Must Read SUMMER BOOKS 2015

Reading 2015

I’ve been away on vacation and got a lot of reading done. Vacation time is usually spent reading, sleeping and working out. I accomplished all three!

I read these memoirs: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer,  Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison- both very different but really intriguing!

I also read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline.

There are so many amazing books out right now, here’s what’s on my To-Be-Read Pile and what I have recently enjoyed!

1. The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst

This book has been called “A modern-day Gatsby tale of forbidden love, family secrets and the true price of wealth” so it looks very good!

2. A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

I loved this book and read it cover to cover quickly. The authors humor and writing style appealed to me right away.  Alice Pearse is a part time working mother but when her husband makes a career change, Alice steps up to work full time.  She lands her dream job but of course there are unexpected  bumps in the road and finds out she can’t do it all.

3. Kale and Coffee: A Renegade’s Guide to Health, Happiness, and Longevity by Kevin Gianni

I am a big fan of the skincare line by Kevin’s wife Annmarie Gianni, so I’m well familiar with Kevin too. In this new book, Kevin travels the world to determine how and what we should eat. I love a good memoir and I enjoy healthy living so I’m very excited to see how this book plays out. I’m sure we can glean some good info from Kale and Coffee. I have high hopes!

4. The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Alternating points of view give this novel an undercurrent of suspense. A teenage girl is murdered but by who? And why? Kate knows something, a sixth sense about Rosie. But she blacked out while on a horse ride through the area where Rosie’s body is found.

This book is like a puzzle that keeps you turning the pages until its determined what happened to Rosie.  A good thriller!

5. The Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses

This well written novel follows the struggles of four young women- Ruth, Francesca, Opal, and Setsu. They meet as freshmen at Brown  University and become best friends despite their many differences.

Each girl has her own issues to overcome and the story is told in flashbacks, building believable characters.  Loved this one!

I’ve been waiting and waiting forever for author Vanessa Diffenbaugh to write another novel after the brilliant The Language of Flowers. And how she has!

6. We Never Asked for Wings

This is the story of teenaged Alex, his little sister Luna and single mom Letty.  Letty always had help with her children from her illegal immigrant parents and barely took care of her own kids. When her parents move back to Mexico, Letty is left clueless as to how to be a proper mother to her children.

Alex, desperate to figure out the identity of his father, is delving into a romantic relationship with a classmate and young Luna misses her grandparents. The story builds around Letty’s struggles trying to build a better life for herself and her kids as well as Alex and his father. Its a great follow up to a tremendous first  novel. Highly recommended!

7. The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans

This is on my Kindle, ready to read and it sounds like a winning novel!

Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break – a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses – but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep – or misplaced trust – could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams.

8. The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

Another book just waiting for me. And another one that sounds so good that I want to clear my calendar and do nothing but read all day and all night.

In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.

9. The Last Summer At Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff

This book is getting rave reviews and makes me wish I could read several books at one time because my To-Be-Read pile is huge!

Young Adelia Monteforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.

Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.

10. Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

This looks like a thriller that I’m going to read in one sitting!

After the heartbreak of losing his girlfriend, Beck, Joe Goldberg thought he’d never love again. But when mysterious Amy Adam begins working for Joe at Mooney Books, he finds himself obsessed with his new employee. Amy is Beck’s opposite—she hates Twitter, she doesn’t even have an email address, she’s completely unsearchable online—and she quickly captures Joe’s heart. But just before Joe can ask Amy to marry him, she disappears, leaving a trail of clues in her wake.

Joe is then forced to do something so vile, so awful that he nearly loses his mind: he moves to Los Angeles to find Amy. He is tortured by a series of aspiring Angelenos—an insufferable stand-up comedian, philistine booksellers, a money-hungry nanny, and a slutty ghostwriter—before meeting his ticket to a more luxurious world: a surgically enhanced, social media–savvy heiress named Love Quinn. But Joe can’t stop stalking Amy, despite the world opening up to him with Love on his arm. Will Joe finally escape his sordid past? Or is Love just the latest casualty in Joe’s unrelenting search for the perfect match?

 

What is on your reading pile? Mine is growing and growing…just added a few more!

 

Travel series: cruising with celiac/ gluten allergy, Royal Caribbean

 

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Because my family loves to cruise, it’s how we vacation every year. There is definitely something to be said about unpacking once, knowing where you will eat each night and having the luxury to do what you want with no thought to how you are going to get there. Gym? Library? Need a snack? Want to be alone? You can do it all on a cruise.

We just got back from a nine day cruise to the Caribbean and I want to focus on the food, primary what it’s like on Royal Caribbean with a severe food allergy/celiac.

On the first day we went for lunch to the Windjammer which is basically a huge buffet available almost all day. There are loads of options and if you are vegetarian, it’s probably not hard to put together a decent meal.

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Those of us who are celiac/gluten intolerant have a much, much more difficult time. Whereas on Celebrity cruises, each dish had a simple label indicating there was gluten (for the most part), on this cruise it was not labeled. All it would take is a simple placard with ingredients used (like the buffet at Whole Foods) or even a notation of allergens for each dish.

As my fellow Celiac sufferers know, even the most innocent foods can contain gluten;things like cold cuts, French fries, hot dogs, sauces, salad dressings, plus cross contamination is at an all time high at the buffet. While I could cobble together some salad with plain olive oil, I was never able to have a hot lunch and forget the desserts. When I asked for a gluten free cookie, I was handed a wrapped Udi’s cookie- it was delicious but how about more gluten free options?

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I wasn’t sure if the pre-made eggs contained gluten, the omelettes are made from what I think is a pre-made mix, did the potatoes have gluten? I never knew and the workers in the buffet, while very nice and helpful, didn’t always know what “gluten” was.

Forget the desserts, pastries and any breakfast breads. Gluten free toast is available in the dining room which is where I ended up eating as much as I could since I could order with a waiter and make sure the kitchen knew my food couldn’t contain gluten. Even a crumb will make me sick for days and as my Celiac friends know, once you get sick, it takes a long time to recover. From a single tiny crumb, yes.

In the dining room, I did find that breakfast was limited to fresh eggs- you have to clarify gluten free- and I could get toast however the hash-browns do contain gluten, and there are zero pastries, muffins or bagels for those who cannot have gluten. On the last day I discovered they do offer gluten free french toast which was really good.

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Many items on the lunch menu contained gluten so I was pretty limited to a burger with a gluten free bun- which was good- but no fries because they are made with breaded items and fried chicken.

I liked the salad bar buffet in the dining room until I realized the tongs the chef used to toss the salads were doing some major cross contamination. For example, if the person ahead of me had croutons on their salad the chef would use the tongs to mix it together then lightly rinse off the tongs in a vat of water and use the same ones on my salad. The vat of water would ultimately be a big stew of crouton particles and other glutinous things that make me (and my fellow Celiac friends) sick.

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At dinner, I let my waiter know about my gluten issue and he helped me figure out what I could safely eat. What I could choose from was limited but I was grateful that I had options. The first few nights, I was irritated because the only gluten free things for dessert were ice cream or jello, neither of which I like. Now I am not a big fan of sweets but take away the ability to have something and I’ll want it!

I asked the waiter to see if there were other gluten free desserts, as someone who likes to bake I know there are countless desserts that can be made gluten free. A blend of certain flours will yield results that you’d never guess were GF. Thankfully I did get a really nice dessert each evening- I didn’t have the choices every else got but at least I had something!

I would love to see Royal Caribbean make an effort for their gluten free travelers, especially with the buffet- I was really upset to find such a small availability of gluten free foods. I was pretty much struck eating salads with olive oil and a breakfast of eggs.

Labeling food with allergen placards is a good first step, then put a big effort into creating gluten free foods so that we can have more than one or two options. Muffins, pancakes, French toast and bagels can be made gluten free, most everything can. Special attention needs to be paid to cross contamination too.

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Probably the easiest and most cost effective is spelling out ingredients at the buffet followed by some effort put into gluten free foods at a stand-alone buffet within the Windjammer. A gluten free buffet with more than one or two options would be so appreciated by the gluten free community. I cannot even imagine how thrilled Id be with gluten free oatmeal or a muffin in the morning, or maybe a gluten free pizza at lunch- like normal, gluten eating people get!

I hope Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruise lines (and any other resorts and hotels who have clientele that need gluten free food ) see this post and make some strides in being a more gluten-free friendly.  Just because we cannot have gluten doesn’t mean we don’t want choices or to enjoy food!

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In the meantime, I packed loads of gluten free snacks for myself and stuck to those. Next time I will pack my homemade scones and Udi’s muffins since breakfast seemed to be the most difficult meal to find GF items. Or maybe the next time I go on a cruise, the cruise lines will have adopted a wider range of choices for their gluten free cruisers.

Fingers crossed.

Sun Protection with Suntegrity

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I am super excited to share Suntegrity sunscreens with you.  I have heard many people lamenting on the fact that finding a good sunscreen is quite a challenge, especially when you are green and clean.  And especially when you are looking for sunscreen for the face.

First, a word from Suntegrity:

“Suntegrity Face and Body SPF 30 products use only the best known physical block ingredient (non-nano size zinc oxide) to provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and super anti-oxidants and amino acids to enhance that protection and help with skin repair. Our products use non-toxic preservatives to maintain their integrity without sacrificing safety or health. Our company was awarded “Champion” Status by the EWG/Compact for Safe Cosmetics.”

Impressive, right?

I tried some samples of this brand and was instantly impressed with the 5 in 1 Tinted Moisturizer spf 30. The 5 refers to the fact that this sunscreen “treats, hydrates, protects, primes and covers” and yes, it really does!

This product is very creamy and gave some natural looking coverage while smoothing out my imperfections. Oh and yes, it protects from the harmful rays of the sun.  It contains some powerful ingredients like Hyaluronic acid, astaxanthin, red algae and Certified Organic: aloe vera, jojoba, sunflower, pomegranate, cucumber, and green tea as well as non-nano sized zinc-oxide.

The Body Sunscreen comes in scented and unscented,  personally I love the scent which is a really light and clean smelling citrus. The lotion is quickly absorbed and my skin felt very silky smooth after applying.   This sunscreen is made with Green Tea Extract, Cucumber Extract, and Pomegranate Seed Oil and “20% non-nano, uncoated zinc-oxide for therapeutic broad-spectrum protection against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays.”

I have to say I was really impressed with both products, not only is this brand super clean but the formulas are non-greasy, not streaky or sticky and my skin looked and felt soft and clean. You seriously cannot get better than that! I know a product is truly outstanding when I want more more more!

You can find out more by going to visit Suntegrity here.

 

 

Pack these beauty products for easy travel

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Packing beauty products just got a whole lot easier. Introducing three must have products for summer vacation!

JASON Sheer Spray Lotion is so convenient for head to toe moisturizing. I am a fan of everything I’ve tried from JASON and this spray is no exception.

Lightweight moisture for dry skin in an easy to pack and store container. Using compressed air, no chemicals, this spray is perfect for after shaving your legs. Gives a light shine but no stickiness at all! Plus-  no Parabens, Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates, Petrolatum, Artificial Colors, Synthetic Fragrances or Phthalates!

Burt’s Bees Exfoliating Cleansing Towelettes are so perfect to pack on a trip. I always remove makeup with some kind of oil, then use these for further  cleaning and then a rinse with a warm washcloth. These towelettes, which contain peach and willow bark,  leave skin fresh and soft. A little light exfoliation keeps skin looking radiant!

Clarks Botanicals Ultra Rich Lip Tints are so nourishing and hydrating, your summer won’t be complete without this in your bag! So great for on a stuffy dry airplane!

Petrolatum-free and paraben-free, this lip product contains Shea Butter, Aloe Leaf Extract, Jojoba and Sweet Almond Oil and smells like vanilla. It has a subtle sparkle too!

 

Travel Series: Travel Tips

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It it was a super quick trip in and out of New York City recently. Not nearly long enough to soak up the city or see the people I wanted to see which means I need to go back very soon! Need a house sitter for your place in Manhattan? Someone to petsit your penthouse dwelling dog while you head to Europe? Call me!  I’m meant to be a city girl.

Before leaving, my computer crashed. Died. Totally fried. Which means I’ve lost manuscripts, photos and documents….I’m not too happy! No I didn’t back up which I know is foolish!

Posting will be light for the next couple of weeks. I look forward to continuing my travel series posts because this is travel season after all.

I’ll sum up a few things here:

If you are traveling and are gluten free, download the Find Me Gluten Free app on your smartphone. This helps weed out places that do and do not serve gluten free food.

Flying? Research the airport and what gluten free food is offered! Although I packed gluten free snacks, I wanted a meal and my pickings were slim to nonexistent.

Going to a city? Then you will be doing a lot of walking and comfortable shoes are essential. Stay tuned for my round up of good, sturdy shoes. Let’s just say thank goodness Birkenstocks are in style and I was sorry that I was too vain not to bring mine!

TripAdvisor is invaluable when traveling. I research beforehand and plan what I want to do based on recommendations of other travelers. I always remain flexible though because you never know about the weather which brings me to…

…check the weather reports! I knew it was supposed to pour so I bought umbrellas and tried not to let the rain put too much of a damper on my day.

For my hotel stays, I check TripAdvisor and yelp. I want a place that’s centrally located, clean, safe, and easy access to restaurants. When visiting a city like New York, New Orleans or San Francisco there are several neighborhoods to pick from so figure out what you want and need.

For example, when I visited New Orleans, I did not want to stay on Bourbon Street (party central!) but I also didn’t want to be away from a variety of restaurants and shops. I picked the Hotel Monteleone which was a fantastic location, safe, clean etc.

Bring an extra battery for your camera. I know people love their cell phone pics but I bust out my Canon every chance I get. I’m a little obsessive about photography. I have two batteries ready to go if I have a long day of picture taking ahead of me.

I have more to share with you including specific restaurants, comfortable clothes, shoes and what skincare to pack for a trip. Check back soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Hello Dollface