I first heard about a person named James Comey when President Trump fired him from his job as FBI Director for his failure to agree to be “loyal” to Trump. Famously, he agreed to be “loyally honest” in some sort of weird compromise. From Austria, I watched Comey’s hearing testimony before Congress with great interest. Many blamed him for Hilary Clinton’s defeat.
When I learned that he had written a book, I was intrigued to see his perspective on the controversial Presidency and Hilary email scandal. Although most of the book was about Comey’s career before Trump became president, Comey did have this to say about Trump:
“Donald Trump’s Presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election and our country is paying a high price. This President is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty. We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency. Their task is to try to contain it.”
One of the things that I miss about America, is celebrating Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an American national holiday which occurs on the third Thursday of November.
According to the History website, “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2018 occurs on Thursday, November 22. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.” To learn more about Thanksgiving, click on the attached link.
Last year I hosted a Thanksgiving at my apartment, but it was super complicated. This year I decided to host a dinner at Tamu Sana, an East African restaurant in Linz. If you go with four or more people, you can order the family style meal. You can tell them whether you want vegetarian or meat.
Two years ago I imported my cat from America. Before I looked into it, I thought that I would have to quarantine her for 3 months. Luckily this wasn’t the case. Essentially, what I had to do in short (for the detailed version please see here at the Austrian Embassy’s website.
1. Get the cat microchipped. A lot of vets have varying opinions on whether to inject a topical pain killer into the area for insertion of the microchip, since the width of the microchip needle is much thicker than normal needles. The vet I went to in Texas told me that it was not necessary, and just prolonged the stress of the cat, so I went with his expert advice. From the reaction of poor Katzie (eyes bugging out in surprise, and what I can only imagine was pain), I regret listening to the vet. I should have gone with my gut and given her the painkiller. After insertion of the microchip she was very scared (another indication that it hurt her).
In theory, the microchip is supposed to be scanned at the border control upon your first entry into the EU to verify it is the same animal as described in the paperwork, but in my case they didn’t do it.
2. Rabies shot after microchip insertion: The rabies shot had to be given after the microchip was implanted (even if only a few seconds). I thought it was a dumb rule at the time, but what can you do? The rabies shot has to be given more than 21 days before entry into the EU, otherwise it is not valid — unless you have proof that the animal has had routine rabies shots at regular intervals.
In 1923, Mei Ling’s older sister falls gravely ill a few days before her arranged marriage to a man she has never met. Mei Ling is forced to take her’s sister place. Leaving her family in China, Mei Ling travels to America. In order to enter the country, Mei Ling must assume the identity of the man’s deceased wife, essentially using her immigration documents as her own (a “Paper Wife”).
When Mei Ling befriends a young orphan girl on the ship to America, little did she know that she was creating a bond for life. When it is Mei Ling’s turn to leave Angel Island (the unfriendly place where immigrants were housed until their entry application was approved) she is forced to leave Siew behind. Making good on her promise to see Siew again, Mei Ling searches for the child to ensure that she is safe, only to find that Siew’s Uncle wasn’t who he appeared to be, and that Siew herself was a paper child. This dark revelation has a damaging impact on Mei Ling and her family, who must fight to overcome the reality of Siew’s situation.
Michelle McNamara hit a home run with this true-crime book about her obessive search to find the serial rapist and murderer who she dubbed the Golden State Killer. This book tells the story of her search for the elusive killer. McNamara passed away 2 years before her book could be published — and the book was finished after her death by her husband, American actor Patton Oswalt, with the help of writers.
This brilliantly told story of the serial rapist and murderer, who is believed to have committed over 45 rapes and 12 murders, is more disturbing then any slasher film — because it is real — it really happened.
If you read any true crime book this year, make sure it is this one.
I really liked Little Fires Everywhere. Opening with a fire in the Richardsons’ home, this book delves into the past to tell the story of the complicated reasons why one of the main characters and the black sheep of the family, Izzy Richardson, set her family home ablaze. “Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”
The main theme of this book is what makes a mother a mother? Blood alone or love? The author carries this theme through 3 main storylines (which I will not divulge as it would spoil the overall story).
At the center of the book are two families, the Warrens and the Richardsons, and more precisely the juxtaposition between the matriarch of each family, Mia Warren and Elena Richardson. “One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules… was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”
Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl, decided to end their nomadic existence in Shaker Height Ohio, a planned suburban community. They rent an apartment from the Richardsons, who have 4 children of their own. Thinking that she will not have to move around anymore, Pearl allows herself to finally make friends, and befriends each of the Richardson children — their relationships blossom in different ways, and are fraught with all the complications of teenage relationships.
This book is centered around the relationship between the Warrens and Richardsons and is told through many interwoven and sometimes complicated threads. The story also touches on themes of race, white privilege, motherhood, and family secrets.
I was particularly moved by the back story of the Chinese immigrant who abandoned her child in a misguided attempt to give the baby away for adoption, only to regret the choice and fight for the baby’s return. The Court case centered on whether it was in the best interests of the child to be adopted by a privileged family (mother + father with good jobs), or the biological, single, mother, who struggled to make ends meat.
As Eleanor Henderson writes for the New York Times: “The magic of this novel lies in its power to implicate all of its characters — and likely many of its readers — in that innocent delusion. Who set the little fires everywhere? We keep reading to find out, even as we suspect that it could be us with ash on our hands.”
Mantoloking / Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, down to Pt. Pleasant Beach is a great place to run. There is a small park before the bridge where the ReClam the Bay, a local non-profit organization is “reclamming” the Bay, or in other words, is trying to regrow the population of shellfish. According to the signs located in the Park, there used to be millions of clams and oysters in the Bay. However, due to various reasons (runoff (i.e., fertilizer) from the watershed (i.e., an area of land that drains to a common body of water), lack of management, and reduced habitat), there are only a fraction of them left.
As also mentioned on the board standing next to the clam grow tank, the organization starts in July with baby seed clams, about 100,000 per upweller. Each is only about 2.5mm. By the end of the season, the clams have grown up to 20mm. In the fall, the clams are then planted in the Bay under protective screens to keep them safe from predators. They stay there for a full season, where they are then transferred into the Bay.
If you are ever at the Jersery shore, this little park is a great place to visit. Not only does it have the cool clam box, but it also has a playground for children and a runner’s track. Currently living in the landlocked country of Austria, it is always great to run around the water front.
I remember the exact moment when I first tried kombucha. I was in the passenger seat of the car in the parking lot of a Whole Foods in Long Island New York. My ex-husband had bought a rather expensive (something like $3) green carbonated drink, which he said was supposed to be really healthy.
I took a sip and was like, “uck, that’s disgusting!”
It was super sour and the base flavor was not that great. It would be my first taste of G.T.’s, one of the the biggest kombucha brewers in the US.
Since it was supposed to be good for me, when we went back to Whole Foods the next weekend, I tried it again, this time the Passionberry Bliss flavor. My second try went much better, and I was soon hooked!
Since I was on a limited budget (damn law school loans), spending $3 a bottle a day on kombucha (x2 people), was just not in the budget. I was seriously bummed out. However, after doing some research online, I was delighted to discover that I could brew ‘buch at home for a fraction of the price!
Since I have some extra kombucha vinegar laying around, I decided to get creative. Eric and Jessica Childs (founders of Kombucha Brooklyn in New York City) in their book Kombucha! had a really interesting recipe for kombucha mustard. I like mustard, so I decided to give it a shot.
Rodney Alcala, born in 1943 in San Antonio, Texas, is believed to have raped and murdered around 130 people. Alcala committed his first known crime (rape of an 8 year old girl) in 1968, at the age of 25 while a student at UCLA. Due to the unavailability of the witness (she had moved back to Mexico with her family), Alcala was given a sentance of only 1 year to life, and released on parole after 34 months.
That was just the beginning of the horrific crimes of torture, rape, and murder that Alcala would commit during his lifetime.
I am giving the book 3 stars out of 5, as I neither really liked, nor really disliked it.
While I usually enjoy a true crime story, I found that this book while being extremely detailed and obviously well researched, lacked the human element — both in the telling of the background story of the killer himself, and also in the telling of the story of the victims. I felt like I was reading some legal document, which was spelling out the facts of the case to a judge, rather than a novel.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
1. Kohr’s Frozen Custard. If you like icecream, you will love Kohr’s. It is so thick and creamy. The best flavor by far is the orange / vanilla twist. You can find it at the Pt. Pleasant Beach boardwalk, down by Jenkinsons.
2. Mueller’s Bakery. Around since the late 1800’s, this place is great for baked goods. It used to have much better coffee (when it was brewed fresh). I guess due to supply and demand issues, the coffee is brewed and put into “self-service” pots against the back wall of the bakery. If you don’t come just when it was brewed, you could be disappointed.
3. Martell’s Tiki Bar. This place is super fun during the summer months. On the weekends they usually have live bands. There is a bar conveniently located at the end of the pier, so you can enjoy a drink and watch the waves crash against the shore.
4. Jenkinson’s Sweet Shop. This sweet shop is open year round, and is a great place to get homemade fudge and New Jersey saltwater taffy.
Ask for a taste test of the homemade fudge. My favorite is the peanut butter chocolate.
Taffy comes in all sorts of flavors and makes a great gift!
Salt water taffy
5. Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Located at the end of the commercial portion of the boardwalk, this place is really fun for kids (and even if you are an adult). The animals are really nice to see, and there are shows (like feeding the Penguins) that you can watch. We would always take my niece and nephew here on the weekends–especially if it was a rainy day.
6. Running on the Boardwalk. The boardwalk is about 1 mile long, and is a great place to run (in the off season). Since it is super croweded during the on-season, I cannot recommend this as a good place to run, unless you come either really early in the morning or really late.
7. Bayhead. Bayhead is a cute little town near to Pt. Pleasant Beach. It has quaint little shops (e.g. Coffee at Noon) and is an overall good place just to walk around and see the sights.
8. Sushi. Living in Austria, American style sushi is hard to come by, so whenever I am in town I love to go out for sushi. My favorite place is a small restaurant in Normandy Beach called Blue Sushi. The food is fresh and tasty. The restaurant is BYOB. Price for Amazing Roll was $17, and 3 pieces of sashimi was $6. A normal roll like Spicy Tuna was about $7. If sushi is not your thing, they also had typical Japanese restaurant food, like Udon noodle soup and teryaki.
9. Spikes: My family and I have been going to spikes for decades. It is a small fish market and restaurant with wooden tables and benches. The food is always fresh and consistently good. If you go in the summer time, expect to wait up to an hour for an available table as they do not take reservations.
10. Local Urban Kitchen. This little restaurant has great food (vegan and gluten free options available), great coffee, and homebrewed teas. I meant to take a picture of the blackbean burger on gluten free bread, with raw kale chips, but I was so hungry and it looked so good that I totally forgot. After lunch, I had a non-fat latte. My tastebuds thanked me. Being a kombucha homebrewer and general kombucha enthusiast, I had to try the kombucha on tap. It was lavender-mint flavored, and was very crisp and refreshing. Kulture Kombucha is a local NJ brewery.