In and Out of the Marshes

There is something so beautiful about the prospect of leaving your cares behind and taking off on an incredible journey. Or at least there’s something beautiful about the way that it sounds in theory. As Ann Vanderhoof and her husband hemmed and hawed on the idea of putting professional lives on hold and sailing thru the Caribbean, the proof was in the pudding that dreams such as these are not to be taken lightly in the slightest.

The train makes for nice reading…Riding back from Philly (you know, the trip for Oranges), I had a great time delving into this beautiful book. And then life kind of jumped in and threw a lot of things off.

What you readers don’t know (lest you know me of course) is that about a year and a half ago, I lost my aunt to Ovarian Cancer. This February, I lost my uncle to Laryngeal Cancer. Throw in dark winter, a knee injury, work stress and a few common challenges and you have one soggy mush of a mango known as Curly. Many days I would have loved to put my life in a box on the shelf and set sail as the Vanderhoofs did. To leave behind what ailed me.

But you know what they say about what doesn’t kill you….

Thanks to some amazing friends, loving family, a beautiful mountain retreat (where I really DID get to step away from it all!), and a renewed strength and faith, I have finally emerged from the marshes. Perhaps not so gloriously as in a sailboat on the Caribbean (it just sounds like it would be more amazing looking), but with the best grace I can put into anything I do. And as the school year ended and I put my ideas into the world, I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t lost all my creative energy and that I don’t have to be afraid to put my foot in the door. THIS, dear readers, was what probably ailed me most. The fear, the reluctance to share what was in my heart and mind. And now that I have that back, as Stella found her groove, I am ready for whatever – including getting back to my reading and sharing my mango adventure! The water is bluest where you make it – and the water where I’m floating is so crisp and clear, I want to sail on it forever.

And that’s just what I’ll do.


This post is not about mangoes…

It’s about Oranges. SYRACUSE ORANGES.



The place: Bullies Pub, Philadelphia. The reason: Syracuse v Villanova.

I didn’t attend ‘Cuse but my entire immediate family did, so I’m a fan by association. A groupie. And that’s alright with me. 🙂 Are there days I wished I’d followed the family tree and gone there too? Yes…but even I would tell you we all have a path to follow. Regardless, I have a kickass time hanging with my orange-blooded brethren. And a train ride to Philly with my siblings to celebrate Orange is well deserving of a post. 🙂



Let’s go Cuse!!

All I want for Christmas is a Mango Treat

I love the holidays – Christmas trees, carols, snow (or at least dreams of it, because we certainly haven’t been getting any), family traditions on Christmas morning. I could go on for ages.

One thing I’m particularly fond of is Secret Santa. Every year the social committee at my school hosts a secret Santa and every year I do it because I a) love gift giving and b) love wondering just who figured out that this scented candle was exactly what I would like. Every year I’ve had good Santas, but I have to really give it to my Santa this year.

Here’s how it works: if you’re participating, you answer a series of questions about your favorite things – favorite drink, favorite type of music…and this year’s twist, what kind of cupcake would you be. That question was most helpful for me as a Santa, as CakeLove had both flavors I needed to make a sweet ending for the week.

My Santa, I could tell right away, KNEW me. Seriously folks, one of my gifts? A BAG OF FRESH MANGOS. I could not have been more excited! The best gifts of course come at the end of the week…and it was then that I learned my birthday buddy J (we share the same bday) was my Santa. My last gift? A themed gift, “A day with a book” – awesome fuzzy polka dot blanket, a loaner book, kettle corn, and orange-mango soda. Needless to say, next day I have free, I’m making the most of possibly the best secret Santa finale EVER.

…warms the heart.

I know, I know… long between posts. But stay with me folks, I’m gonna get better at this, I promise!
So, A Mango in The Hand. There are many, many, many, many reasons why I love this book. Let me share my top 3:

3 – I can practice reading Spanish so that in future contexts I can sound like I don’t need to practice (because yes, I did sit and reread it about 10 times to get the pronunciation just right).

2 – The premise of the story is just adorable.

1- It takes me back. Waaaaay back. Back into time…

Ok, not THAT far back. But far enough to remember being younger and learning many of the same lessons.

So before I get lost in my review, a little summary: Francisco wakes up on his Saint Day and decides that to conclude the celebration meal, he would like to have some juicy mangoes. He is guided by proverbs from his father and other family members as he makes multiple attempts to retrieve them from the tree. In the end, Francisco learns valuable lessons in patience, perseverance, and love.

Seriously, who wouldn’t love a book like that?

Every step of Francisco’s journey on his Saint Day gives way to an important lesson – and reading it really got me thinking about the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I can’t recall them all for you now….and trust me, I’ve been trying for days to put my finger on even a few….but they’re in my heart, and really that’s all that matters. Little Francisco, were he a real little boy, may not grow up and recall word for word every proverb his father blessed him with, but he would certainly remember climbing that mango tree and that in some way, it would with him because it was significant. Not merely because it was the first time he had climbed the tree, and not because it was on his saint day…he would also remember it because it would remind him of his father – his father’s hat, his father’s patience, his father’s laughter and love. And it would remind him of his aunt, the crabby one, who turns out isn’t so crabby after all.

I think the underlying message here is that our first and best lessons come from home. We are who we are because of the parents that helped to shape our minds and hearts. I cannot imagine being without that original recipe lovin’ in my life, the flavor that has shaped who I am, what I know, and what I aspire to be.

All in all, my humble opinion of A Mango in the Hand: 5 mangoes. A story with such heart, delightful illustrations, and a delicious fruit I fancy deserves no less.

International Book Week!

Courtesy of Busboys n Poets, I found out that this is International Book Week! Busboys asked its followers to pick up the book nearest them, turn to page 52, and then post the 5th sentence. From my next read, this was what I found:


“Although they’re few, he has his detractors – nobody’s going to call the weather right 100 percent of the time – but we’ve had too many experienced cruisers tell us how he saved their bacon for us to ignore his advice.”


Just a taste of the next mango. I admit, I’ve been holding off because I really wanted to fix a tasty dish to close off TBM. But its time to read on, my sweets. I’ll try and get that made this week.

In the meantime: will you, dear readers, take the Busboys challenge and post the nearest page 52 5th sentence here at peel & read??? I look forward to seeing what words are floating out there in your world. 🙂


peel on…

And suddenly, it hit me…

For several months now, I have thought to myself, “Self – you should start a blog. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

But what should I blog about?

If you know me, you know that I like to dabble in a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I sew. I cook/bake/make jam. I travel when I can. I am musically inclined. There were so many options it became overwhelming. And so, I kept sitting on the big blog egg, waiting for just the right idea to wiggle and start to hatch.

And then, today, all of a sudden, it hit me.

This morning, my sister, some friends  and I went rental hunting. It was early and we’d all had a late night the evening before, so after our first viewing, we stopped by a bagel shop for a bite and some coffee. After refueling and laughing entirely too loud for a tiny shop at 11:30 in the morning, we cleaned up the table and went outside. While one of our friends made a restroom stop, us gals stood outside and admired some of the books in the window of the second hand book shop next door. After oohing and ahh-ing the teasers on that shelf behind the glass we decided, ‘what the heck – let’s pop on in’.

Again, if you know me, you are aware that I enjoy a good book. I have never been one to shy away from the written word, nor a mom and pop shop, so finding the two so delightfully married was like walking into a little corner of heaven. But I digress…or do I?

Upon entering the shop, I noticed several titles I have already collected including Three Cups of Tea, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and several I haven’t, including a mint copy of #60 Nancy Drew that made me salivate as though my lox bagel of 20 minutes before had never happened. And then my eye caught an interesting cover with a mango riddled with bulletholes.

“Hey, look at this guys – a hole-y mango.” I know, I know. Cheesy.

I wandered through the shop some more and eventually landed over in the mystery section  where I noticed another book that included mango in the title. I had a quick giggle and moved on.

Finally, wrapped up in the travel section, I discovered the memoir (memoirs being my favorite of non-fiction genres) Naked in Dangerous Places by Cash Peters, which sounded delightfully risque to be carrying around. Tucked up next to this book I was surprised to find, yet again, another mango book – The Embarrassment of Mangoes. I called out to my entourage that this was officially becoming a little ridiculous – how many books could there be with mango in the title?

And suddenly, it hit me.

Why wonder about it when I could find out?

We left the store, me without books in hand but with an idea blossoming at the speed of sound.

Just how many books ARE there with mango in the title? If I can stroll into a bookshop and find 3 in a matter of minutes, there must be more. Here’s a nerdy but interesting idea – why not blog about this new discovery???

We headed over to the library to use the internet to look up more rental properties and after our search, I asked to use the last 2 minutes of our session to settle my question and see if this new idea was worth a shot. I typed mango into the library catalog title search. I clicked enter. I waited.

There were 36 entries.


Now – some titles repeated and some did NOT in fact have mango in the title. And some were in languages I just don’t speak, so sorry authors unknown, someone else who shares your native tongue will have to develop this strange interest in reading mango books. I did a quick amazon search and found a few more titles. All in all, I left the library with 24 titles.

So that brings us to where we are. You, traveler of the internet, here either by intent because you know me or enjoy reading, or by some happy accident (I’m sorry if you were looking for a recipe for mango chutney, but I’m sure glad you came and have read this far!). I, your *clearly* nerdy host, ready to take you on a tasty literary journey. In time, this blog may expand and investigate all manner of deliciously named works of fiction and non.

But for now, we begin with mango.