The Year in Review

Can you believe it’s almost the end of 2016!  Although it seems the world has been put off its axis (politics/war/deaths); FIP had a great reading year. I feel like I broke away from my norms and reinvented my reading style. I learned so much about other people and learned to ponder about my own life.

Two books that impacted my thinking: 

The Autobiography of Malcom X by Alex Haley

You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt

A few books that had great stories to tell: 

The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker

When We Collided by Emery Lord

A Man Called Ove by F. Backman

And for a complete list and ratings please visit my goodreads page.



(Let me know if the link doesn’t work)

So what have you read this year? The best the worst?




Book-Vending Machine Dispenses Suspense

I need a break from all this doom gloom election talk. Here’s something fun for your Friday.

Link: https://wordpress.com/post/aforkinmypage.wordpress.com/679

Earlier this year, Stephen Fowler, owner of The Monkey’s Paw used-book store in Toronto, had an idea.

He wanted a creative way to offload his more ill-favored books — “old and unusual” all, as the store’s motto goes — that went further than a $1 bin by the register.

It came in a conversation with his wife: a vending machine.

“Originally, I thought maybe we would just have a refrigerator box and paint it to look like a vending machine,” he tells NPR, “and put a skinny assistant of mine inside and have him drop books out when people put a coin in.”

But then he was hanging out with a friend, Craig Small, who runs an animation studio in Toronto.

“I mentioned the idea to him, and he said, ‘Forget it! Let’s just build one!’ ”

So they did, and for the past few weeks that machine has been up and running. The “Biblio-Mat” is about the size of a refrigerator and painted vintage pistachio green with chrome accents. On the front, in old-style lettering, it reads: “Every book a surprise. No two alike. Collect all 112 million titles.”

Watch the Biblio-Mat in action in this video from Craig Small.

Though he’s not making much money off the Biblio-Mat, Fowler says it’s a great way to entertain customers — especially kids.

“One kid I can think of in particular — a very intense, physical little boy, not what you would necessarily consider the bookish type — he got a weird, local history book about Hamilton, Ontario,” he says. “And apparently he’s been carrying it around his house, you know, asking his mom, ‘Did you see where I left my Hamilton book?’

“It’s like it completely reinjects the mystery into these old printed artifacts.”

Fowler says the machine reinforces something he’s learned in the book trade: People are always looking for meaning.

“People have a deep need to think the thing is actually being picked for them,” he says. “Yesterday a young woman got a book out of the machine — 12 Hardest Shots in Golf, or something like that — and she was not very impressed. But then she said, ‘I know exactly who I’m giving this to for Christmas.’ ”



Book Review: The Six of Crows Duology

Book 1: Six of Crows 

Goodreads Summary: 

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Book 2: The Crooked Kingdom 

Goodreads Summary: 

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.


FIP Review:

Rarely will you see me give a book 5 stars – but this one (begrudgingly) deserves it.
I picked up this series on a whim; discounted price on the audiobook of Six of Crows.


I’m glad I did.

Story: Good, fast paced story keeps you alert and interested. Fairly predictable with some unpredictable twists along the way. Above average ending; not all loose ends were tied up and not everyone got their happy endings – to me this was more realistic and rougher than most YA books which tend to coddle.

Characters: Personally I felt like this was the highlight of the book. All the characters; secondary and main characters alike – grow on you. Their triumphs and pitfalls become yours.

Overall unexpectedly enjoyed the books.


About the Author

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. Her new book, Six of Crows, arrives fall 2015.


National Book Award Longlists for Fiction and Nonfiction

The lists are out!

Which ones have you read or heard about and which ones are you going to read now that they are potential award winners?


Chris Bachelder, The Throwback Special, W.W. Norton & Company




Garth Greenwell, What Belongs to You, Farrar, Straus and Giroux




Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone, Little, Brown and Company




Paulette Jiles, News of the World, William Morrow / HarperCollinsPublishers




Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs, Viking Books / Penguin Random House




Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen, Penguin Press / Penguin Random House




Lydia Millet, Sweet Lamb of Heaven, W.W. Norton & Company




Brad Watson, Miss Jane, W.W. Norton & Company




Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad, Doubleday / Penguin Random House




Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn, Amistad / HarperCollinsPublishers








Andrew J. Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Random House / Penguin Random House




Patricia Bell-Scott, The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice, Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House








Adam Cohen, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, Penguin Press / Penguin Random House




Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, The New Press




Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America Nation Books




Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, Harvard University Press




Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, Crown / Penguin Random House




Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt




Manisha Sinha, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, Yale University Press




Heather Ann Thompson, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, Pantheon / Penguin Random House




A Man Called Ove

Title: A Man Called Ove

Author:  Fredrik Backman

Goodreads Summary: A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.


FIP Review: 

I think I should start with a few scene setting disclaimers.  I bought this book on Audible; it was on sale for 2.99 or something. The premise seemed interesting. I first started listening to this book when I was on my way to the doctor to find out if I’d need surgery… and I got stuck in traffic… an hour and a half worth of NJ traffic. Needless to say I wasn’t in a happy mood.

I listened to about a quarter of the book that day and I abhorred it! Ove was not friendly and I couldn’t imagine myself living next to him.  I was very much convinced I knew why this wretched book was on sale.  At this point, the performance of the audiobook was the only saving grace.

I returned to listening a week later.  Finally the story was moving and we were getting to see glimpses of the Ove’s past. We were meeting people in his current life – this was also around the time the pipe bombs were planted in Seaside NJ — and I was distraught and needed to believe again in the goodness of humanity.  A Man Called Ove did just that.

I loved Ove by the time I finished this book.  I’d placed him in the stereotypical ‘cranky senior’ category and never bothered to get to know his story. And what a lovely story it is; one of everlasting love, strong friendships and unbreakable spirits.  Standing up for what is right and pure. It’s a story about the kind of people you want to have around you. Maybe I’m being lame but I’m starting to tear up writing this.

Needless to say the strength of this book was it’s characters. Switching gears, I also found it freshing that the story was set in Sweden; I don’t know much about Sweden and kept wondering why there was so much mention of snow. HA! This led me to some googling. I found out that this book was written in Deutsch and then translated to English in 2012. Well I’ll be a monkey’s aunty!! I usually hate hate hate hate translated books  – so much is lost in translation but golly me this was fantastic!

To my further amusement – the book has been turned into a movie in 2015. I smell a movie/date night!! The husband has a mandatory seat next to mine but I think he’ll like this one. The actors are foreign – but if I had to recast the American version:


Ove: Clint Eastwood

Parwana: Priyanka Chopra

And the rest I’m open to ideas!

Hope you guys enjoyed the review and enjoy the book.


PS: this author is younger than me; look at the wonderful things he’s doing. Three books and counting… and I’m peeling potatoes. *sigh*











I Ate Vegan for 7 Days ….

A little out of the ordinary but I loved this article so much I had to share it. And because we talk about and love good food here at FIP Inc.

Enjoy and share!


I Ate Vegan for 7 Days and This is What Happened

I Ate Vegan for 7 Days and This is What Happened #theeverygirl

Confession time, Everygirls: I am not a vegan. 

I like burgers. I like steak. I like eggs and bacon for breakfast. I am the un-vegan-iest. I am probably the meatiest meat-eater there ever was.

All that being said, I’ve felt for a long time that I needed to make some major changes in my diet. Having spent the last year of my life working 50+ hours a week and renovating a home, stress, and being “too busy” have wrecked my metabolism and caused me to lose track of healthy eating. I gained about 30 pounds and sunk into a pretty serious depression.

I knew it was time for some big changes. After switching out my high-stress TV news job for still-stressful-but-manageable freelance writing, my diet was the next big item to tackle on the list.

Though I didn’t (and still don’t) plan to commit to veganism long-term, I knew I needed to refocus on a more plant-based diet and stop turning to takeout as an easy fix.

So, even though my husband got wide-eyed and looked at me like I was crazy when I told him what I was doing, I set out to eat vegan for seven days to reset my mindset and my system.

This is my story.

My Shopping List

First things first, I needed to stock my fridge and pantry. I was going into this blindly, so I spent about 30 minutes researching recipes (which I’ll share below) and compiling my shopping list. The prices I’ve included here are from Trader Joe’s in Salt Lake City, but I expect you’ll find similar items and pricing at your local grocer.

  • 3 cans black beans ($2.67)
  • Chickpeas ($2.37)
  • White beans ($2.67)
  • 2 avocados ($3.96)
  • Cucumber ($1.29)
  • Spinach/leafy green mix ($1.99)
  • Bread ($2.49)
  • 2 onions ($1.38)
  • Pepper ($.99)
  • Rice ($1.69)
  • Canned or frozen corn ($2.00)
  • Tomatoes ($0.79)
  • Apples ($2.49 for 2-pound bag)
  • 1 box strawberries ($5.99)
  • 1 bunch bananas ($1.45)
  • Coconut milk, unsweetened ($1.99)
  • 2 cans coconut milk (1.98)
  • Chia seeds ($4.99)
  • Raspberries ($2.79)
  • Oats ($3.99)
  • Brown rice pasta ($2.99)
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes ($3.18)
  • 1 box cherry tomatoes ($1.99)
  • 1 jar tomato sauce ($2.29)
  • Potatoes ($3.99)
  • Carrots ($1.99)
  • Yellow squash ($2.99)
  • Zucchini squash ($2.99)
  • Yellow curry powder ($1.99)
  • 1 bag frozen peas ($1.29)
  • 1 bag baby carrots ($1.69)
  • 1 container hummus ($3.99)

Total cost: $87.31 

This list provided me with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for seven days. I ate most of the breakfast and lunch items on my own, but the dinner recipes always made enough for me, my husband, and a healthy portion of leftovers.

Breakfast and Lunch:

Vegan breakfast bowl recipe here.

Because I get to work so early every day, I needed to pack a breakfast and lunch to bring with me. I do best when things are simple and easy, so breakfast stayed pretty light and usually consisted of grabbing fruit on my way out the door. I would pre-wash berries the night before and have them in a container along with a Ziploc bag of almonds. I’d also grab a banana and be good to go until lunchtime.

For my lunches, I essentially followed this healthy guide, which focuses on getting protein from legumes and using healthy fats to feel satisfied. Overall the meals were SO simple to make (I stored most of the ingredients in my work fridge and assembled lunch there) and while definitely a lot less filling than a burger and fries, my body felt more and more satisfied each and every day.


I was fairly apprehensive about cooking vegan meals, if only because I hadn’t ever done it before. I had always seen vegan cooking as complicated and full of dizzying substitutions. Once I found out how simple it could be, I was 100 percent on board.

I made sure to make BIG batches so that there would be enough for 2+ meals (because the less I cook, the happier I am).

Here are some recipes I tried throughout the week: 

Vegan Curry

Source: allrecipes.com

This curry was incredibly flavorful. The potatoes and healthy fats from the coconut milk made it really filling and satisfying, which was perfect for the days my breakfasts and lunches were lighter. This recipe made enough for two nights of meals for both me and my husband, so even though it took almost an hour to make, I didn’t have to cook the following evening.


  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons curry powder
  • 4 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can peas, drained
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk


  1. Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to steam-dry for a minute or two.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, garam masala, and salt; cook for 2 minutes more.
  3. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, and potatoes. Pour in the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5-10 minutes before serving.

Veggie Pasta 

Source: Give Recipe

I made a big batch of easy-peasy pasta, which lasted for two dinners. The recipe was improvised on the spot, but I’ll do my best to recreate the recipe for you here.


  • 1 box pasta of your choice (I picked Trader Joe’s brown rice spaghetti)
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (I picked Trader Joe’s tomato and basil sauce)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 box cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Several handfuls spinach, rinsed
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 cup frozen peas


  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
  3. Add halved cherry tomatoes and frozen peas, continuing to stir on medium heat for two minutes.
  4. Add chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce, stirring until lightly simmering.
  5. Combine sauce and cooked pasta. Add in spinach and stir until wilted.
  6. Serve immediately.

Vegan Dinner Bowls 

Source: I Love Vegan

On three nights throughout the week, I made ultra-filling and nutritious dinner bowls. I didn’t use recipes, but the formula was always the same:

  • A big portion of rice or quinoa with a drizzle of olive oil
  • Black beans or chickpeas (or both)
  • Plenty of veggies (roasted broccoli and carrots or sautéed squash work great!)

Thoughts Throughout

On day one, I was HUNGRY. Like, really hungry. Angry hungry. My body was accustomed to eating more food than it needed (hence my weight gain in the last year) and it protested this lighter, natural diet pretty strongly. Had I not been writing this article, I may have given up like the weak piece of garbage I am.

By day three, though, the same meals that left me hungry on day one were keeping me satisfied. If I got hungry in between meals, I’d have some fruit and nuts as a snack. It’s amazing how quickly your body can adjust.

The social aspect of eating vegan was also jarring, but not unmanageable. I could still go grab coffee with my coworkers; I just had to order my coffee black and skip the pastries. Lunch was harder, and I did feel a little left out as my colleagues hit the taco cart while I stayed behind in the break room. Vegan options can be found on most menus, but it requires pre-planning (Which, if you couldn’t tell, I’m not amazing at).

When thinking logically, I knew I was 1) saving money and 2) eating MUCH healthier by packing my food instead of eating out every day, but logic doesn’t often apply when you’re tired and hungry and all your friends are eating double cheeseburgers.

The Result

Seven days later, I felt amazing. I’ll repeat what I said: I FELT AMAZING. Not only did I have more energy, I felt like I had gained a new control over my body and health, which is an incredibly empowering feeling to have.

I lost weight, too: Three pounds in a week. I don’t attribute this to eating vegan so much as I do to keeping my diet natural and healthy, but sticking to a vegan diet made that a whole lot easier. It’s difficult to fill up on junk when most junk contains animal products.

The Takeaway

Now that the week is over, I plan on reintroducing meat and dairy products into my diet—but in a very different way. I feel too good to go back to inhaling processed food with no thought about how it will affect my body.

If I’m going to be committed to fueling my body with healthy food, I should think plants first, meat second. This week taught me that meat isn’t a requirement at every meal; it can supplement a dish if available, but isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a necessity.