Archive for the ‘ Celebrity Books ’ Category

Parents Picks: My Top 5 Books of 2013

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

After reading and skimming more than 100 books this year it’s no easy task to tell you which ones are my favorites. But I sat down, poured a beer and perused my overflowing bookshelf. It was so much fun to revisit Pamela Druckerman‘s Bebe by Day, Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and Kristine Barnett‘s The Spark. They are easily among my top 12.

But if I absolutely had to whittle it down, here are my Top 5 Books of 2013. These are the books that stayed with me all year long–the ones I went on and on about until my husband’s eyes glazed over. These titles were so fresh that I fired off Facebook statuses and emails about them.

What about you? What are your favorites of 2013?

Here are mine:

1. Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg
She stepped up to the plate this year and said what hasn’t been said before to women. Just because women want to have families and careers doesn’t mean we need to start planning for it straight out of college. She encourages women to go out there and claim what’s ours in the workplace. Wait to figure out your next steps until you’re actually pregnant. That’s advice I wish I’d had when I was getting started in 1999. Sheryl is a cool chick who has her gender’s back on every page. Take this: “’Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”

2. The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
I’ve wondered for months how Emily Rapp is doing. She lost her dear son Ronan to Tay-Sachs earlier this year around the time her memoir came out. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill tragedy. She was unapologetically angry and fiercely sweet. Her frustration and struggle–without the religious backdrop and sentimentality–made her achingly real. She’s real in a way that I will never forget. I’m not sorry for her. I’m inspired by her book that drips with meaning and poetry.

3. Let Them Be Eaten by Bears
by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Thanks to this book, I’ve taken my kids hiking this year for the first times ever. Right in the beginning, he writes, “With kids, we don’t get out much. It’s too hard.” That resonated with me. I’ve been saying this to my husband since my babies were first born. Now they are 8! And they had never really been outside beyond the backyard or park. Thanks to Hoffmeister’s playful and inspiring approach, we even got our butts off the couch and went camping. I let the kids wander the playground, too, and with bare feet just to make Peter even more proud of me.

4. Orange is the New Black
by Piper Kerman
If you’re tired of books and shows about desperate women chasing dreams of men, careers and babies, this one is for you. It’s got very little to do with anything you’ve probably ever read before. This memoir, which formed the fictionalized–but equally awesome Netflix TV show–is about a nice girl who graduates from college and goes buck crazy. She lands a hot, rich girlfriend who just happens to smuggle drugs internationally. Piper runs cash in this operation just one time, and she soon leaves the relationship. She becomes a nice, normal straight woman again. But the feds catch up with her 10 years later, and she winds up in federal prison for a year while her real-life fiance waits for her. The inner workings–and indecencies–of the prison system are fascinating. Her life isn’t as whack as it is in the show, (Piper and Pennsytucky became friends for real) but Piper blasts your thoughts right open. This was a unique read.

5. Until I Say Goodbye
by Susan Spencer-Wendel 
Whenever I’ve felt kind of bad this year, I reminded myself of Susan Spencer-Wendel. She lives with ALS everyday, but she isn’t sad. Instead, she does everything her heart desires, including getting makeup tattooed on her face for when she could no longer apply it herself. While she still can, she goes on an epic trip with her longtime best friend to see the Northern Lights. She takes her teenage daughter wedding dress shopping because that’s something she doesn’t want the two of them to miss. Susan’s book did make me weepy–just once–but mostly she made me laugh. Her life has purpose and meaning, and it makes me more aware of what I’m doing with my own. Her book was optioned, and a film sounds like its in the works.

Instill a love of reading in your little one with one of these children’s books. Then, sign up to get parenting tips and tricks sent right to your inbox.

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Writer, Yogi Kathryn Budig at Yoga Journal Conference Today–I’m Going

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

I have to get in a cab ASAP or else I’m going to miss the awesome Kathryn Budig, yogi and writer extrodinaire at the Yoga Journal Conference. Yesterday she was handstanding and singing really happy songs at the same time. She not only inspires me to take my yoga up a notch, she also writes awesome recipes like this one about green smoothies. I’m going to write up some tips and tricks for moms from lots of yogis I’ve met there next week. Stay tuned!

The Yoga Journal conference in Florida (theres one in New York in April) is a yogis paradise. And yesterday, someone even gave me a free pair of red yoga pants. This is totally win-win.

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You Need Pilates! Brooke Siler’s New Book and Moves Can Help

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

You need Pilates! Wait, maybe that’s me I’m talking about. Anyway, Pilates celebrity expert Brooke Siler just came out with a hiptastic new book that will get you moving and toning in no time. I’ll just cut to the chase: The Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates is awesome. It has great moves and pretty pictures. Just flipping through it makes me feel automatically healthier. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Brooke Siler told me about her latest project. And check out her workout move photo at the end.

KK: How can a new mom (assuming she’s physically ready) make time to work out?
BS: Creating a Pilates home practice is a great way for a new mom to get started and since most Pilates matwork is done low to the ground, there are plenty of ways to stay close to baby during the routine. And since Pilates is about sound body mechanics, its principles can be practiced throughout the day simply by becoming aware of how you are sitting, standing, walking, etc.

KK: Can you suggest a new mom sequence or Pilates move to get started?
BS: Pelvic Lift! See below.

KK: How much time will it take every day to get back into a routine?
BS: Allowing yourself 20 to 30 minutes a day to get down on the mat and just move well is a great habit to get into. If you can change your thinking from “ugh, I have to workout” to “it feels great to move my body” a lot of the negative exercise connotation can be tossed out. In the end, the positions and habits developed in taking care of baby (carrying baby on one hip, poor posture during breast-feeding, increased bouts of sitting, etc) can all take a rough toll on your body. By allowing yourself time to undo the damage of these habits you can create a routine of self-care that might just last a lifetime.

KK: Why is Pilates so good for moms who’ve recently had babies?
BK: Besides the benefits of Pilates being non-impact and ab-centric, my teacher Romana liked to say that Pilates was about fighting gravity because we are always drawing our musculature “In and Up”. Pregnancy and birth are very gravity-heavy events in that everything is moving downward in order to accommodate the process. By employing Pilates moves and methodology new moms can work to bring everything back up to where they belong.


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American Horror Story’s Jessica Lange Talks About Her Sweet (Not Scary) Children’s Book, ‘It’s About a Little Bird’

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

American Horror Story: Asylum scared me so badly last season that I couldn’t even go into my dark basement (still can’t). And forget walking the dogs at night–they had to fend for themselves because I was afraid Bloody Face was outside plotting to murder me.

No matter how chicken I am, I can’t wait to watch the new season one week from today. It’s mostly because I will follow Jessica Lange anywhere–from her role in King Kong to her new foray into children’s book publishing. In AHS: Coven, she’ll play the glamorous witch Fiona Goode. But I have a feeling Fiona might be really, really bad.

Beautiful Jessica Lange, of course, is best known for her award-winning acting. But she’s also an avid photographer who loves the technique of old-fashioned hand tinting. Add her hand-tinted photos to a partly-true story, and she has produced a uniquely satisfying children’s book called It’s About a Little Bird. This book sat in my pile to review, and I loved it even before I noticed the byline that reads, “Story and pictures by Jessica Lange.” The artwork and story are bright, fresh and different. And all of them are handmade by Jessica–nothing is digital! Even my 7-year-old twins fell hard for this book–the girls, the grandma, the farm and the bird. They ask for it every night.

I love to read It’s About a Little Bird and introduce them to Jessica Lange. I tell them how I got to interview her on the phone recently. Jessica Lange talked to me about her sweet (and not scary) new book. See what she had to say about it–and AHS–below.

KK: How did this book come about?
JL: ”I’ve done photography for quite a while. Really it was just for myself, but it became more than that. From that, I became very interested in the old colored postcards, the hand-tinted photographs. I started hand tinting my black and white photographs and created a story around some of these images. It was meant as just a little family thing. But it spiraled out of control, and now it’s a book. This is a story I made up for my granddaughters.”

KK: In the story, two little sisters, Adah and Ilse, stay at their grandmother Mem’s farm. Of course, they explore everything and then ask Mem to tell them about a birdcage they found. It turns out that Mem once lived in Rome and had a special canary named Uccellino. This bird went with her everywhere and sang gorgeous songs. One day, when Mem had to return to the U.S., she couldn’t bear to go without her bird. So she snuck Uccellino onto the plane in her pocket. The two landed safely and lived happily ever after. I hear some of this is true!
JL: “There is an element of make believe, but a lot of it is true. The whole thing with the little bird happened. It’s true where I got the bird, how I got it back and about the birdcage… Putting together a book is brand new territory for me. I don’t know how it’s going to be perceived. It’s good to do things that mix it up a little bit.”

KK: Yes! You definitely mix it up each season on American Horror Story. Can you give us any hints on what will happen next?
JL: “It takes place in New Orleans which has a very rich element to add to the story. It deals with witchcraft and broader themes, too. I think he’s (Ryan Murphy) thinking in terms of using witches as metaphors for any minority that is persecuted. There are things that go back to the Salem witch trials. This season, sometimes I’m wondering, ‘What the hell are we all doing?’ I think it should be interesting. And it will be scary. It’s always scary.”

So get your fill of Jessica Lange this week–check out her enchanting and emotional new book and then watch her scene-stealing acting on FX next Wednesday, October 9, at 10 p.m. EST.

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Prince William Consults Book ‘Commando Dad;’ and You Can, Too

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Ex-Commando Neil Sinclair recently wrote a great new guidebook for dads with the apt title, Commando Dad: Basic TrainingWhen Prince William was expecting His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge (why didn’t I think up a name like that for my progeny?), he was seen reading this no-nonsense military manual. It’s obviously a very masculine book–but with a super sweet message. Sinclair believes all dads should be hands-on. Ten-hut.

Author Sinclair explains what’s so special about Commando Dad in a guest post for Parents below:

“I live by the maxim that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Every job I have ever done – Royal Engineer Commando, teacher, Security Guard at the UK Mission to the UN, stay-at-home dad and childminder – I have always given 100 percent. When I first became a new dad 11 years ago, it was a daunting experience. I’d been with my wife every step of the way. We went to classes, and we read books. But that prepared us for the birth and not for the whole life that came afterward. Suddenly, I had a physically and emotionally exhausted wife and a new baby that could only communicate with me by crying. I felt a huge responsibility and wanted to step up, but I also felt as if I was being sidelined: The childcare books, when they did mention me, assigned me to the role of rubbing my wife’s back and telling her how well she did. I knew I had more to offer than that.

So I fell back on my Commando training: my ability to adapt, improvise and overcome. As I got to grips with the basics I did what came naturally – I applied military precision to the task. I got essential kit and supplies; I got organized; and I got us all into a routine. And this approach helped me to create a well-ordered and happy family unit and laid the foundations for the manual I would later write for new dads, Commando Dad: Basic Training.

That’s not to say it was easy. It was never easy, and it still isn’t. But often, the things that are really worth doing aren’t easy. I love being a hands-on dad. I love spending time with the troopers, and I take a huge amount of pride in my unit and how far I’ve come as a dad in the past 11 years.

When I first became a stay-at-home dad, people presumed it was a temporary arrangement until I got a job, not a conscious decision my wife and I had made. Although society’s perception of dads has improved over the last decade, we still don’t always get the easiest of rides. Often the only time you hear about dads and childcare is in a negative way: Dads aren’t spending enough time with the kids, aren’t helping with childcare, don’t instinctively pick up the basics, etc. But from my experience –being a dad, running a club for dads and speaking to new dads on the Commando Dad forums – there’s a lot of dads out there that do want to be more involved, but they don’t know how. And too often, they’re made to feel like it won’t come naturally – after all there is no such term as ‘paternal instinct’.

My advice to new dads is to have the confidence to be hands-on from Day One. There is no ‘one’ way of doing things – as long as you love and care for your trooper, you’re doing it right. Don’t believe the hype. The only thing we dads can’t physically do is breastfeed. No dad who has ever held his baby for the first time can deny the powerful flood of emotions to love and protect – that’s parental instinct right there. Seek out other new dads – in the real world or online – and create a network to both support you through the trying times and share your inevitable successes. Commando Dad:Basic Training can give you straightforward, accessible advice on all of the practical skills you’ll need but you’ll have to supplement that information with a lot of hands on experience.

So have the confidence to step up, dads. You’re simply too important not too. To your baby trooper you are somewhere between hero, role model and protector – and you owe it to yourself and to them to be the best dad you can be. Right now.”


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