My perfect beach read.

Imagine the time when the famed poem “The Raven” was brand new, when the world was captivated by the repeating “Nevermore!” It is the 1840s, where gatherings in New England are being held weekly to discuss economics, art, and the gossip of other prominent writers. This is the setting of Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen, a wickedly creepy and mesmerizing story that will transport you to the Romanticism period of American history.

Frances Osgood, wife of the famed painter and flirt Samuel Osgood (these are real people by the way) can’t help but be interested in the man from Boston, being from a wealthy Boston family herself before being disowned by her parents for her own reckless marriage. Her husband Samuel is off gallivanting with whatever current heiress he’s busy “producing a portrait” for and hasn’t been seen in months. Lonely and struggling to provide for her daughters on her own writing, Frances sees an opportunity to expand her earnings, if only she could write as dark as the famous Mr. Poe.

The members of New York society are enthralled by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who jumps the ranks of obscure poet and writer to desired party guest. What’s even more delicious is that he has chosen to move to their community, and has brought along with his mysterious wife – the young Mrs. Virginia Poe, who was barely 13 years old when the two cousins wed nearly 10 years before. It is with such a flurry of excitement that the salon Frances frequents has managed to convince The Poes to join their soiree.

Mrs. Poe is a delicate woman with a horrendous cough that keeps her home for most events. Except that she suddenly keeps showing up unannounced at Frances’s home or constantly inviting her over, actively seeking her attention and trying to win her friendship. Mrs. Poe’s insistence on a friendship bores Frances, but as her own friendship with Mr. Poe seems to blossom, she can’t help feeling like she’s being watched and set up by the sickly Mrs. Poe. These frequent and unexpected meetings with the Poes is causing quite a stir in her community, and for the married, but separated Frances, this can only result in scandal.

I became obsessed with reading this book and enjoyed experiencing the 1840s safely from the 21st century. I didn’t realize how many important literary and American figures were among Poe’s peers: Graham, who inspired the graham crackers, Audubon, Dickens, Walt Whitman, Melville, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. These people and their re-imagined lives are woven in the story and some of them are just at the cusp of future famous lives. I also learned from reading this book that Samuel Morse was a painter first before inventing the famous Morse Code and his motivation behind his invention. This definitely sparked a trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole.

I know it’s historical fiction, but I learned a lot about the time period and had a fabulous time trying to decipher if Frances was being paranoid or if the jealous, childish Mrs. Poe was really out to get her. Cue the Rockwell!

Cost: $1.00 at a library book sale

Drink of Choice: Hazelnut latte with oat milk from Rail Side Cafe.


Walking around the disc golf course gets me to my step goal rather quickly.

Walking around the disc golf course gets me to my step goal rather quickly.

I was standing at the top of the stairs, excited that after two weeks of physical therapy for my knee, I was finally walking without pain. It wouldn’t last long. My new kitten was sitting on the stairs, his first day out of the safe zone we created when we brought him home from the shelter five days earlier. I tried to step around him, but stepped on a worn spot on the stairs and slipped down the whole flight. The pain following that fall would continue for months. And just like that, my Zumba days were over.

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Our House by Louise Candlish is definitely not a summer read. There’s nothing relaxing about this story, so save yourself some unwanted agony, and don’t put this one in your beach tote. Our House isn’t your typical suspenseful, unreliable narrator type of thriller. It’s a tale of domestic anguish that was infuriating to read, and yet, this book was well worth hanging on until the end.

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Sitting by myself, anticipating Afternoon Tea to start, a familiar tune flows in from the Piazza. The Romantic Strings Trio opens with Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” and my worries start melting away. My shoulders relax, the tension releasing. The live trio of two violins and a cello are lovely on the ears and the perfect accompaniment to Royal Afternoon Tea on the Regal Princess cruise ship.

Tea on the Regal Princess

I felt like a queen sitting by myself and getting the royal treatment just for one.

I adore High Tea: the fun finger sandwiches, cream puffs, scones, and delicious tea. If you checked my pantry, you’d think I was running my own tea shop. After trying different treats in what I like to refer to as “The Hall of Desserts,” I was curious to taste the samplings offered in this exclusive event — well, as exclusive as you can get on a cruise ship.

I missed the first sign up day and had to go on a waiting list until a spot opened up on the final sea day of the cruise. For an additional $10, fellow passengers like myself could sit down to enjoy three rounds of tea matched perfectly to a coordinating tier of featured treats. 

Table setting

The table set up was just delightful! The single, live rose on the table smelled amazing.

The first tea was a black Darjeeling designed to pair with the sandwiches on the bottom tier of the serving tray. Of course, sitting by myself meant double the delights. I tried a chicken salad sandwich and then a cucumber sandwich. I was surprised that the cucumber sandwich, the one I had been looking forward to the most, and have made several times over the years, was the least appetizing. Everything about it was wrong. The cucumber was more of peelings, rather than slices, and the peeling consisted mostly of it’s hard outer layer.

Definitely the worst item on the tray, I didn’t even finish it.

The good news was, if you really liked a sandwich, you could ask for another one. I had plenty to spare. The passenger to my left asked for another tuna sandwich, but I think she meant chicken.

The second tea featured was a tropical green tea that was meant to compliment the sweets on the middle tier. Whoops!  I already got a head start on that one. The cream puff was exactly what I hoped it would be and it was luscious. With no hesitation, I then went straight for the chocolate roll with the strawberry swirl.

I skipped ahead to the cream puff after that cucumber sandwich disaster.

I was only half-listening to the history lesson on the background of afternoon tea when my eyes focused in on the fruit tart, which actually looked like a little fruit canoe. It was so good that I started dribbling drool as I took a tiny bite and I thought, “I’ll definitely be eating another one of these!”

I could eat these fruit canoes all day.

There was a break in the music as the lead musician announced that they would be playing two pieces by Strauss next. I took a minute to examine the other offerings on the table. I wasn’t sure what to do with the glass of mixed berries next to me, but the couple at the next table poured some cream into theirs, so I decided to try the same, just to see what it tasted like.

When the waiter walked around and placed new cups for the third round of tea, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter shouting, “Clean cup, clean cup. Move down, move down!” The Strings began playing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory.” I noticed the 20 people accompanying me all happily chatting among themselves in the roped off area. It was definitely the most relaxing common area on the ship.

I had a second helping of each of the teas, in addition to double snacks.

The third tea was a white orchard tea with hints of melon and peach. The peach scent was strong from the moment it was poured into my cup, very aromatic. The scone — like heaven. From the first bite, I experienced soft, sweet, buttery baked goodness. Too much?  

I tried one side with just butter and the other with just jam. Both were winners!

And then it was time for dessert. Oh yes, there was a dessert on top of all this great food. It was a traditional English pudding. I couldn’t help myself from bringing the cup close to my face and inhaling its sweet scent. The taste, however, was not as amazing. The fruity layer under the marshmallow clashed with the cold cream under it. 

The English pudding was maybe my least favorite thing, next to the cucumber sandwich.

I was stuffed. Impressively, the meal concluded on time at 4:45 p.m. as a pianist sat down in the Piazza, ready to start his set.

Cost: $10

Drink of Choice: Tropical Green Tea

When I set out to write my novel last year, I never intended to stay away from my blogging for so long. Back in October, I was so excited to start writing my novel that I burrowed myself into a cave for all of October, outlining and brainstorming how my novel was going to take shape. On November 1, I thought I was ready. I was so not ready.

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Earlier this year I reviewed In a Dark, Dark Wood, a story about a hen party (British slang for bachelorette party) gone wrong. The setting: an isolated cottage in the woods. The main character carpools with the one girl she knows besides the bride to someone’s vacation home for a weekend of pre-wedding shenanigans.

When I received news that the bachelorette party for my dear friend and sister-in-law, Candice, was planned for weekend away at a friend’s beach house and the only girl I really knew besides the bride is the one I would be carpooling with, it put me on alert. I joked with my husband, “I’m either going to be murdered, murder someone or solve a murder. I don’t know which yet, we’ll find out on Sunday when I return home –or not!”

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One February morning, even though I had the cold sweats and had spent the night waking up every hour in agony over my stuffed nose and sinus problems, I crawled to my computer and entered the virtual waiting room…and waited. For the next 40 minutes I watched as Saturday, Friday, even Thursday sold out. I felt defeated. I was sick and would have kept on sleeping, but I had set my alarm to make sure I was awake to purchase tickets and now I wasn’t even going. Just as I put my head down on my desk, eyes filled with tears over the wasted effort, the screen changed and I was able to add tickets to my cart. I instantly sat up straight, excited that my group was finally called and squealed as I checked out. I purchased two tickets for Sunday night’s Comic-Con.

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Let’s travel to the English countryside for a weekend away, spent in a private, isolated glass cottage in the woods. The floor to ceiling windows capture the natural enclosure of the backwoods. No cell reception means no interruptions. Sounds lovely, right?

Now let’s add the burden of attending a bachelorette party with a bunch of strangers for your estranged high school best friend. The one you haven’t spoken to in nearly 10 years — after an awkward falling out. You’ve been invited to the party, but you’re not quite sure why, since you haven’t even been invited to the wedding. And why would you be? You two haven’t been friends for a long time. She has a new best friend now. Not so lovely anymore.

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I may not be a Mormon, but I hear the universe calling me to Zion. As a native Southern Californian, it seems outlandish to friends and family to want to leave the sunshine and move to the Deseret, but I’m looking forward to the quiet days of living in Utah.


This was the view from our hotel when we stayed near Zion November 2014.

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