Sister Wives Season 14

sister

Season 14 of TLC hit show Sister Wives concluded recently, and the big problem facing the cast this season was where to live. They had moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and purchased a large plot of land in the mountains. The dilemma however, was whether to build one master house that all the wives lived in with their children, or build four homes, so each mom and her kids had their own space.

Long story short, Janelle and Kody were all in for the master house for everyone, Robyn didn’t know what to do, and Christine was dead set against shared living. Meri tried not to share her opinions and went along with the consensus ….

So this set up a big battle between Christine and Kody.

Now, what do I think? Well, I am so glad you asked.

Obviously I am just an internet commentator without a vote, but I was definitely a proponent of the one big house idea. I think it would be better for the family and especially for the kids to all be in one house again. As much as the family likes to toe the party-line and talk about how they are one family, the kids are definitely not as close to their moms and siblings that live separately.

Kody has a heavy responsibility to be accessible and involved in the lives of his many children, and his wives, and living separately creates a barrier to this. Even if that barrier is only psychological, it is there, especially for his kids. I’m not a big Kody fan but I did feel for him when he lost this subject.

Christine absolutely had valid reasons for wanting her own house. The autonomy and confidence she gained were huge for her and she became a better person and mother, as she explained many times. But I think it was short-sighted to assume she would lose all that by living in one house again. She wasn’t going back to being the SAHM she was before, talking care of all the littles who weren’t in school yet and living in the basement. Christine’s confidence was hard won but she wouldn’t just lose it crossing that threshold.

So if I were a wife, what would I say?

Build one big house. Have the room for each wife, with her own kitchen and space. And build a second small house on the property for Christine.

If she ever wanted to try living in the big house, she would have her dedicated wing to do so, but in the mean-time, it could serve as a landing spot for the many adult children the Brown’s have. Especially as they try to convince their children to come from all over the country with their own families in tow for holidays, this space would come in handy. And if Christine ever wanted to move in to it permanently, great! Then the smaller house on the property becomes the guest house.

There were so many valid reasons for living all together, and with only Christine strongly opposing it, I think that it was unfair to deny the other parts of the family to be able to do so. There isn’t much difference between Christine living separately in a “cul de sac” style arrangement on the property, where everyone lives in four separate houses, or her living separately and the rest living in the big house.

I think the part of the season that really bugged me was how everyone framed this scenario has an absolute. It had to be all together or none together. For big families … blended families … flexibility is key to living together happily, something I think the Browns have forgotten.

What were your thoughts on the season? Weigh in in the comments!

xx

Sweet Temptation

temptationThe first time Cassio met his fiancée, she called him ‘Sir’.

After losing his wife, Cassio is left to take care of two small children while trying to establish his rule over Philadelphia. Now he needs a mother for his children, and someone who can warm his bed at night.

But in a traditional world as his, choosing your wife is duty not pleasure. Rules have to be followed. Traditions heeded. That’s how he ends up with a woman—a girl barely of age. She might not be what he and his children need, but she’s wicked lovely and a sweet temptation he can’t resist.

Giulia always knew she’d marry a man her father chose for her. Only she never expected to be given to someone much older. Suddenly she’s supposed to be a mother to two small children when she hasn’t even held a baby in her life.

Giulia quickly realizes that Cassio isn’t interested in a relationship on equal footing. Her mother always warned her that men of power like Cassio don’t tolerate insolence; yet, tired of being treated as a nanny and clueless child-bride, Giulia decides to fight for her vision of a happy family.

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Sweet Temptation is a “side-quel” novel that isn’t part of the regular Camorra and Born in Blood Mafia series, but features characters who are a part of that world.

The book blurb up top, taken from Goodreads, sums up just about every part of the book for you. There is no mystery or surprise. You have a romance novel set in the mafia world and now you know exactly what to expect.

I wanted to love this book so badly. I really did. Twisted Emotions, the book where these characters first appear, was my favourite of both series and I hoped I would similarly love Cassio and Giulia.

Unfortunately, the quality of writing was not there.

Sweet Temptation was extremely predictable. As mentioned, the book is heavily summarized in the blurb for you. In addition, everything went smoothly for Giulia. Apparently she has the golden touch because everything she tried with a difficult baby and traumatized toddler worker perfectly. There were never any missteps, despite her lack of experience with children.

Even spending a day shopping in the mall with an infant and toddler goes perfectly, despite the fact that she was a stranger to them at the time, and had zero experience with littles.

I’m sorry, but that is entirely unrealistic. I like my romance to reflect some aspects of the real world. You want to write about witches or were-cats? Cool. Tell be that sociopath mafia men can fall in love with their arranged marriage spouse? No problem. But do not try to sell me on the idea that nothing will go wrong for the main characters and they get to live in some fairytale bubble. I’m not going to buy that in a million years.

I wish the author had spent more time and gotten some more honest beta readers for this book because it had amazing potential and a good build-up, but as a fan, I was left feeling let down. I don’t know if I would read this book again.

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The Grand Tour Specials

I have fallen in love with the specials of the Amazon Prime show, The Grand Tour. It follows three well-known auto journalists on adventures around the world. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are a hilarious bunch who bring out the best in each other.

I don’t really care for their regular episodes – not being a car person – but their specials have evolved to bring about hilarity, history, nature and the occasional cooking show in one extra long episode.

I have ranked the best specials below.

*There are more specials forthcoming and I will update this list as I watch them.

7. Operation Desert Stumble, Season 1 Episode 2

Operation Desert Stumble is the first “special” but it only constitutes about 1/3 of this episode, and is more a set of rehearsed skits.

6. International Buffoon’s Vacation, Season 3 Episode 8

In International Buffoon’s Vacation, the boys try a stereotypical American RV vacation, and it does not go well.

5. Sea to Unsalty Sea, Season 3 Episode 11

This episode sees the trio travelling from the edge of the Black Sea in Georgia, to the edge of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan.

4. Feed the World, Season 2 Episode 11

Taking place in Mozambique, this hilarious effort to transport fish to a poor village more than 200 miles inland had me in stitches. “I know we said we were working as a team, and we are working as a team. By leaving him behind”.

3B. The Beach (Buggy) Boys, Season 1 Episodes 7 & 8

Yes, I’m cheating a bit here, but I really couldn’t decide whether I enjoyed this special or the next better. My top four choices are all really close together, then Feed the World is in the middle, and the others share a distant last place.

In this two episode special, the boys modify some beach buggies. They’re told to drive them 1000 miles across Namibia, but cover at least 3000 miles instead as they go in circles around the country.

3A. Survival of the Fattest (Mongolia), Season 3 Episode 13

May, Clarkson and Hammond are dropped off in the middle of Mongolia by helicopter, along with three large care packages. To their great displeasure, they discover British Army MREs and water for sustenance – no alcohol – and all the parts for an off-road buggy. Cue days of assembly and driving to the nearest town of Moron.

2. Seamen, Season 4 Episode 1

Seamen was a very close second; I kept dithering about with this list, switching No. 1 & 2, but finally decided on this order. Just know it is basically 1A and 1B! Seamen takes a bit of a break from the car aspect of the show, as our three gents pick boats and sail from the north end of Cambodia, down the Saigon River into Vietnam and the South China Sea. Not professional or avid boaters, it is truly hilarious to watch these three navigate their way. I almost peed myself laughing.

1. Columbia (Wildlife Photography), Season 3 Episodes 2 & 3

Columbia sees our three favourite hosts on a special assignment for Mr. Wilman: photographing wild animals in Columbia, to serve as Amazon’s new screen saver. The blokes are to locate and photograph a bear, a condor, a jaguar and … a hippopotamus?

xx

 

Public or Private?

I have been struggling the last few months whether I should make this site private or keep it public. You may have noticed I switched it to private a few weeks ago. Sometimes I think I am just shouting into a void, or I feel pressured to post on a specific schedule.

That turned a hobby into a chore I did not want to do.

But I have had a surprising number of people email requests for access to the private blog, so I decided to make it public again. I make no promises about the regularity of posting or whether the content will change. I am reading less these days and have other interests, so this might just become a place to share all my thoughts, rather than just book or movie reviews.

Feel free to exit if that does not appeal to you, to each their own.

For those of you who have stuck with me, I hope this does not disappoint.

xx

Fear: Trump in the White House

fear - trump in the white house

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.

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I have read several political memoirs and biographies over the last few months and enjoyed all of them. There is always so much drama in American politics that it truly gives rise to the term “politi-tainment”. Fear, Trump in the White House appealed to me specifically because it was written by Bob Woodward, who has a long history of writing presidential biographies and is a respected investigative journalist. I figured that this would potentially be the most neutral book yet out of all the “tell-alls” to have hit the bestseller shelves in the last two years.

I learned a few new things about the Trump administration, and about Donald Trump himself, in this book. Some sections reinforced my negative impressions of him as a person and as a leader, while other points softened my judgement.

One point that comes across more clearly than anything else is this. Donald Trump is bull-headed and emphatically does not care about logic, truth, or the consequences. He regularly is quoted as responding “I don’t care” to aides and advisors, when their arguments conflict with his intentions. And while President Trump experiences extreme tunnel-vision on some topics, he is usually easily distracted in the short-term, much like a small child.

Trump does seem to care about his campaign promises more than anything else, and is dedicated to ramrodding them through in order to pacify his base. This is peculiar to me, as he regularly pivots and changes his mind on the fly about a vast variety of issues, and even conservative Republicans in Congress are reported to have begged him to let certain points go. But for whatever reason, Trump is committed to achieving those points that he was elected on and that dedication is to be commended, even if I don’t agree with his political views.

Generally, I believe that Trump cares more about being famous and being perceived as powerful, than anything else. He certainly isn’t a martyr, nor is he interested in governing to improve his country.

Woodward’s book is very factual and dense at times. There isn’t a strong narrative like other recent political memoirs I have read, such as Becoming by Michelle Obama or A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. Mainly for this reason, I didn’t enjoy Fear nearly as much.

Fear tends to jump between news highlight reels at times, a symptom of the the vast quantity of news Trump’s team generates. He even addresses the notion that Trump and his team purposely flooded news agencies with so many juicy stories during the campaign and early days of the Presidency, both so that they would dominate the news cycle and so that otherwise major stories would be quickly pushed aside for the next headline, rather than receiving more thorough coverage and deeper journalistic investigation.

Touching upon Trump’s personal life, Woodward confirms the President and First Lady sleep in separate bedrooms, long a suspected belief of many, and also describes Trump – though briefly – as a terrible father. There is extremely limited mention of Baron, Donald Jr and Ivanka Trump, as well as quite a bit of talk of Jared Kushner throughout the book. There is no mentioned of the President’s other children.

Another point that surprised me through Fear, was the significant amount of cooperation between Trump’s lawyers and the Special Counsel’s office in the first year of Muller’s investigation. I did not anticipate this and wish that I knew the behind the scenes status today.

Overall, I feel that the book finished in a weird place. It covers the campaign and approximately the first 18 months of presidency in the White House. However, it ends there. I just naturally assumed that this type of book would either cover the campaign and/or cover the entirety of Trump’s first term of office.

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xx

Instant Family

downloadInstant Family is 2018 movie about a couple who adopts children through the foster system in California. This type of adoption is often referred to as “fost-adopt”.

Angie from This Gathered Nest featured the show on her channel a few weeks ago. She and her family are huge adoption advocates and I am super excited to share this film.

I saw it last night and it is sweet, funny and so so true. Although not a Christmas film, it is in theatres right now and I highly recommend you see it. It exemplifies many themes behind the true meaning of Christmas and will fill you with all the feels.

I really hope that this film inspires others to become involved in the foster care system. There are many more children than parents in the system, but there are lots of other ways you can also become connected. One example is working with local organizations to fund extracurricular activities, joining Big Brothers and Big Sisters, sponsoring a foster family for Christmas … the list is endless.

I really enjoyed this movie and it is one I would watch again without hesitation.

The trailer is available here.

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xx

Elicitation by William Vitelli

Okay. Real Talk. This book is straight up porn. I usually hate when people refer to romance or erotica this way, but sex is the main driver of this story. Not plot. Not character development. Sex. But it is incredibly well-written, as is the sequel and it is a book that I really enjoyed.

elicitation

Eileen was happy to begin a new life with her new husband. Visions of fairy tales and “happily ever after” filled her head; as the wife of a wealthy and handsome architect, she thought she would have everything she ever wanted.

And she did, though not quite in the way that she might have imagined.

Her husband Anthony, seeing beneath her repressed exterior someone who wanted nothing so much as to be kidnapped and carried away by pirates, set out to train her as his new sex slave…whether she wanted it or not. What followed was an intensive introduction into a new world she could scarcely have imagined.

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Trigger warning: dubious consent, multiple partners (at times), anal play, humiliation, public play. See the story tags for further details if necessary.

Elicitation contains awesome long sex scenes that are well-written and better than most of the erotica you will find online. If you are looking for something super kinky, this might very well be the book for you!

Anthony and his fiance have discussed her rape fantasies in the past but never acted upon them. Anthony decides independently that Eileen is a woman who could learn to enjoy living the life of a sex slave to her husband, and believes that “wifely duties” are how a woman earns her keep as a stay-at-home-wife. So he uses their European vacation as a means to isolate Eileen from the real world and introduce her to a crash course of expectations.

Something that I found surprising was my reaction to the lack of descriptive butt play in this book. Even though Anthony and Eileen “play” with butt plugs multiple times and also have anal sex, those scenes were mostly glossed over in a couple of paragraphs, rather than the more in-depth descriptions of oral and vaginal sex that the author uses throughout. This was something that struck me as odd throughout and when Anthony finally reaches his goal of training Eileen’s ass to take the largest, plug, it felt anti-climactic.

Elicitation is one of those tales that can be titillating to read about, even though it is nothing you would ever want to experience in real life. Escapism is a leading reason for fiction sales, and I liken a person’s reasons for reading a book like this to those behind the decision to read something like the Hunger Games trilogy. I’m not judging. Yet, even though I am pretty open about reading romance and erotica in RL, this is not a blog post that I will link to my Goodreads. This is my dirty little secret, so we’ll just keep it between you and me, ya?

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xx

Outside the Box by Jeannie Marshall

I have just finished reading an amazing book by local author Jeannie Marshall. It has been published under two titles so you might find it by looking for Outside the box: why our children need real food, not food products  or by searching The lost art of feeding kids: what Italy taught me about why children need real food.

I had read this book originally a few years ago and picked it up under the second title thinking the author had written another one. Well, a couple chapters in it was too familiar so I checked and it was exactly the same book! Fortunately it was so good that I decided to just keep going and will probably re-read it at least a couple more times in my lifetime. It is one of my favourite books and teaches you so much about food cultures and the art of looking at food as a whole, rather than just a compilation of different nutrients and vitamins to sustain the body.

Here is the blurb from goodreads:

When Canadian journalist Jeannie Marshall moved to Rome with her husband, she delighted in Italy’s famous culinary traditions. But when Marshall gave birth to a son, she began to see how that food culture was eroding, especially within young families. Like their North American counterparts, Italian children were eating sugary cereal in the morning and packaged, processed, salt- and fat-laden snacks later in the day. Busy Italian parents were rejecting local markets for supermercati, and introducing their toddlers to fast food restaurants only too happy to imprint their branding on the youngest of customers. So Marshall set on a quest to discover why something that we can only call “kid food” is proliferating around the world. How did we develop our seemingly insatiable desire for packaged foods that are virtually devoid of nutrition? How can even a mighty food culture like Italy’s change in just a generation? And why, when we should and often do know better, do we persist in filling our children’s lunch boxes, and young bodies, with ingredients that can scarcely even be considered food?

Through discussions with food crusaders such as Alice Waters, with chefs in Italy, nutritionists, fresh food vendors and parents from all over, and with big food companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle, Marshall gets behind the issues of our children’s failing nutrition and serves up a simple recipe for a return to real food.

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Marshall doesn’t come across as patronizing or elitist – something food writers and bloggers are often charged with. She doesn’t lecture you but instead inspires you to want something more for your family, and your community. She stresses the importance of societal norms in creating a food culture and its significance to overall health.

Having not grown up in a strong food culture the likes of which is common in Italy, the entire idea behind it was somewhat foreign to me but I love the idea and it is something that I desperately want to implement with my own family. I want my kids to grow up helping in the kitchen because through this they will develop cooking skills (from shopping and storage to preparing meals) as well as social skills, budgetary management skills, and will (hopefully!) associate good wholesome food with a fond, nostalgia for family and home that will carry the habit of healthy eating through the temptations of salty, fatty, sugary foods in adulthood.

The book begins with a short history of her childhood (which is to frame her experiences as an adult and make it easier for North Americans to relate to her) and how she and husband James arrived in Rome. The chunk of the book however follows her struggles as a mother to wade through all the BS and implement the healthiest choices for her son, from the introduction of first foods, to temper tantrums post-swimming lessons because little Nico wants a sugary treat from the vending machine … experiences any mother can relate to, regardless of where she lives.

Outside the Box is so much more than just a dietary ideal though. She talks about the role of advertising, particularly advertisements to children, and the subversive role they play in driving a wedge in between parents and children. Commercials and subtler ads, such as those in a television show, work on kids. Industry wouldn’t spend billions of dollars per year in America alone if they didn’t. And I can see it in the kids in my own life, how they beg, cajole and bargain to get a sweet or salty treat. To me, a treat like ice cream or McDonald’s should’t even be a once a week thing, never mind every day, or every trip to a store.

But you can’t raise your kids in isolation. Marshall uses examples such as these to explain why it is so important to have a societal food culture to raise kids in. If your child is the only one at swimming lessons to not get a treat from the vending machine, and you are the parent constantly saying no, it affects your relationship. If none of the kids get a treat, or if the vending machine isn’t there at all, it’s no big deal. Its normal.

Imagine a culture where everyone upholds a certain standard when it comes to food so that you can be sure that the food your child eats at school or his friends’ houses will be fresh and healthy rather than packaged. Advertising food products, particularly to children, subverts such a food culture.Though the culture supports healthy habits, marketing exploits your desires and weaknesses and encourages you to do what is bad for you. The traditional food culture incorporates opportunities to take pleasure in food with feast days for religious, seasonal or familial reasons. Marketing encourages self-indulgence, and when every day is special, nothing is special. Children have little defence against food marketers, and it doesn’t take long before these intruders define the culture to suit their needs.

Marshall, Jeanie. Outside the box. pg. 81

To me, protecting your children from food marketers is as important as teaching them not to accept candy from people in vans. Someone is coming into your home, through the computer or tv, and attempting to establish a relationship with your child, encouraging them to become consumers who enjoy a treat all the time. Children see commercials as factual and authoritative, according to the American Psychological Association; they can’t ignore or reflect critically on what is presented to them. And many companies go further, portraying parents as dumb old adults who don’t understand children or fun, rather than loving individuals who have to be the bad guys and make you eat broccoli instead of that cupcake because they care about your health.

One of the sections I was most interested in reading in Outside the Box was when Nico was a baby and Jeannie was introducing him to solid foods. In North America, it is still common to introduce foods one at a time in case the baby has a food allergy. In Italy, mothers make a pureed soup broth with veggies and a little rice or pasta for their baby. It incorporates the little into eating with their family unit, as they eat at the table at the same time as everyone else, and are introduced to a healthy and savoury combination of food that continues their introduction into the traditional food culture of their region.

outside the box

By the way, I read this book as a part of my 2016 Read Harder Challenge!

It was cool to see that Marshall offhandedly includes some traditional Italian recipes in her writing, ones that I am excited to try! I highly recommend this book. Try to find it at your local library or bookstore and give it a try if you have any interest in healthy living, cooking, food justice and sovereignty, or raising healthy children.

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xx