The Best Indie Book You’re Not Reading

Looking for your next great read?  And no, I’m not talking about erotic romance.  This time.

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I want to share a great new memoir I just read called Martial Arts Soul: One Man’s Journey by Larry Louderback.  Larry is a martial arts expert (and a personal friend) and in the book he shares an intimate look at his life-path through martial arts.  By the way, that’s Larry on the front cover.

Here’s the review I left on Amazon.

I loved this book! Martial Arts Soul: One Man’s Journey by martial arts expert Larry Louderback is a deeply personal and heartfelt portrait of his life experience through martial arts. Through story after story, some poignant and others humorous (the time he inadvertently karate-kicked his wife was hilarious), Louderback invites us to take the journey along with him, learning not only about martial arts, but about life.
Great book, 5 well-deserved stars!

I have even better news.  While the book is priced at $2.99 on Amazon, it’s available FREE on Smashwords.  Use THIS LINK to get your free copy today.  And please remember to leave a review.

Date Night–Cocktails, Apps, & Dinner, Oh My!

Mr. R. and I had a fabulous date night last weekend.  We started with cocktails and apps at The Alchemist on Clematis.  As it was a cool evening, we opted to sit at a high-top inside.  Having previously only eaten outside on the sidewalk, I was pleasantly impressed with the interior.  It was wooden tables and chairs, tin ceilings, industrial pendant lighting, carefully cluttered bric-a-brack, and a relaxed atmosphere.  It reminded me for all the world of my favorite bar on the planet, the James Joyce Irish Pub in Ybor City, the historic Cuban district of Tampa.  Which may explain why I loved it so much.  I had a glass of Kim Crawford while Mr. R. enjoyed a Stella or two with our lobster fritters and empanadas.

But when we searched the menu for something dinner-type, neither of us found anything that really struck our fancy that night.  Mr. R. looked at me and suggested that for dinner we could go to the Sunset Bar & Grill and I was thrilled to agree.

So we made our way to Northwood Village and the Sunset Bar & Grill.  I’ve written about this terrific little Indie restaurant before and it’s one of my favorite places to go. The interior is funky, eclectic, and artsy, and the staff is friendly and welcoming.  We were shown to our favorite booth right next to the bar and wasted no time ordering a glass of Clifford Bay.  Glancing around, we noticed that about half the tables had ‘Reserved’ signs on them and we found out that many people had booked reservations for later on that evening.

For dinner Mr. R. had the pork chop in marsala sauce and I had the shrimp Francaise.  Both were hot and delicious.  I’ve never seen a ‘chop’ the size of the one he had.  Having had apps downtown, neither of us were able to finish the generous portions we were served, but before we left we were treated to the most amazing dessert.

Mind you, I’m generally of the opinion that “if it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t dessert.”  I have changed my mind.  We were served a raspberry pear cobbler that absolutely blew my mind.  The first bite just melted in my mouth and I was hard-pressed not to stab Mr. R. with my fork in my eagerness to get another bite.

Next time you’re looking to go someplace different for a great meal, I’d recommend the Sunset Bar & Grill.  You might make reservations to make sure you’ll get a table.

And Valentine’s Day is coming up, just saying…

Date Night–A Walk in the Woods

No, we didn’t go hiking for Date Night.  Instead, Saturday night Mr. R. surprised me with tickets to see the Robert Redford/Nick Nolte film at the fancy-pants movie theatre.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I can’t see going to a movie at a regular theatre ever again.  I’ve been spoiled by being able to choose our luxurious leather recliners online when we order the tickets.  I’ve been spoiled by friendly and efficient wait staff greeting us and taking our orders, only to return moments later with glasses of wine and an elegant cheese platter.  It’s the high life, I tell you.

On the downside, there was a woman in front of us who slipped off her sandals and put up her feet.  Shed of their coverings and propped up right there in front of God and everybody were, without question, the ugliest feet you’ve ever seen.  Mr. R. took a photo as proof but since this a classy blog, you won’t see the picture here.

But I was excited to see the movie, A Walk in the Woods.  I read the Bill Bryson book a lifetime ago, way back when I was married to my nightmare, and I loved it.  It’s the true story of Bryson, an American writer who lived in the UK with his family for years, and had recently moved back to New Hampshire.  Determined to reacquaint himself with his home country, he found a willing partner and set out to hike the 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  The book is at turns humorous and heartfelt and the movie is the same way.  If you’d like a break from movies about robots, superheroes, and shit that blows up, you’ll like A Walk in the Woods.

I also recommend reading the book because like so often is the case, the movie can’t tell the whole story.  While you’re at it, I actually recommend any of Bryson’s books.  He’s sharp and witty with a dry sense of humor and a keen sense of observation.  And by the way, he knows that’s a grizzly bear on the cover of the book.  It’s a joke. Get it?

Another of my favorites is A Short History of Nearly Everything, the very title of which reflects his tongue-in-cheek pomposity.  It’s a terrifically informative and fun read.  So with this Date Night post, you get a two-fer–a movie review and a book review.  Plus a reminder to try out the fancy pants movie theatre in your community.  You’ll never look back.

Date Night Extraordinaire–Part 2

This was so great it deserves a post by itself.  After the movie, Mr. R. and I made our way south from Jupiter to the West Palm Beach neighborhood of Northwood Village where we decided to go to a restaurant where I’ve never been and he hadn’t been there in a  long time.

Photo from Pinterest.

Our apres movie dinner was at the Sunset Bar & Grill at 2500 Broadway.  I knew as soon as we walked in that I was going to love the place.  It’s an ancient 1920s art deco building that has been lovingly maintained and restored into a funky, quirky joint that’s exactly the reason I avoid big-box chain restaurants.

We were greeted by super friendly staff who immediately made us feel welcome, telling us to pick a table.  Although a few tables were occupied and there were a handful of guests at the bars (inside and out on the patio), the place wasn’t crowded and we easily found a booth to our liking.

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Photo by Mr. R.

The decor is funky, artsy, shabby chic and according to their website the painted canvases I saw all around the place are by local artist Deborah Kerly from her “Broadway Series” and are permanently on display.  Also catching my eye was a vast and eclectic collection of beautiful red glass vases arranged throughout the dining room.  I loved the various funky light fixtures as well.

The menu offered so many things that sounded amazing that it was hard to decide, but eventually I opted for the Sunset Crab Cakes while Mr. R. chose a Ribeye cooked medium rare.  The problem there was that he couldn’t decide whether he wanted it grilled or blackened so he actually asked the server to choose for him.

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Photo by Mrs. R.

When our dinner came out, his steak was blackened and he was very happy with it.  My crab cakes were without exaggeration the best crab cakes I have ever had, ever.  Our entrees were accompanied by homemade mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, fresh green beans, a tiny dollop of sweet potatoes, and a drop of some kind of stuffing.  Everything was delicious.  Having had our share of snacks at the movie, we each ended up taking home about half of our meals, which were heartily enjoyed the following day.  Before we left the Sunset, we were treated to a slice of their homemade coconut creme pie which was out of this world, and I don’t even like coconut.

Oh, and the music.  Throughout our time at the Sunset, we were serenaded by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, and Nina Simone.  I overheard one of the servers telling someone that it was the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora.  You couldn’t have chosen a more perfect soundtrack for an evening at the Sunset Bar & Grill.  It was my first time there.  It won’t be my last.

Date Night Extraordinaire–Part 1

Last night was one of the best date nights we’ve had in a long time and Mr. R. deserves all the credit.  It was he who said, “Hey, let’s go see that new Judd Apatow movie, Trainwreck,” to which I said, “Okay.”  Movie-wise, it really was his turn to pick since the last movie we went to see was Fifty Shades of Grey, which he hated.

wpid-20150718_162722-1.jpgAnd so it was that he went online to see where it was playing.  Turns out, it was at the new luxury theatre in Jupiter, Cinepolis.  I’m not going to kid you.  Tickets to the luxury side (half of the multiplex is still regular) are not cheap.  Prime time shows will cost you $19.75 while matinees are two dollars cheaper.

But it just so happened that we had a $25 Fandango gift card.  We chose the 4:45 showing and that meant we paid the matinee price.  Ordering our tickets through Fandango, we only paid $13.50 for both of us (includes the online fee).  AND we chose our reserved seats when we ordered them, so we didn’t feel the need to rush to the theatre, worried that we wouldn’t find two seats together.

We found the theatre lobby to be very upscale with lots of small tables and a large full-service bar at the luxury end.  Bypassing the snack bar because , we moved to the right side of the lobby, the luxury side, while the regular theatres were to the left.  Mr. R. showed the ticket girl his phone, having had the tickets texted to him, and we were on our way to Theatre 4.

wpid-20150718_163538.jpgUnfortunately, they were still cleaning and we had to wait for a long while, but when we finally entered we quickly found our large, fully reclining leather seats among the few that are there.  The luxury theatres only seat about 70 guests and the majority of seats are in pairs.

wpid-20150718_164133.jpgMr. R. and I sank into our seats and fiddled with the controls until we figured out how everything worked.  By the time we had our feet up, we knew there was no turning back, no possibility of ever returning to a regular theatre experience.

wpid-20150718_163710-1.jpgOnce we were comfortably ensconced in seats C1 and C2, we checked out the menu to see what we might order.  I immediately went for their Private Label sauvignon blanc, sans the little green fly.  And being a creature of habit, I chose popcorn, which was really fresh and good, not some old, popped-a-hundred-miles-away-and-shipped-in-last-week crap.

wpid-20150718_165517-1.jpgMr. R., being adventurous, chose the cheese and fruit plate.  There were several different kinds of cheeses, grapes, apple slices, dates, spiced walnuts, and a variety of crackers.  All of these were cheerfully delivered to us by the server who was responsible for our row.  And this was before the movie started.  Throughout the movie if we wanted anything at all, we pushed the little button on the armrest and our wishes were granted.  It was awesome.

Now the movie…

If you’re familiar with Judd Apatow’s work, you know what to expect.  The humor tends to be a bit crass so it’s not for the easily offended.  Trainwreck is about a millennial magazine writer, played by Amy Schumer (who incidentally wrote the script), with serious commitment issues.  Her “sort-of” boyfriend is played by pro wrestler John Cena.  Have you even wondered how John Cena looks naked?  Imagine no more; he’s pretty much like the action figure of He-Man, sans the blond pageboy.

Schumer’s character Amy is assigned to write an article about sports medicine specialist Aaron, played by Bill Hader, who becomes her new love interest.  Both Schumer and Hader are likeable as are the cast of supporting players, not the least of whom is the surprisingly funny and heartfelt LeBron James of NBA fame.

One of my favorite scenes has James, flanked by Chris Evert, Matthew Broderick, and Marv Albert in cameo appearances,  performing an intervention on Aaron, who James believes has gotten in too deep and too fast with the hard-partying Amy.  The cherry on top is Albert’s play-by-play narration of the intervention.

Bottom line, we really liked Trainwreck.  It was a funny and sometimes poignant story, punctuated by moments of hilarious (if crass) humor.  If you liked The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and This Is 40, you’ll enjoy this movie.  And I’ve become spoiled; I’ll never go to a regular movie theatre ever again.

Now after the movie…  (to be continued)

What Can I Say?

Except that apparently we’re on the right mailing list.  Oreo is coming out with yet another limited-edition treat for your summer enjoyment.  Truthfully, I don’t think they’ll ever top the last one, S’Mores.  I’ve been hoarding them like a kid with Halloween candy.  I found a package of them at Target last week and I’ve put them away.

I’m not entirely sure they’ve come up with a hit this time, but I’ll tell you about it anyway.  Beginning on July 13, Oreo Thins will be available on grocery store shelves everywhere.  Oreo Thins come in the original chocolate, vanilla, and mint.  The promotional information calls it a “more grown up treat.”  Apparently, we’re supposed to nibble on these with an afternoon latte or cup of tea.

I’m not going to bother to talk about the taste because we’ve all had these before, right?  Truthfully, I’ve never really been a fan of regular chocolate Oreos.  Making them thinner and putting less creme in the middle is not going to help.  I like the vanilla ones, and I’m pretty much all in on the mint ones.  Let’s talk about something more important.

The promotional information also clearly states that these are not diet cookies.  They’re simply thinner than the regular ones.  I did a little research, thinking that surely thinner equals fewer calories.  Here’s what I found out.

One Serving of Regular Oreos

  • One serving of regular Oreos is two cookies.
  • .Contains 150 calories
  • Total fat is 9 grams
  • Total carbohydrates is 16 grams with 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • Contains 3 grams of protein

One Serving of Oreo Thins

  • One serving of Oreo Thins is four cookies.
  • Contains 140 calories
  • Total fat is 6 grams
  • Total carbohydrates is 21 grams with <1 gram of dietary fiber
  • Contains 1 gram of protein

So what is the verdict?  I suppose it depends on what you want out of a snack.  Here at our house, we’re paying attention to all these numbers.  Oreo Thins don’t come out ahead of the regular version, but on the other hand, you don’t have to eat a whole serving.  If you only have two, you cut all those numbers in half.

But to be honest, it’s like the people at Oreo just ran out of ideas.  “I don’t know.  Let’s just make them skinnier.”

I’ll be hanging onto my S’Mores.  Don’t be a Judgy Judgerson.

Oh No, They Didn’t!

wpid-20150519_164614-1.jpgGuess what the good people of Nabisco are releasing just in time for Memorial Day Weekend?  S’Mores Oreos, what?!

The last limited-edition Oreo I reviewed was the Red Velvet version.  I hope you were able to get your hands on those because they were amazing.

Now they’re ringing in the summer with their newest limited-edition confection, S’Mores.  Who doesn’t cherish the memory childhood days spent at cookouts and campouts, roasting marshmallows over a fire and sandwiching them between graham crackers with a piece of chocolate to complete the delicious treat?

For the first time, Oreo has sandwiched chocolate and marshmallow flavored creme between graham flavored cookies.  Speaking from first-hand experience, these are the bomb!  Okay, you’re not going to close your eyes and think you’re eating s’mores, but then you don’t have to singe your fingers or eyebrows to enjoy a little taste of summer.

These bad boys will be available in stores starting Friday, May 22.  Take my advice, hurry and try some for yourself before they’re all gone.  And I’ll tell you the same thing I told you last time.  Give the kids the regular Oreos.  Save the S’Mores Oreos for the grown-ups.