Friday, October 12, 2012

TLC Book Tour - Sad Desk Salad

Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose
HarperCollins 2012

Format? oversized paperback
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours

FTC  Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Sad Desk Salad from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review; however, the comments and opinions in this review are my own.

Why?  When this tour came around, I was looking for something a little lighter but still with teeth in it.  I liked that the main character, Alex, lives in NYC and is an aspiring writer via blogging.  I also frequently eat lunch at my desk so that I can leave work early enough to pick up my youngest daughter at school, so I can somewhat identify with the whole concept of not stopping work long enough to really enjoy a lunch.  I don't eat salad every day though :)...nor do I wear the same clothes everyday :p

Title? The phrase "sad desk salad" refers to the salad that many women eat at their desks every single work day...the same lettuce and veggies topped off with grilled chicken.  This lunch "break" is also the time a lot of women patrol websites, looking for the latest news and gossip.  Websites like Chick Habit shoot to have their most interesting, thought provoking and/or most volatile content up by this high traffic time of the day.
Cover?  It's ok...obviously there's a bite of salad on the fork...I'm enough of a foodie that it caught my attention.

What Now? This was a fun read with just enough suspense that I did actually look towards the back once bc I cared enough about what was going to happen.  I didn't find my answer, slapped myself on the hand for peeking and went back to my place.  I'd like to share Sad Desk Salad with another reader/blogger who's interested.  Just leave your name, email and blog address in the comments and I'll choose a winner in 2 weeks.

Golden Lines

These days it feels like I get paid to be a bitch.  It makes me feel pretty terrible when I think about it, but the meaner I am, the better my posts do - and I can't afford to miss my quota.

The comments affect me less than they used to.  I try my hardest not to read them whether they're positive or negative, though most days I break down and take a peek at a few.  Okay, several.  But I never read every single one of them late into the night until Peter forcibly removes the laptop from my hands.  I'd never do that.

I can hear his voice now: "Alex," he'll say, "don't do this."

I bite my lip and go silent. Somehow her sensible words break through where Jane and Peter's could not.  The foundation of my swirling week has now crumbled, and saving my job suddenly seems like a really shabby excuse for my behavior.

"I can't answer that for you," she tells me.  Damn it.  "You need to sit with yourself - without the thousand distractions it sounds like you have - and figure out what it is that you want.  

What privacy means now is an ever-shifting line - the old universal standards have yet to be replaced by a new code of conduct, and we're all just muddling through.  

What I wrote could sometimes be construed as mean - but I always tried to be fair.  "Nice" is different from "good," as Stehen Sondheim says.  My new rule turned out to be: Don't write anything you wouldn't say to a person's face. Sober.


Alex Lyons is a blogger for a popular women's website that posts more flashy stuff than anything. Her job depends on a daily quota of posts as well as comments on said posts.  She competes with 3 other women bloggers whom she very seldom sees...they IM each other most days as they search the web for worthy info to write about.  Alex's boss Moira depends on her "Chicks" to keep the ball rolling on her website Chick Habit and applies pressure when and where it's needed and even when and where it's  not needed.  When cutbacks loom via the website's parent company, Alex finds herself making decisions about what she submits to Moira as well as what she writes about based on trying to meet her quota rather than quality and ends up posting a controversial video of an obnoxious political candidate's daughter.  

What I Liked

The IM format breaks - at first they were kinda confusing bc some of the characters' screen names are not their real names...but once I figured out who was who, these breaks offered a real insight into a more digital world of writing that adds to this story bc the digital side is exactly what Sad Desk Salad is about.

Peter - this is a guy we all hope our daughters find...a sensible fella, a lot of fun, but knows when to be serious as well.  He loves Alex for who she is, warts and all, and calls her on her crap when she gets all wrapped up in the job enough to hurt herself...not him.  He doesn't give her ultimatums...just points out the facts and let's her decide.  Good guy, this one.

Alex's relationship with her mother - the first time her mom called her "puffin," I thought, "Oh no, here we go with the cheese!" but I was wrong.  The childhood connection is obviously there, but Grose made Alex's mom a woman in her own right, making her way in the world after her husband's sudden death.  Their relationship is one of space on a daily basis but closeness when needed...and even if they don't talk for a few days, that closeness automatically comes back...and there's no pressure.

Moira - while I don't "like" her and could never work for her (wait, I think I have), it was refreshing to meet a woman who was not afraid of being who she was, demanding what she wanted, and saying whatever she felt like...she reminded me of a crass Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada.

LOVE the murky privacy issues - this is such a timely conversation too with celebrities acting like idiots and being caught on tape and then those who are stalked and captured on film in the privacy of their own homes...and on into the children of celebrities and what's allowed/not allowed where they are concerned.
The conversation is not preachy and Grose lets the reader make up his/her mind based on a close look at both sides.  

What I Didn't Like

Darleen West - as a mom, one of the first cardinal rules for me is NEVER say "my kids would never do that" or spout off all the time about how great your kids are.  Just as soon as you do that, kids are gonna be kids and make mistakes...sometimes big ones.  Not only do you set yourself up by claiming to be the best parent in the world, but you set you kids up fail...big time.  And, to make matters worse, you will have stepped on enough toes along the way, that when your kids do make mistakes, there are plenty of folks waiting to pounce on it, many times to the detriment of your kids more than you.

Rebecca West - 23 years old doesn't exactly get you the protection loophole of being a famous person's child.  As far as I'm concerned, all bets are off when the person whose "privacy has been violated" was doing something illegal.

Alex's mumu - huh??  I did not, could not understand why Alex kept putting on the same dress...also couldn't understand why she kept skipping the shower...I get that she's so wrapped up in her job and being available to Moira that she doesn't have time for anything or anybody else in her life...BUT a shower??

Alex's anxiety got on my nerves.  But, at the same time, I got it.  I've been that person (especially in my younger years) who's trying to decide what to do about a certain situation and ends up making the wrong decision despite what my gut tells me and the trusted people around me tell me.  But, it's hard to read about a person like that.  Alex is younger than me, so I chalked up her behavior many times to immaturity.

The ending wraps up a little nicer than I usually like, but I was in the mood for just that, so it was ok.  

Overall Recommendation

This was a fun, fast paced read; I read it in about 3 hours.  Sad Desk Salad would probably qualify for Chick Lit, but I don't usually like Chick Lit, so I think there's a little  more substance here brought on by the timely discussion of web writing and privacy issues.  I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the world of blogging professionally even though the author said in her Acknowledgements that her own personal experience working online was nothing like Alex's.  

The Author

Jessica Grose

Website, Facebook, and Twitter

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, October 2nd: A Bookworm’s World
Wednesday, October 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, October 4th: Book Journey

Tuesday, October 9th: My, My Book and the Couch
Wednesday, October 10th: It’s a Crazy, Beautiful Life
Thursday, October 11th: Seaside Book Nook
Friday, October 12th: Peppermint PhD
Monday, October 15th: Stephany Writes
Tuesday, October 16th: Chaos is a Friend of Mine
Wednesday, October 17th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, October 24th: Sweet Southern Home
Thurday, October 25th: Book Review by Molly

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Really Random Tuesday - Clean Eating

I love this whole "random" concept...because that's where my brain is right now...random thoughts...I sat down this morning to finish a review of a book I read months ago (thank heavens I kept notes bc I barely remember most of the story now) and ended up writing about clean eating.
Oh well. 
Here we go.

In June I began a low carb diet...specifically following the guidelines of the South Beach Diet.  I quickly lost 10 pounds.  Really, I did.  Most of the clothes in my closet fit again, and I've re-gained some self-confidence that I had lost while gaining the unwanted pudge...thanks to daily does of peanut M&M's and Barq's root beer.  However, the most important thing I've gained is a new respect for my body...not the way it looks, but the way it feels.  When I first started South Beach, I wanted to claw my eyes out when the cravings were in full swing. 
 I. really. did.  
I wanted donuts, chips, soft white bread, warm cookies, etc...and I wanted them bad.
I honestly don't want these things anymore.
As good as some of these things taste, they are not worth the trade-off...feeling sluggish, stomach aches, bloating, and of course unwanted extra pounds that make my clothes fit tight again.
Notice the "clothes fit tight again" part was the last thing I listed.
You see, eating well has made me feel better.
I am calmer (imagine that); I can handle things better (yes, indeed), I have more energy (as much as a 44 year old woman can have), I am more alert, and I am enjoying every day of my life.
Because I don't put crap in my body anymore.
Now, let me honest here and tell you that while in Chicago I did have a piece of Caramel Pecan Turtle cheesecake...ok, ok, I had two...but on two different nights.
Was it worth it?
Sure.  Special occasions call for special treats.
But, because the sugary, carbolicious, creaminess was a "special treat" it affected neither my weight nor my belly.  
The hot dog and pretzel I ate at the Cubs game Monday night, not so much worth it.
I thought I wanted it...bc hot dogs and baseball go together, right?
Not for me anymore...and I don't even want it.
Let me be clear here...I'm not proposing any diet...I started on South Beach but now follow a variety of low carb, clean eating plans.  One of the best I've found lately is The Gracious Pantry.

I was on Pinterest one day looking for ideas on how to make a cleaner Chai tea.  I LOVE the Chai tea from Starbucks, but once you let go of white sugar, you'll be astonished at how oversweetened things taste.  Almost syrupy...which is amazing that I used to drink/eat that stuff and want more.
Sounds like an addict right?
Um, yeah...that's exactly my point.

I found this recipe which led me right into The Gracious Pantry where I disappeared for over an hour :/

Anybody else get lost in Pinterest and wake up hours later wondering how in the world you got there?
Yeah, me too.

The key for me is not letting myself get hungry...I keep an abundance of foods in our house and in my office for snacks and emergencies. In my office right now, there are almonds, pistachios, a box of Kind bars, and even some of the more expensive South Beach Bars (just in case I forget my lunch).  At home we keep apples, other kinds of nuts, Special K Protein Plus cereal (my after school snack), all kinds of raw veggies and leftovers of clean recipes.

I have developed an eating schedule including a mandatory morning and afternoon snack.  If I skip the snacks, and the hunger pains inevitably begin, a sortof "panic" sets in pretty know, that "OMG, I'm never going to get anymore food, ever in my whole life so let's just shovel anything and everything I can get my hands on into my mouth" kindof panic?  
That feeling, right there, is why diets that require skipping meals and 500 calories per day don't work.  
Our bodies need fuel...NEED...I didn't say "like to have it" or "want" or "prefer," I said NEED.  If we don't feed our bodies, they will DEMAND us to feed the point of dizziness or passing out even if we let the "starvation" go on too's all about getting your attention.

As long as I provide my body with the right kind of fuel, fuel it can break down and actually use, I don't have to feel hungry.
I do not like hungry.
Hate it.

Last week in Chicago, the powers that be thought they would offer us pastries for breakfast each day...scuse me?? 
Uh-uh, nope, not gonna happen.  What used to look really tasty to me now looked like the stomach ache that I knew it would produce.  I ended up ordering myself an omelet from room service for the rest of the week.  A little on the expensive side, yes...but guess what??
I'm worth it.

I have 3 daughters...and if I teach them anything, I'd like to know that I've taught them to take care of themselves.  They have to want it though, and I'll let them figure it out along the way.  A big test for us will be our upcoming Thanksgiving feast and Christmas Cookie marathon...but I think we're up for the challenge...we'll still have some of our traditional fare, but I'll also be sneaking in a few new recipes.
Can't wait!

Let me know in the comments if you've found some other great Clean Eating/Low Carb family and recipe friendly sites to get lost in :)
Because, well, that's just what I need...more distractions ;)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Salon - Home Again

I spent the week in Chicago, flew home Friday night, finally arrived at my house around 2 a.m. Saturday morning and had to work all day Saturday for our college's Homecoming festivities...on my birthday.  
Not exactly what I had in mind, but it is what it is.

I was working in Chicago, and even though I was homesick (bc I'm a big baby), I ended up having the most incredible time due entirely to an exciting small group of women I was fortunate enough to get to know.
Colorado, NY x 2, Florida and me (Mississippi) worked our hineys off during the day reviewing passages for the new assessments being prepared to match the Common Core Standards.  But, nighttime was ours :) And, we took full advantage of the opportunities available for professional as well as personal support, cheering on, venting, listening...
as only a group of women can do for one another.  

While I cannot tell you specifically about our experiences "on the job" due to confidentiality issues (eyes rolling here), I can tell you that as a small group we read tons of possible texts and discussed whether or not each of these texts was appropriate.  We did not always agree.  For a variety of reasons.  But, we had those discussions with  respect, professionalism, and consideration, and there were even times where we agreed to disagree.  We said our peace, documented our comments, voted the way we felt was best for the students we represented, and moved on.
Frankly, I don't understand why these kinds of conversations seem to be rocket science these days.
Imagine if politicians practiced this kind of collaboration.  I know it's a stretch, but go ahead and imagine it. 

Off the clock, we went to a Cubs a  limo (it was cheaper than getting a cab...really, it was), shopped, watched the first debates, and shopped some more.  Our shopping time was limited due to not getting off the clock until late afternoon, then needing a nap and food before we hit the mall, the richest conversation that carried our dinners on into the evening, and a mall right across from our hotel that closed at 9 pm...which is why we had to go more than once.  
  As one of my new friends declared, "Shopping is a sport, Ladies...You have to train!"
And, there it is. 
(Be sure to say this with the best NY accent you can muster :)

We left Chicago with hugs, a Twitter hashtag just for our little group to keep in contact, and plans for our next meetings in soon as the powers that be decide on the place.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that our Chicago experiences are examples of how women SHOULD interact with one another.  I am constantly amazed at how women seem to spend more time cutting each other off at the knees rather than building each other up.  Is it any wonder that men still rule the world?? 

The #fabfive ain't havin' any of that. :)

On the reading front, I am listening to The Chaperone on audio in the car and loving it.  I'm a longtime Elizabeth McGovern fan and am savoring her slow, thoughtful narration of this book (which I already know I'll be purchasing in hardback for the keeper shelves).  
I don't always have to have a fast paced, heart stopping read...and I love words and accents.  I'm savoring this one :)

Gone Girl is on my Nook, and I've been reading a chapter or two each night before bed.  I have to say that so far I'm not in love with this one as much as everybody else seems to be :(  Don't get me wrong; I still like it.  But, I didn't get to read it at all last week while I was out of town, and it didn't bother me a bit.  So far, I don't care about any of the characters; as a matter of fact, they all get on my nerves for a variety of reasons...I'm reading to find out the real story...I will NOT look at the end...if I do, I know my only motivation for finishing the book will be gone...and I'll DNF it.  
I will not DNF it.

I was finally able to also begin reading The Casual Vacancy on my way home from Chicago.  I've purposely not read anyone else's comments about the book bc I want to form my own unbiased opinion.  While I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, I did not re-read any of them, so I think it's very possible for me to appreciate Rowling's new novel unbiased.  My first impressions are:

(1) This ain't for children; that's pretty obvious pretty quickly, but she also told us that up front.  She meant it.

  (2) I'm  reminded of classic literature as I read Rowling's words, the structure of her sentences, paragraphs, and the connecting lines that run through the characters.  I can't tell you how many times I've stopped mid-page and just re-read an entire paragraph...just to appreciate the writing.  
Do NOT fly through this's not that kind of book.
I think that's a very good thing.  

I did finally watch the first episode of the first season of Downton Abbey and am addicted.  I may not be able to marathon it due to the necessity of sleeping...but I'll be pulling this one into my watch schedule little by little :) 

The week ahead will be a crazy one after being out all week last week, but hopefully I'll be able to sneak in more blogging and reading time than I've had since school started so far :( We don't seem to be able to get caught up and on a regular schedule at work...and that's driving me crazy.  
But, I won't belabor it and won't let it get in my way of enjoying each day...Fall is my favorite time of year, and just the promise of Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) is enough to sustain me through the craziness that is my life.  :)