scattered throughout it. But I spent a ton of money trying to make TWO of the recipes in the book. I wanted this cookbook to be amazing, but the recipes need to be revised, they are not usable. Revenge is almost sweet.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own

 

My Heritage: A Woman Undefined

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Grandma with my son, 2008

Daily Prompt: Inheritance

My beloved Grandmother died in 2009, three weeks before my youngest daughter was born. I will never forget the emptiness I felt as I walked my body, heavy with pregnancy, down the aisle of the church. I was following her casket. I was walking into hell as she was floating away to heaven. I was the last person to see her awake and alive. Everyone else saw her hooked up to machines as her body gave out. She had been in the hospital for her heart and had been planning to come home soon, but it wasn’t meant to be. The day before she died I sat in her hospital room and watched her sleep for a bit. I sat there feeling the baby kick and squirm while she lay there in a peaceful rest. When she woke up she told me she didn’t feel good, but she hadn’t been feeling well, so I chalked it up to what had been going on. I had come to bring her my son’s one-year pictures, to hang on her bulletin board. I remember hanging the pictures of my blond haired, blue eyed boy so she could see his sweet little face. We laughed about her desire to have a great-grandchild with dark hair. She told me she was coming home and I believed her, she told me she couldn’t wait to meet Elise. She never did. I live every day wondering if I could have stopped her body from giving out. If I had said something, would she had lived? It is a guilt that everyone tells me I shouldn’t carry, but it was part of my inheritance.

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Fuzzy Wuzzy

I had my little girl a few weeks later, hair black as coal, wild shoots, and curls. Like it was as shocked as she was to be in the world. She had gotten her wish, but missed seeing it by days. My little girl has my Grandma’s big, luscious full lips. A trait no one else has, we often say that Grandma kissed Ellie on her way up to heaven and gave her a gift. Ellie’s inheritance.

She has given me something else, too. I’ve had it a long time but it has gotten bigger and stronger as I’ve aged. My mental illness. Grandma wasn’t well for most of her life, but they didn’t treat the problems the same as they do today. Mental illness left untreated, especially bipolar disorder, worsens with age. When my Grandpa died in 2005, her tether to reality got cut. That’s when her illness came out in full force, without the love of her life to keep her grounded she felt she had nothing. She would sit in her chair for hours, rubbing the fabric to nothing, as she reminisced about the same few stories. Over and over she would tell them, to comfort herself, or to keep memories alive I’ll never know. It was obsessive, and I started to see the mania for her actions and her stories. I would sit and listen to them no matter how often I heard them because I loved her. And because I had no idea what was waiting for me around the bend.

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True Love

After she was gone, I learned she had been in the hospital several times when my dad and aunt were young. Then one day I, too, found myself where she had been. Held prisoner by my own mind, unlike her I was lucky enough to receive a diagnosis. It was five years ago this November that I learned I was bipolar. Five very long years of medications and relapses from self-harm and suicidal ideations. Three hospitalizations and hundreds of doctors visits. Five years of trying to be a good wife and mother. Losing friends because I’m sick, reconnecting with old friends because they understand. I am lucky to have the support of my family and team of doctors. I owe so much to my psychiatrist, we have worked together all these years to keep me alive and thriving. I had been sick before the diagnosis came, but in November of 2012, it finally had a name. This was my inheritance.

Her love was strong, her laugh was tinkling. When I was little I thought she was the most glamorous woman I had ever seen. She would let me sit at her vanity and coat my face with her expensive makeup. She would set my hair in curlers, draw me warm baths. I always felt safe and loved after she and Grandpa would tuck me in when I spent the night. She would lower the blinds and turn on her collection of music boxes. Sometimes I can still hear “musical dreamer” in my head. I cry for her, I miss her all the time. My baby is 8, time tells me she’s been gone too long. When I’m sick I wish for her chicken

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Saving the world in heels

noodle soup. during Christmas, I miss baking cookies with her. On Sundays, I miss our old family dinners. I know she would be devastated to learn how sick I am. I know she would tell me everything was going to be ok and then force me to eat something because she was an old Italian woman. I see her face in my daughter’s and it comforts me. As they say, grief is the price of love. The price of love for me is carrying this illness that we both had/have to live with. This is my inheritance.

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Old Italian Woman living her best life!

Her love lives on, which was always more important than what was “wrong” with her. There was so much right. She was amazing, and she survived with bipolar disorder. So will I. This is my inheritance.