On Tap for Today

A fun loving, inspired living blog


Today: What to pack for three days in Maine.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]It’s very simple, really.

Three bathing suits.  Two novels (one should have a lobster on the dust jacket).  One pair of peace moccasins.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are your summer getaway essentials?


Today: The healthy shelf.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false](I summoned all my willpower to not title this post The healthy shelfy.  I love a rhyme.  Especially ones that involve made up words.)  We have quite the healthy collection of books in our housecondohold.  I’ve been making an effort to clear out the random books we’d likely never open again (I rarely read books twice), or that didn’t fit well in our literary rainbow.

Plus, we needed to make room for this guy.

After seeing this set on Pinterest, I quickly ordered one, hoping it would arrive in time for Nick’s birthday.  A few weeks later, I was perusing the always interesting “miscellaneous” section at HomeGoods, when I spotted an identical set (but at a fraction of the price).  Something compelled me to place it in my cart (in hindsight, I think it’s because I am psychic… but in reality, I think I have a problem when it comes to impulse shopping and French bulldogs), even though I had already made the exact same purchase.

When the Pinterest-inspired package arrived, I didn’t fully unpack it, as I was in a rush to wrap Nick’s presents and keep my real, live French bulldog from eating any Styrofoam packing peanuts.  Low and behold, when Nick unwrapped the package, one of the bookends was missing… a foot.  Fortunately, I had a second split-in-two ceramic Frenchie on standby.  Helpful?  Yes.  Normal?  Not really, no.

But that’s beside the point.  As usual.  More to the point, is this:  books are a great way to get healthy and stay healthy.  Some provide motivation or inspiration, others healthy recipes and suggestions for preventative care.  Some you may not want to read in public (say, the one about digestion, for example).  Others might make the perfect gift (I will gladly fake autograph any of these selected titles, to make your present extra sketchy special).  Some make great reference guides you can go back to over and over.  Regardless, I think they’re all worth a read.

A few of my favorites:

  • Michael Pollan’s Food Rules provides the perfect foundation for healthy eating.  No-nonsense, no Fluff (literally and figuratively).  A new edition was recently released, featuring illustrations from the talented Maira Kalman.
  • I was first introduced to Robyn O’Brien and The Unhealthy Truth at a luncheon hosted by Stonyfield Organic a few months ago.  After one of her children experienced a severe allergic reaction to the food Robyn– and most families in the US–was serving, Robyn launched a single-handed investigation into the food industry (including issues of additives and labeling).  Her findings are nothing short of alarming.  I highly recommend that everyone read and learn from Robyn’s story.
  • A Women’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach is not something I’d read in public.  Or in mixed company.  Still, Dr. Wolf provides great information for anyone dealing with digestive issues and a completely un-awkward way.
  • For a little running inspiration, Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers offers a fantastic collection covering the many, varied reasons why women run.  I love the community that running creates.  Everyone has their own motivation for running, and I find that really inspiring.  If you’d like to read about my marathon experiences, feel free to check out these posts:  26.2 Miles of Smiles (Part I), 26.2 Miles of Smiles (Part II), Follow the Signs.
  • The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises is a great resource for at home workouts, and includes detailed instructions and photos for any and every exercise you can imagine.  While it is technically a “big book,” it’s small enough to toss in your gym bag as well.

I could go on and on, but this post is becoming a novel in its own right.  It’s time to tuck these babies back into their color-coded spot on the shelves.  🙂

Also On Tap for Today:

What are your favorite health and fitness reads?



Today: The books I wish I had written.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]After returning from Boothbay Harbor, one of the first things I did was rave to my mother about J. Courtney Sullivan‘s second novel, Maine.  Already a New York Times best seller,  “It’s the kind of book you read and think… I wish I wrote this book,” I told my mom.  It was evocative, and equally as heartbreaking as uplifting– I only wished it was waterproof, so I could take it out on the float with me.

I started thinking about other books I wish I had written.  Unfortunately people like Charles Dickens are always beating me to the punch.  Pests.  Since I just gave away the first author (I was distracted, trying to invent some reason to type What the Dickens?!), I suppose that’s a reasonable place to start.

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens, clearly, I am not.  The last piece of fiction I wrote was my resume.  Totally kidding.  It was an adaptation of Robin Hood, inspired by an illuminated manuscript from the medieval period.  And if you have not already died of boredom, I will elaborate.  It was written in French and (shock!) entirely awful.  And it is now either taking up space in a landfill (sorry, Al Gore) or hanging in my professor’s office, a testament to all that is wrong with American co-eds.

A Tale of Two Cities showed me that a book could be so much more than a book, even if it was assigned reading.  A carefully drawn plot could become a treasure map of sorts.  When Mme. Defarge started knitting in deathly code, I was hooked.

Charlotte’s Web

Each year, a certain teacher at our grammar school would be reduce to tears, all because of an itsy, bitsy spider.  She would barely finish reading the first chapter aloud before dissolving into a crying fit, but– because she loved Charlotte’s Web so– she would pick it up again, day after day, until finally her students would know the ending.  In second grade, I was in the classroom next door.  We listened to a lot of music that year, likely to drown out all the sobbing.

Someone gave me a hard cover copy of the book (I remember it being a First Communion present… that can’t be right, can it?), and I read it on my own that summer.  It was the first book to break my heart.  Had I actually understood The Velveteen Rabbit at such a tender age, surely it would have taken the prize.  That story is brutal.  Regardless, Charlotte’s Web taught me about sacrifice and love and friendship in terms I could understand.  Plus, it made me wonder about farms.

There Are No Children Here

I discovered Alex Kotlowitz after re-reading four of Jonathan Kozol’s books in as many days.  It was the summer after I graduated from Boston College.  I was awaiting acceptance into several volunteer programs, and feeling rather adrift in the world.  If Charlotte’s Web broke my eight-year-old heart, There Are No Children Here ripped my twenty-two-year-old heart to shreds.  I coveted Kotlowitz’s ability to engage, with a seemingly endless reservoir of compassion, while still respecting the professional tenets of journalism.  I couldn’t imagine how I was laughing at the little anecdotes he shared, given the devastation surrounding these stories.  And no sooner had I finished laughing, I was crying like that second grade teacher.  It was all just so human.

A few month later, I would go on to start a career in youth development.  I don’t think this is a coincidence.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

If I was funny enough, rich enough, and patient enough to be a comedian, I would want to be Sloane Crosley.  And if I couldn’t be her, I’d at least want to steal all of her material.  I thought people who laughed out loud while reading on planes were manner-less goobers, until I became one of those people (we all know my manners are impeccable).  Crosley’s essays are all at once poignant and hilarious.

Packed and ready to make peace.

I’ve started writing a few books in my head, including one called Frenchie Kisses for Everyone (a working title, mind you).  The story follows me and Clark, as we circumnavigate the globe and (as the title indicates), he kisses everyone we meet.  In the face of such overwhelming cuteness, rebel forces lay down their arms, corporate standoffs grind to a halt, and you know… other stuff.

Maybe I could start by writing one of those “choose your own adventure” books.  That way, I wouldn’t really have to commit to an ending, and my overactive imagination could be of benefit.  For once.

Also On Tap for Today:

Which book(s) do you wish you had written?


Today: Signs of a great vacation.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Nick and I are back in Boston, after a relaxing week in Boothbay Harbor.  I read two whole books while we were away.  I am officially the last person ever to read The Help, after absolutely devouring Maine.  These were two of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  Maine follows three generations of an Irish Catholic family from Boston– I felt like it could have been written about my family (the good, wholesome characters of course).  Apparently we were not the first ones to play “first one to see the bridge gets a quarter” as kids.  I didn’t want either book to end.  But then again, I would have never made it to dinner otherwise.

Great company, good food, a view of the ocean and a few top notch books– could you ask for more?  A few more signs that I had a great week up north:

I saw the sign.  And I followed it to a good time.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Picking up Clark from his week at goat camp 🙂
  • Laundry, food shopping and returning to reality
  • Planning for marathon training!
What are your ingredients for a perfect vacation?


Today: Book ’em, Elizabeth-o.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false] If you’re like me, you live in constant danger of books falling on your head.  I have amassed quite the collection of books about art written in French, books about Portuguese written mostly in pictures, books about mystery, books about cooking and eating, books about urban housing and education, books about true crime, and more books about art written in French.  When Nick and I moved into our condo, the collection expanded to include books about investing, books about business, and books about how to put up with people like me (i.e. The Idiot’s Guide to Idiots).

This photo is a repeat offender at On Tap for Today...it's just that good. Replace the pug with a Frenchie boy and it would be perfect.

[Photo source]

Just inside our front door is a niche that in 3-4 weeks will be a spectacular home for beloved books, with shelves reaching right up to the ceiling.  For the better part of a year, most of our books have been stacked on the one random shelf installed in the niche by the condo’s previous owners.  Originally, they were color coordinated (a look I am obsessed with), until one leaning tower of pages crashed to the floor, nearly paper cutting me to death as I came in from the gym.  When the cabinet maker and contractor came by to measure last week, I figured I should secure the location (I didn’t want the gentlemen to go all workers’ comp on our assets), so now our books are in bags, bins and piles here, there and everywhere.  In other words, right where you need to be standing in order to be productive.

I can’t tell you how many times I have purged my book collection.  I tried to maintain a one book in, one book out policy (sort of like getting in the door to An Tua Nua when we were juniors at BC), but it never lasted long (very much like my love for An Tua Nua).  I’ve kept certain books because they’ve changed the way I think, because they are special.  I’ve kept other books because they were pretty.  I’ve kept still other books because I was certain I’d want to re-read them.  Upon closer examination there are exactly six books I have ever read more than once as an adult (when I was a kid I re-read all the time).  They are:

  1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  3. Ordinary Resurrections, Jonathon Kozol
  4. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  5. Suite Française, Irène Némirovsky
  6. There Are No Children Here, Alex Koltowicz

So basically, there is no reason to hang on to all 40,000* other books presently threatening to overtake the condo.  They’re destined for better things than terrifying their owners with bodily injury and space consumption.  They’re going to prison.

Please see the Prison Book Program for more information about their upcoming book drive, volunteer opportunities in Quincy on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and how prisoners benefit from donated books. They have chapters across the country and accept donations throughout the year, so please consider passing along your could-do-without books even if you’re not in the Boston area.

*Pardon the gross exaggeration.

Also On Tap for Today:

Is once ever enough?  Which book(s) do you find yourself reading over and over again?



Today: Borrow a book.

Is there such thing as too many books?  Yes, possibly.  Case in point: our shelves have a tendency to overflow and books occasionally come raining from the heavens.  Or, more accurately, from the top shelf.  And sometimes, when I fear approaching the shelf and jeopardizing my safety, I stash errant books under the bed.  But they peek out.

I’ve made a rule for myself, which I will do my best to obey. No more monkeys jumping on the bed.  And also, No more books.  Until I finish reading the ones I have.  I’m sure there are far worse additions to be… addicted to, but I should probably make an effort never the less.  And as soon as I’ve finished the unread stack I have on hand, perhaps I could delay my next book purchase even longer.  How, you might ask (but probably didn’t)?

One of our fellow condo dwellers set up this ingenious take one, leave one system in our mail room:

It’s amazing.  There are books I’d actually like to read here!  And some I wouldn’t like to read, but would instead like to giggle about.  I especially like the posted notice.  And I, for one, like and respect the library.

Isn’t this a lovely alternative to giving more of my hard-earned money to Mr. Barnes and Ms. Noble?  I like sharing.  And borrowing.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Check out the brilliant Gretchen Rubin’s twelve tips for reading more
  • Set up an appointment at Healthworks
  • Supposedly it’ll be snowing by the time we wake up tomorrow… I’ll believe it when I slip and fall on it

What’s in your stack of books to read?  Do you buy, borrow or steal your books?


Today: Read on Memory Lane

MeatballsWe are compiling a list at work, featuring our “must read” books for kids, inspired by our own literary childhoods.  With Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (one of my all-time favorites) and Where the Wild Things Are hitting the theatres, now’s a great time to get nostalgic.

Here are a few picks from my list:

Anne of Green Gables collection, L.M. Montgomery: I wanted to be a red-headed orphan on PEI, with a kindred spirit living nearby and a dying adopted father whose last name sounded like custard.  Except for the orphan/dying parent part.  Actually, I didn’t really want red hair either. I devoured these books, one after another.  My sister and I watched the movies on PBS more times than I should admit.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein: I will not go to school today, said little Peggy Ann McKay.  I have the measles and the mumps, a gash, a rash, and purple bumps.  Memorized that bad larry in fourth grade.  Some things just stick.  My bank account number? Can’t remember it because that corner of my brain is occupied by various S.Silverstein poems.

Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe, Vera B. Williams: I took LeVar Burton’s word for it and checked this book out of the Boyden Library the week it was featured on Reading Rainbow.  The illustrations are perfect.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg: I still daydream of being locked in the Met or the furniture collection at the MFA overnight, thanks to this awesome chapter book.

The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams: I remember this book sending me into a spiraling six year old frenzy, worried that my having strep throat would result in all of our toys being burned in the back yard, only for them to come to life.  I think the coming to life part scared me more than the burning.  Regardless, TVR contains one of my most favorite exchanges of all time:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

The Frog and Toad collection, Arnold Lobel:  Our maternal grandfather was short and had round cheeks.  His older brother was, and is, much taller, with a lean face.  Both looked good in earth tones.  These books, especially Frog and Toad Together, reminded me of Grandpa and Uncle Mac.  I still think they’d probably like sitting on a log, talking about the season, or swimming, or a lost button.

Frog_and_toad_cover[Frog and Toad photo via wikipedia.org]

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss; and Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McClosky: My dad had this awesome leather chair.  We’d still in his lap, while he read to us–these titles in particular, possibly hundreds of times–in the old house.  I’m very lucky my parents read to us as much as they did.

You can check them all out at your local library, or at Amazon.com by clicking here.  Happy Reading!  I’m off to pick up my first BPL card at our local branch.  Man/woman, I love this city.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Go for a run, but avoid that creepy street I mistakenly ran down last week
  • Make some soup!

What were your favorite books growing up?  And for those of you who, like me, loved Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, what’s up with the 3D animation?  I wish the movie looked more like the book… sigh.  OK.  Bye!