Tag Archives: best pop culture blog

Wanna read more in 2014? Get your best books here

Happy new year! Hope your holidays were swell.

I set out to write a blog about resolutions, but when I went back to last year’s January blog, I realized I haven’t kept ANY of the seven I made last year! No joke, it was an epic resolution fail.

But I was a little nuts to expect I would get one or two– much less all — of those goals achieved in one busy year.

Sleep more?? Never. Write a screenplay and a New York Times essay? Stuff of fiction! Get more facials? Who has the time?

New Year's 2014 glasses on carpoolcandy.com

So this year I’ve decided to keep it simple.  No more lofty dreams. I’m going to try to drink a half-gallon of water a day, and read more.

I’ve been toting around one of my boys’ fancy water bottles  that keeps it icy cold,  and I admit drinking more H2O does fill me up. Often I eat because I’m bored or restless, and though I might want food, a drink of water is all I need.

drinking-water

So far so good on the agua. Now for the books.

I read a lot for work and I’m in two book clubs (don’t ask!) so that leaves me little time to read books I choose myself. But I also blame TV and the internet. (Every time I get sucked into reading Facebook crap for 20 minutes, I curse Mark Zuckerberg for providing another distraction I don’t need.)

I have no self-discipline at bedtime and often stay up waaaay too late surfing the web and/or cable channels when I could be enriching my mind with a book. If I’m cozy in bed reading, I’ll fall asleep earlier too so that’s a bonus.

Reading more makes a lot of sense, which is probably why it won’t last past, say,  January 24th. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

I also want to read to my kids more. When they were little, I loved reading time under the covers. But that’s when books were blissfully short and uncomplicated.

Now they’re into chapter books and you have to pay more attention to the characters and plot. You can’t pick up a chapter book after 4-5 days and get right back into the story, without rereading a few pages each time. Plus, my kids go to bed so late now, by the time they settle down to read I’m spent.

But I miss it.

They read plenty on their own, but for Aden, 10, and Eli, 8, I don’t have much time left before they’ll find reading with me annoying and babyish so I can’t squander this time, when they love reading together as much as I do.

FloraandUlysses

We just started a new book by our favorite children’s author, Kate DiCamillo, called Flora and Ulysses. I highly recommend it for kids from ages 6 to 12. Aden, Eli, and I are all drawn in by DiCamillo’s unique storytelling, so we’re off to a good start.

A glance at some “Best Books of 2013” lists got me excited to keep my promise to myself. Last January, I wrote a post about books and devoured a bunch that were on my list. Fiction favorites include The Orphan Master’s Son, Yellow Birds, and the stellar, cheeky Where’d You Go Bernadette?  Pick those up if you haven’t already.

The Goldfinch

The New York Times put out its list here, including The Goldfinch, which is at the top of my must-reads.  The Huffington Post’s list had some interesting fiction here.  JK Rowling’s novel (under a pseudonym) The Cuckoo’s Calling  and Dave Eggers’, The Circle look like good ones.

And for bookworms who think last year’s best are so 5 minutes ago,  Flavorwire has a list of the most anticipated titles of 2014 right here.

So… reading and drinking water…  seems manageable. Also sounds like things I’d do in prison, but that’s beside the point.

What’s on your resolution list? What books are keeping you up late? Please share in the comments!

3 of my favorite shows suck this season

You know I’m as loyal as Lassie when it comes to my TV shows. But time is precious people, and I don’t like wasting it on lame story lines.

Three of my darlings have failed me this season:

–Parenthood/NBC    This show started out so strong, with so many likable characters in realistic family life situations. Stellar acting, smart writing, and cast chemistry made it a home run for me and tough-customer Wilson. What happened Bravermans? Every storyline this season is annoying. Sad Julia who used to be a badass attorney can’t make it as a homemaker and is now rushing into the arms of an unemployed stay-at-home dad? Amber not recognizing the painfully obvious signs in her doomed engagement to damaged soul Ryan? Kristina running for mayor of Berkeley? Really?! Every mom of a college student, special needs teen and a toddler, who just got over cancer has the time, money and stamina for that, no?

"Parenthood"/NBC

Photo by Colleen Hayes: “Parenthood”/NBC

On the bright side, I love Ray Romano and Lauren Graham…and Craig T. Nelson is always good for a smile. The writers need to go back to basics. Stop making a show that brilliantly highlighted the quiet moments of parenting and explored the complicated intricacies of family dynamics,  into a predictable, unrelatable soap opera.

–How I Met Your Mother/CBS   I know some of you gave up on this comedy in the past but I hung in there and this was the last season, when we finally get to meet the mother! The show writers are known for clever gimmicks to tell their stories –gems include the backwards episode, the musical, and the one with hidden numbers in every scene. Here they’ve cooked up the idea of having the entire season take place over the course of Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend. What started out cute, got increasingly tiresome, verging on desperate.  The side story of Marshall’s road trip isn’t compelling and adds nothing to the narrative.

CBS

CBS

I do like Linus, Lily’s waiter whom she’s paid off to keep her vodka glass full, and this week’s “surprise” episode had some redeeming qualities. But I’m hoping the back-end of the season will be full of the magic, romance, and comedy Mother fans have come to expect.  The laughs, so far, have been hard to find.

–Real Housewives of Beverly Hills/Bravo    Certain shows I watch for quality, others for pure entertainment. I‘ve noted my passion for the eye candy on RHOBH, but season 4 has been — pardon the pun– a bust.  The chemistry is gone. Two new “cast” members are tough to watch. Millionaire wiccan Carleton’s severe look matches her snide comments. She’s insecure, defensive, and judgmental, which made watching her transition to the Housewife lair annoying. Former Miss Puerto Rico Joyce has an equally irritating personality and seems to think she can solve any conflict with her  pageant-winning smile and a hair flip.

"Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" season 4 on carpoolcandy.com

Rodolfo Martinez/Bravo

The producers always seem to choose a common enemy and this year, it’s former sweetheart Kyle. I like Kyle. She’s the most relatable of all the gals and doesn’t try to pretend she’s perfect. She’s a terrible villain. Plus she’s heartbroken over all the rumors of her hot hubby’s infidelity in the tabs. So now these women regularly argue over who leaks stories to the press and start fights over information instigated by paparazzi.

I know it’s mindless. But the ladies used to be friends, and I loved gaping at the purses, houses, and vacations. The petty, tedious arguments have reached a new low. Now it’s just a bunch of self-absorbed, bitchy women who have nothing in common except the desire to be famous. Ick!

These shows better shape up before their finales. I hate feeling like I squandered time I could have been watching a new show like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black. If all else fails, there’s always season 4 of Downton Abbey , premiering January 5th.

My guiltiest pleasure and other personal tidbits

Good news! One of the cool bloggers I met at BlogHer13 last summer was kind enough to nominate me for a blogging award called the Liebster. I’ve never heard of it, but who am I to turn down an award nomination?

(It’s an honor to be nominated…I’d like to thank the academy…you like me you really like me…this moment is so much bigger than me…I’m king of the world!….my blog is great but really Beyonce’s blog should have won…)

You get the point. liebster award logo on carpoolcandy.com

Now I must pay it forward. First, I answer 10 questions posed by the nominator, the always amiable Amy of amynameisamy.com/. You should check out her blog here because she’s a terrific writer (I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it) who shares my affection for TV and pop culture, and offers relatable insight about her experiences with divorce and being single again, and as a mom of four kids.

Next, I pass on the love to other bloggers whom I admire and nominate them for this mysterious Liebster award. Hopefully it starts a chain of happy reading. You might find a new favorite blogger, and some hardworking bloggers may get much deserved recognition.

So here we go. I hope my answers will enlighten and/or entertain.

How did you pick your blog’s name?

Carpool Candy was once a column on AOL/Patch.com before I turned it into a blog. I wanted to come up with a memorable name, I’ve always loved alliteration, and I wanted it to say what I write about. Carpool covers the family life, and candy covers the pop culture. I also liked that the message was sweet.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 13-​​year-​​old self?

I’d tell myself to relax and not worry so much about what people think. I’d also tell me—just like my dad used to—that there was a great guy out there somewhere brushing his teeth, watching the Brady Bunch, and arguing with his parents just like I was…and when the time was right I would meet him. That’s you, Wilson. If I had believed my dad, it would have saved me a lot of heartache.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Tough to pick one, so here are some of my greatest hits: Family Ties, 30something, West Wing, Oprah, Sex and the City, Sopranos, Friends, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Modern Family, New Girl…I should probably stop now.

What are four things you cannot live without?

Things, not people, right? TV, Lip balm, yoga, chocolate.

Who is your favorite fictional character?

In TV, I’d have to say Mary Richards from the old Mary Tyler Moore show and Scarlett O’Hara.

Gone with The Wind poster

What is your most prized possession?

I have a really nice watch that I love. It’s classic and makes me feel like a grown up. Wilson and I split the cost of it many years ago. I saved money from my paycheck, and he chipped in his winnings from a March Madness rotisserie pool.

Describe yourself in three words.

Ugh, how stressful. Mom, wife, journalist or loyal, creative, fun

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Twitter, and dessert every night

What single quality do you most appreciate in people?

Genuineness

What’s your favorite post that you’ve written? (Link, please!)

The Memorial Day one remembering my dad’s Naval service in Vietnam was one I’m proud of and I love that I had vintage photos and a letter from my dad to support it. You can read it here.

liebster-blog-award0 logo2

Now it’s my turn to nominate some bloggers I love. I think you’re supposed to nominate those with smaller followings but in the spirit of keeping it real I’m going to nominate the blogs I actually take time to read because they’re that good:

http://dishuponastar.blogspot.com/ ….(extremely honest take on celebrity gossip. informative and funny.)

http://averagemomswearcapes.com/ …(mom/journalist who writes refreshingly honest posts about everything from raising boys to fitness to surviving what she affectionately calls, “the cansuh.”)

http://www.raisingcolorado.com/ … (I don’t even know her, but I feel like I do because her writing is both intimate and hysterical. and she always has great pix to supplement. I can’t explain it, you have to be there. go now. read.)

 http://chewnibblenosh.com/  (this food blog is well written and demystifies cooking.  it has easy to follow instructions on what’s for dinner and makes me feel like “I could make that!” instead of “that aint happenin.”)

http://www.peachesandcoconuts.com/  …(can you tell I like funny writing? if you do too, try this blog on for size. she’s a slightly neurotic stay at home mom in a 2-mom family, and she’s not afraid of oversharing.)

Here are 10 questions I pose to the bloggers::

–what’s your favorite part of blogging?

–what part of blogging makes you want to tear your hair out or cry?

–who are your writing (or other) heroes?

–what is your fantasy job/aspiration?

–if you could have dinner with any 3 people living or dead, who would they be?

–what are three things you can’t live without?

–what is your guilty pleasure?

–describe your ideal weekend.

–what are your favorite magazines?

— which famous person bugs the crap out of you?

–share your favorite post that you’ve written and tell us why you dig it.

You can find more details on the Liebster Awards here. Do yourself a favor and take a minute to check out my recommended bloggers. It will be your good deed for the day. You might even thank me.

Do you believe in fairytales?

My youngest son, 7-year-old Eli has a flair for the dramatic. His pre-school teachers encouraged me to start him in acting lessons and he loves being the center of attention. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he told me he was dying to see “Cinderella” on Broadway.

I told Eli and his 10-year-old brother, Aden, I wanted to take them to a show this summer and suggested “Spiderman.” Rock music and a super hero flying into the audience seemed like a no-brainer.

Aden looked at me like I’d just asked him to smell the inside of his sneaker (which could make you pass out.) “I don’t want to go to a play!” he cried indignantly.

kid and grandma at Mary Poppins on carpoolcandy.com

Aden and Grandma not believing the magic

I may have scarred him by taking him to see “Mary Poppins” on Broadway last summer with my mother. We all agreed it was kind of boring and the songs were just okay.

I chose “Spiderman,”  thinking it could spark their interest and I’d be able to jam a little culture into their sports-obsessed lives.

Aden wasn’t interested, but Eli’s eyes lit up.  “I want to see the one with the pretty dresses and the flying lady!” he insisted. He always runs to the TV whenever the “Cinderella” commercial comes on, gaping at the Fairy Godmother soaring through the air.

So this week, Eli, Nan (Grandma) and I went to the city for a matinée. After the Poppins fiasco I kept expectations low.

You know what, kids? I freaking LOVED it!

Grandma & Eli at Cinderella/ carpoolcandy.com

We all did. It had a simple story, talented performers singing and dancing their britches off, and beautiful costumes. What I didn’t expect was the magic. I don’t know how they did it, but they changed the set and costumes from rags to riches in seconds right before our eyes. It was truly amazing. And fun.

The Broadway production is the Rodgers and Hammerstein– not Disney–  version of the show, with a purposely modern twist.  They rewrote the book so the prince isn’t a one-dimensional Ken doll looking for the fairest lady in the village. He’s an insecure guy who has inherited his father’s kingdom but isn’t even sure he wants to run it.  Cinderella actually helps him through his identity crisis and makes him see the suffering of his people and effect change.

The evil step-mother lives up to her title but one step-daughter is funny and authentic– knowing she has no chance with the prince– and the other is more interested in a nerdy town rebel than being a Princess.

When the inevitable happy ending came, everyone was cheering like crazy and Cinderella got an ovation that I can only compare to the shrieking I heard at a Justin Bieber concert. I was grateful the theater was dark as I stood and clapped with tears splashing down my face.

I’m such a sucker for sap.

I had equal enthusiasm for the birth of the royal baby last month. I ate up all the photos and details like they were cream-filled crumpets. Too-cool-for-school Wilson rolled his eyes at every breathless mention of Prince George and his handsome parents.

“Aren’t you excited about it? It’s joyous news!” I said grinning like a toddler.

“NO!” he said emphatically from behind his newspaper. “I don’t care. Why should I care?”

Despite his virtues as father and husband, Wilson can be a real curmudgeon sometimes.

Royal baby on YouTube /Carpoolcandy.com

But he made me stop and think about why I did care so much.

It’s the same reason I enjoyed “Cinderella.” Even though I’m all about keeping it real, I love a fairytale. I love the possibility that magic can happen and dreams can come true.

My sense of wonder roused me up at 4am to watch Princess Diana and Prince Charles get married back in 1981… but then that devolved into disaster and divorce. So when charming, adorable Prince William fell for gorgeous, poised Kate, I swooned on my side of the pond.

watching royal wedding in 2011/ carpoolcandy.com

Watching royal wedding at 5am in 2011

She’s a commoner who married a prince. They’re modern and low-key (at least by royal standards) and look so sunny that it’s hard not to believe in their fairytale.

And I’m not the only one. When I told Eli about the royal baby he smiled and excitedly asked if it was a boy or a girl. When I told him it was a prince, his face fell.

“Darn it!’

Why did he care about the gender?

“Because if it was a princess, then maybe I could go to college in London and marry her so I could be a King!”

That’s my boy.

There’s more to BlogHer13 than free lube

BlogHer13 carpoolcandy.com

Last weekend I was in Chicago for the Super Bowl of blogging conventions: BlogHer.  This was my second year at the conference– last year it was in New York — and it was comforting to be surrounded by so many women who also stare at a computer screen for hours on end, trying to tell meaningful stories.

When I took out my favorite notebook — a spiral large enough to hold my pen, with blank pages and Andy Warhol-esque neon prints of the Mona Lisa on the cover–   I noticed  many others with unique journals filled with scribbled ideas and lists and thought, “These are my people.”

My highlights:

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond at BlogHer13 on carpoolcandy.com

Inspirational speakers— The conference opened with a chat with Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman.” Her talk was as funny, authentic, and heart-felt as her blog, punctuated by some of her famous photos. She moved from city life to a ranch in the middle of nowhere after falling hard for her husband. They make their home on the range with 4 kids and a menagerie of barnyard animals. Her blog has become so popular, she’s written several cookbooks and children’s books, and hosts a show on the Food Network, but  blogging is still her favorite endeavor. I wasn’t the only one inspired when she pointed out that she was sitting at a table at BlogHer just six years ago wondering what she was doing with her life.  And look at her now!

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at BlogHer13 on carpoolcandy.com

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at BlogHer13

Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg grabbed me with her message of empowerment. I was skeptical after all the press about her bestseller, “Lean In,” fearing it would make me feel like a failure because I left my TV career to spend more time with my kids. But I received the opposite message from her in person. She talked about how potent fear can be when it comes to women and success. Why are we so afraid of speaking up, taking risks, failing, succeeding? She also got extra points when asked what she does to de-stress, because her answer was watching well-written TV, like “Girls.” I liked her so much I’m going to read the book and will report back.

Queen Latifa was the emcee of Voice of the Year at BlogHer13

Queen Latifa was the emcee of Voices of the Year

Voices of the Year– Each year, bloggers submit posts and BlogHer chooses the best 100 of the year and 12 get to read their winning pieces at the conference.   The writing was poignant and represents a wide breadth of life experience. One called DIY is full of danger...” –about a mom who accidentally gave herself a raging case of hives while crafting– made me howl laughing.  There were also incredible posts on topics as varied as surviving cancer, being a gay Christian missionary, and parenting a child with suicidal depression.  The writers drew us in with their honesty, strength, and courage.

Transformer at swag expo /BlogHer13 on carpoolcandy.com

Swag expo at BlogHer13 on carpoolcandy.com

Jamba Juice at swag expo at BlogHer13 on carpoolcandy.com

House of swag-–  What’s a convention without marketing and bags of useless swag? There was a football-field sized expo with booths looking to lure in bloggers with free stuff so they’ll promote their brands. With more than 4,000 women expected, marketers tried to create a lady’s paradise.

aerobics at BlogHer13/ carpoolcandy.com

manicures at BlogHer13/ carpoolcandy.com

You could try a new cell phone, take an aerobics class, get your hair and nails done, or try a bevy of beauty products. Munchies I tried included cake, candy, and yogurt, washed down with champagne.

Last year the smarties at Trojan handed out vibrators, sparking thousands of blog mentions (including mine,)  so this year…lubricant.

Trojan lubricant at swag expo at BlogHer13 on carpoolcandy.com

Who doesn’t want a picture standing next to a giant bottle of lube to blog about? Good times.

I learned stuff– Like any conference, there were some helpful speakers and sessions, and some duds. I marked up my paper schedule, and referred to the BlogHer13 iPad app like I was at freshman orientation. I don’t care if I was a blog nerd, I sacrificed a workday and a weekend, paid money, and flew to Chicago so I was going to squeeze all the valuable info possible out of my two days.  The talks on optimizing social media and getting writing published were extremely useful, and an identity discussion on how to measure success if you choose not to become a brand and seek out advertisers resonated with me.

BlogHer13 on carpoolcandy.com

Meeting bloggers– I attended several sessions to help improve my writing, marketing and social media skills and was impressed by the success of many bloggers. I know how much time mine requires, yet there are myriad ways I could become more entrenched in the blogging community, and use Facebook and Pinterest to increase my numbers. These ladies plopped down their laptops, smart phones, and iPads, ready to get down to business, asking pointed questions while blogging, Tweeting, and taking notes simultaneously.

I met two savvy bloggers at one session who were beginners like me. I hope we’ll stay in touch and one day be chatting behind a podium as presenters on the “How My Blog Became a Book” panel, looking back on BlogHer13 and laughing at what rookies we were. Shout out to Amy at  AMyNameisAmy and Emily at Em-i-lis — let’s make it happen ladies!

Chicago skyline on carpoolcandy.com

Chicago–It’s my hometown so part of my motivation was to stay with friends (thanks Sash!)  Sunny skies and 75 degree days, and watching bikers and runners on the lake always elevates my mood. Everyone looks like they’re having fun during summertime in Chicago. The food ain’t bad either.

Me time– It’s rare to have that much time to myself. I was able to catch up with friends, uninterrupted by persistent kid questions, carpools, and needs.  It was important to clear my mind a bit to absorb everything I learned and experienced at the conference.  The time away put me in a reflective mood and made me think about why I blog and what’s next.

There are no easy answers, but BlogHer13 sure got me thinking.

The OCD habit I have to break

magazine hoarding

Hi, my name is Brooke, and I’m a zine-addict.

It started when I was young. I loved reading about Michael J. Fox and Matthew Broderick in Tiger Beat before graduating to the profiles and essays in Esquire. My dad was a big fan of Time, New York, and Vanity Fair and my mom was a religious reader of House & Garden , W, and People, just to name a few.  I remember how excited she got every August when the 4-pound September issue of Vogue arrived in the mail.

I feel the same when my Real Simple comes, or when I turn to the last page of the Times magazine to read the “Lives “essay and dream of one day getting published.

But my fondness for magazines has gotten out of control and they’re taking over my home. My problem is, once they enter my house, I simply cannot throw them away until I read them. Not necessarily cover to cover– but I have to give each magazine a good flip-through before I toss it.

Office/Playroom

Office/Playroom

Like everyone else, I’m so busy it’s hard to find time to read magazines, especially since I read so much for work. But it’s equally difficult accepting that I can’t keep up, and may miss a vital article on anything– from best cooking gadgets to the latest on Syria to the inside scoop on Jennifer Aniston’s wedding plans.

I need to know!

My magazine habit is so ingrained that I pay for subscriptions 2-3 years in advance so I don’t have to worry about missing a payment and thus an issue. But that means they keep arriving in my mailbox, all crispy and new, busting with news and tantalizing headlines, begging me to delve in.

Magazine hoarding

Desk

I’ve been getting Parents since my oldest was born (he’s now 13)  and would never renew but it keeps showing up. I always think I should pass it on to a friend with younger kids– how much more do I need to know at this point? But then there’s always that one headline that grabs my eye and makes me hang onto it. I would like to know the ten best tips to keep my kid safe in cyber space.

The New York Times magazine, Time and People are the real killers because they’re weekly, but the Country Livings, Food Networks, and Real Simples cumulate quickly too. And now my boys (ages 7, 10, and 13)  are adding fuel to my fire with Sports Illustrated every week.

Kitchen

Kitchen

So the pulp piles up, all over the house. There are baskets, crates, and shelves teeming with them on the first floor. Others gather in flat spots in my bedroom, while stray issues litter every bathroom, despite a full recycling bag every week of those I’ve managed to read and dismiss.

I need help people.

Remember, I’m a journalist who’s always seeking information.  I also like pretty pictures and gossip as much as the next gal.

Bedroom

Bedroom

I have a “toss it after one year” rule in place, but it doesn’t help all that much. I just don’t know how to cure myself. Whenever I’m completely disgusted with the state of the house and decide to tackle my enormous heaps, I wind up spending hours perusing mags, and ripping out articles I must save, until I’m exhausted and can’t read another word.

Bathroom

Bathroom

The first step is admitting you have a problem. So here I am,  lifting the veil on this compulsive behavior.

Any advice for this magazine junkie? I welcome it in the comments. Otherwise, I may have to start subscribing to Psychology Today to get some answers.