Falling for Foliage

Falling for Foliage


As the only travel I’ve been doing lately is logging tons of hours and miles traveling along the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes en route to physical therapy (yes, that is as glamorous as it sounds…) I thought we could have a fun post today. A where would you go post, if you wanted to see pretty scenery for Autumn.

And so, I bring you a small taste of few of the top places in the States to view the change of seasons.

First up, we’ll start in the Northeast with Stowe, VT: (Where sugar maples sparkle in shades of fire and gold.)

Then, we’ll head down to Oakland, MD, and Swallow Falls State Park: (The oldest stands of eastern hemlock and white pine—more than 360 years old—blanket the area in gold, orange, red, and evergreen.)

Next, we’re heading over to Michigan, and Porcupine Mountains State Park: (Talk about variety – this park has more than 100 species of trees and more than 300 waterfalls.)

Then, we’re off to the west coast, and Leavenworth, WA: (SO pretty and peaceful! I want to go!)

And finally, back to my hometown: Wissahickon Valley Park in Philadelphia, PA: (I LOVE walking/running the trails here.)


I so love this time of year. Nothing could be better that spying some pretty colors while drinking a pumpkin spice latte. (Though, to be honest, my preferred version is sprinkling pumpkin pie spice into my coffee). Where do you think is the best place to see fall foliage?



Labor-intensive Dessert for Labor Day

Labor-intensive Dessert for Labor Day


I love watermelon. And I’ve volunteered to bring one to a Labor Day picnic. But I can’t show up with one as-is. No, it needs to be impressive. And so I ask you, Spice Aisle readers, to help me decide…


Do I make a dolphin fruit party?



Do a fish filled with fruit?


Go for the top of the ocean food chain, and create a shark?



Maybe something sharp?



Something slow-moving?



Or something stunningly feathered?



Or is there something else I should sculpt? Let me know your favorite!

I’ve never attempted to carve anything other than a pumpkin before, so tips and tricks are appreciated.

And so, if all else fails, here’s my back-up plan:




Happy Labor Day!!


Made in the Shades

Made in the Shades


You already know that you should be wearing your shades when you step outdoors. (Full-spectrum UVA and UVB protection). But, if you’re confused about which frames suit your face best, I’m here to help!

ROUND FACE (Full cheeks with wide forehead and rounded chin (other sources say: Full cheeks with narrow forehead and jaw))

Choose square or rectangular designs. Over-size frames work well. Avoid round frames.

SQUARE FACE (Broad forehead, strong horizontal jawline, proportional in width and length)

Go with round or oval designs. Aviator and over-sized will suit you too. Make sure frames are wider than your cheekbones.

OVAL FACE (Proportionate forehead, cheekbones, and jawline)

Lucky you – All styles will suit you.

HEART-SHAPED FACE (Broad forehead that extends down to a small chin. Can have high, angled cheekbones)

Pick round or oval designs with wider tops. Cat-eye, Aviator, wayfarer designs work well too.

DIAMOND FACE (Wide cheekbones and narrow forehead, angular jawlines)

Oval designs work well.

OBLONG FACE (Face gracefully tapers toward chin. Elongated features from forehead to chin.)

Choose over-sized, square frames.

Made (1)

If you can’t really tell your type, grab a soft tape measure, and measure from forehead to chin and then from cheekbone to cheekbone. (Yes, there are online tutorials for this…) Enlist the help of a friend. “Hey, can you help me measure my head?” is something people do not hear every day. My husband thought I was nuts when he heard that question ringing through the house last week.

My face shape is a cross between round and heart-shaped and my personal taste for sunglasses is THE BIGGER, THE BETTER, so even if I look like I’m being swallowed up by them, I grab over-sized frames every time. I like to channel my inner Audrey Hepburn.
Bottom line: Wear what you love, and make sure you wear them year-round. Sunglasses aren’t just for summer. Protect those peepers Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. But maybe not a night…no matter what Corey Hart may say…

Which shape are you wearing?



It’s that time of year… Summer has arrived and that means one thing. VACATION!

My favorite place to vacation has always been the beach. Salt air, sand, the sound of sea gulls and waves crashing against the shore, it all feeds my soul.


I think it’s one of the very best places to watch a sunrise or sunset. And it’s the first place where I saw a glimpse of how many stars number the sky. You can’t see very many stars, living in the city, but out on a beach at night, in the absence of artificial light, the view is breathtaking.

Growing up, I spent summers at the Jersey shore. (Fun fact: people who go to Jersey beaches don’t “go to the beach,” they go “down the shore.”). I was used the dark blue waters of the Atlantic. But a few years ago, I had the chance to go to Miami, and the ocean there was light, pretty, and clear.


I’m looking forward to adding other beaches to my list. Give me sun, sand, and surf, and I’m happy.

Cue the Go-Go’s: 🙂



What are your favorite places to vacation?


Cover Lover

Cover Lover

There are songs we love, there are songs we don’t discover until another band performs a cover version of it, and then there are the songs that have cover versions so good, I dare say they are better than the originals. That’s what I’m talking about today.

First up:

“Sound of Silence” – The Simon & Garfunkel original is iconic. BUT metal band Disturbed recently released their version of it, and I absolutely love the orchestration and the way lead singer David Draiman seems to growl some of the lyrics.


One of my favorite hard rock bands, Halestorm, absolutely rocks their cover of hard rock/heavy metal icon Dio’s “Straight Through the Heart”.

And, one of my favorite Dio songs, “Rainbow in the Dark”, also has a great cover version, courtesy of Corey Taylor (of Slipknot and Stone Sour).

For my Philly peeps, I give you “No Easy Way Out.” Robert Tepper’s song is on the soundtrack to Rocky IV, but heavy metal band Bullet for My Valentine’s version is a head-banging good time. 

And, you guys! I’ve saved THE BEST for last! Our very own Xio Axelrod is an amazing singer. And her take on Coldplay’s “Yellow” will leave you feeling all shades of happy. I love her voice! Check her out: 

I could go on and on… but I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts, and if there are any cover versions you love, feel free to add them in the comments!
Heading back into my playlist,
The Best Medicine

The Best Medicine

Lifeis better
In honor of National Humor Month, we’re talking laughter.
So. True. 
And it really is the best medicine:
Laughter releases bunches of feel-good hormones. Research finds that humor can help you cope better with pain, enhance your immune system, reduce stress, even help you live longer. So you should, you know, do it a lot. 😀 
And how’s this for an “aww” moment:
I’m lucky that I’m married to a man with a wonderful sense of humor who makes me laugh every single day. But the best feeling is when I make him laugh. 
In books, movies, and real life, I always fall for the funny guy. And in friendships, I’m lucky to have several shades of humor in several different people.
Which leads me to one more quote:
So there you have it. Celebrate the folks who bring laughter into your life. 
And if you need more laughs, check out National Humor Month’s official website: http://www.humormonth.com/
Wishing you a day filled with belly laughs and giggles,
Go-to Tunes

Go-to Tunes

Go-to Tunes

We all have playlists — for working out, primping for a night out, relaxation, driving, etc. But do any of your songs cross over? 
Here’s a song that pulls double duty for me: “Eye of the Tiger”.
I’ve seen the Rocky movies countless times over the years. Maybe there’s an extra affinity because he’s from Philly and he’s Italian…I don’t know…but I like them.
This song works not only for working out (it’s on my running and kickboxing playlists), but it’s also background music when I’m writing or editing against a deadline. If Rocky can run through South Philly and up the Art Museum steps (if you come to Philly, you HAVE to run up those steps!), and can train like crazy in all sorts of weather, then I certainly can bust through whatever task is at hand and pound it into submission. 😀
For your viewing pleasure, here’s Jensen Ackles from Supernatural lip-syncing the lyrics. Enjoy 😉

And one full of Rocky highlights:

What are some of your go-to tunes?
Blast From The Past

Blast From The Past

Blast From The Past

I was thinking about what to write about today… maybe The Big Bang Theory and it’s OMG reveal at the end of the last episode…or The Muppets and how I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would…or how I can’t wait to binge watch the entire season of Blind Spot.

But it’s Throwback Thursday, so I’m bringing it to you by way of classic Radio, Television, and Film.

I’ll let you in on a secret – I LOVE this stuff. Turner Classic movies – yes, please. Radio Classics – It’s pretty cool to listen to something like an episode of George Burns & Gracie Allen’s radio show, and know that my grandmom and great-grandmother listened to the same show decades ago. 
Here are three highlights from the three mediums that are at the top of my list.
Burns & Allen, a hysterically funny comedy team. (And they actually fit under radio, tv, and film). They met in Vaudeville and were married soon after they paired up. George is the straight man to Gracie’s silly and flighty role. Their timing is perfect. I also love how the product sponsors are worked into the skits. Their show ran for several years on radio, and then switched to TV for another long run. It’s pretty cool that they were able to switch to the “new” format and thrive. I downloaded a ton of the radio shows to my mp3 player and listen to them on long drives.

The Honeymooners. The characters of this show were originally a sketch as part of The Jackie Gleason Show (originally DuMont’s Cavalcade of Stars). Gleason himself was a stand-up comedian who had his start in movies before making it big on tv. In The Honeymooners, we have Ralph Kramden (Gleason), a loud-mouthed, hot-headed bus driver, his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) a strong, sensible woman who holds her own, Ed Norton (Art Carney), Ralph’s best friend and perfect sidekick, and Trixie (Joyce Randolph), Ed’s wife. Ralph gets in all sorts of situations, usually with the best of intentions. Best lines: “To the moon, Alice.” And, as they end every episode, “Baby, you’re the greatest.” 

Have you ever watched a silent film? I discovered Buster Keaton movies one night on TCM. Over the course of his career, he was an actor, producer, director, writer and stunt performer. Another one to also make his start in Vaudeville, he did all his own stunts, and that’s pretty incredible (you’ll see what I mean when you check out the link below). Physical comedy was his trademark, and it did it all with this great, stoic, deadpan expression. It’s so interesting to look at the history of the movie houses and how films were made back then.
For one of his movies, check out The General. Here’s a peek at the best of his stunts (better ones start at the 35 second mark):

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blast from the past. 🙂
Anyone else a fan?
Meet My Rock Star: An excerpt from Love Notes

Meet My Rock Star: An excerpt from Love Notes

My rock star romance, LOVE NOTES, released on January 12th. This story runs parallel with my baseball romance CAPTIVATED. I had so much fun writing it and I hope you enjoy it.





Zander Rostov drove through the gates of his estate and coasted up the long drive, relieved to be surrounded by the hush of his own paradise. The exhaustion of the last few months on tour weighed heavy on his bones. Too much time cooped up with his band, too much in-fighting, and too many late nights and early rises left him itching for solitude and hours of sound sleep.

Beside him, his English Bulldog snored. What a life—eat, sleep, play, repeat. Lucky dog. But for the next two weeks, he’d have a taste of it, too. Two weeks to breathe before the chaos began all over again. A small piece of freedom, enough to tease him before being thrown back into six weeks of shows and travel. After ten years of near-constant recording and touring, he needed a break. A long break—from the band, from the grind, and from the lingering frustration he hadn’t been able to shake for months.

When he parked the car, Shredder roused with a pitiful grumble, his overbite pushing his bottom lip into a pout.

“We’re home, buddy.” Zander rubbed the dog’s brown and white wrinkled head. He took his pet on the road with him as often as he could. Seven-years-old and content to laze around, his bulldog made the perfect travel companion. He opened the passenger door and Shredder bounded off across the lawn, protected by the eight-foot-high walls surrounding the Spanish Mission-style home, his just-private-enough retreat from the world.

A breeze rustled the palm trees. The beginning of April in Santa Monica was warmer than the end of March in New York City had been. The east coast tour had ended in the city that never sleeps and then eight hours later, he’d parted ways with his band mates who never seemed to get along anymore. The break wasn’t really a break, with the few press events and the party for the fans lined up.

Stretching, he breathed in deep and fought down the urge to throw the bags back in the car, grab the dog, and just take off. Years of saying yes to everything had drained him dry but he couldn’t disappoint the fans. The success of the tour and the new album were more important than his need to recharge, even if the last few months had been the most difficult of the band’s career.

He left the dog in the garden and entered the house. Cool air and silence greeted him. He set down his guitar case in the living room, then dropped his luggage on the floor outside the laundry room. He’d unpack before his housekeeper arrived. Settling the dog with food and water came first. Man’s best friend deserved a reward after hours of travel. The next part of the tour would be easier—all in California, and several local shows. When he needed to be away for a few days, his housekeeper would watch Shredder or the dog would stay with his parents.

The ping of an email alert made him reach for his phone. The sender—Oliver Somers from Excite Records—could wait long enough for him to have a cold one. He let Shredder in, then cracked open the beer and downed half the contents. Oliver’s email started off with the usual pseudo-friendly nonsense, then listed the upcoming tour dates. At the very end, the son-of-a-bitch had tacked on an additional two weeks’ worth of shows.


He crushed the can in his fist. Beer sloshed over his hand and splashed the kitchen floor. Shredder trotted over and licked at the puddle.

“Damn it, no.” He grabbed the dog’s collar and tugged him away.

Two weeks… The burn of anger singed his muscles. He slammed his fist onto the counter, then hurled the can into the sink. Metal clattered and Shredder whimpered and hid under the table.

Fuming, he wiped the spill and then sat on the floor, staring at the dog. He needed to hold it together. He rubbed his palms over his face and forced his muscles to relax. Calling for the dog, he reached for his phone.

He’d left his sister an hour ago and Irisa hadn’t said a word about more tour dates. As band manager, the discussion of more tour dates should have come from her. Which meant Oliver had once again overstepped his authority. His muscles tightened again. With the dog curled onto his legs, he dialed Irisa’s number.

It rang several times before her voice came on the line. “What’s up? You should be sleeping.”

“Check your email. Excite added a few more venues to the tour.”

“What?” Her voice hardened. “Oliver knows that’s supposed to be cleared with me first.”

“I’m not happy about it either. We’re fucking exhausted and they go and add in five more shows to the end of the tour, with maybe more to come. We’ll be working through the whole summer at this rate.”

“I’ll make it clear that he can’t add on any more. I’ll start looking at hotels.” She sounded as worn out as he felt. He knew she didn’t like Oliver any more than he did. The jerk had used her to get his job—something Zander couldn’t forget.

He rubbed Shredder’s head. “I can help.”

“I’ll handle it. Don’t worry. Get some sleep. I’ll call you when I’ve figured it out.”

Sleep was out of the question. He hurled dirty clothes into the washer, then reached for the only thing that ever settled him—his guitar. Time didn’t exist when he played. Nothing existed except the music. He heard about it often enough from his sister, so he set his phone on the table, where he’d be sure to see her call.

He didn’t know how long he’d been playing when the phone’s ringing jarred him out of his relaxed mood. He saw texts from his band mates, probably ticked off about the added dates. Ignoring them, he answered his sister’s call.

“Travel and hotels are all set. Listen, I’ve hired my friend Jayne to help me out during the tour. I’ve told you about her, she’s a tour manager, and really, after how you guys have been, I need someone to keep me sane.”

His sister did so much for them, allowing them to focus on the music and the fans. “Hey, if you want to bring someone along, that’s fine. Whatever you need.”

“She wants to meet you all first before she’ll take the job. I know you’re tired, but please? A quick meeting this afternoon. Four o’clock, at the coffee shop by your house.”

“Fine. Did you call the guys?”

“Yes, they’ll be there.”

“Then I’ll see you at four.” He clicked off.

Hmmm. Jayne Warren.

He’d never met Jayne, but from pictures he’d seen at his sister’s place and from all Irisa had said about her friend, he felt like he knew her already. Jayne Warren, a gorgeous blonde with eyes nearly the same shade of blue as his favorite guitar.

When he walked into the coffee shop a few hours later, his band mates Luke, Landry, and Brendan, sat at a table in the back of the nearly empty room.

Luke raised his brow. “You live the closest but you’re the last one here.”

He shrugged. “So? I’m here now.”

“We only got here a few minutes ago anyway, Thompson.” Landry shook his head at Luke, then sipped his coffee.

“Whatever. I don’t understand why we had to meet this girl today. This could’ve waited a few days.”

“Maybe it couldn’t have waited. Where else did you need to be? My sister said it’ll be quick, so it’ll be quick. Calm the hell down.” Zander turned at the sound of the door opening.

Irisa walked in, followed by Jayne. She was far more beautiful than the pictures he’d seen.

The classic oval face, high cheekbones with a hint of color, wide ocean-blue eyes fringed by thick lashes, sculpted brows, and full lips, petal pink and perfect for kissing. She was taller than his sister. A quick estimate suggested the top of her head would reach right under his chin if he held her close. She glided toward them—long limbs, delicate curves, and the graceful moves of a dancer. Rather than the platinum blonde hair she’d had in the photos, strawberry blonde locks tumbled over her shoulders in thick waves. His hands itched to sink in and test the weight.

Her gaze met his. Something within him clicked, shifted, then settled.

With the sexy bombshell along for the ride, maybe he’d survive the tour after all.


I hope you enjoyed the taste!

The rest can be found here:

Thanks for reading!



Christmastime in the City

Christmastime in the City

I love my hometown, especially during the holiday season. Welcome to Philadelphia. I’m taking you on a tour of not-to-be-missed local traditions.
First up, the Macy’s Christmas Light Show.
The Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert at Macy’s is a Philadelphia holiday tradition that dates back more than half a century. The store, in Center City (downtown Philly) — housed in the historic Wanamaker Building — in the Grand Court atrium. You can do your shopping and when your spirits sag, stop and watch snowflakes, ballerinas, snowmen, and angels light up the screen along with the giant Christmas Tree. The finale of the four-story-high light show is accompanied by festive music from the Wanamaker Grand Organ. We visited the light show every year when I was growing up.
Up next, for the history buffs, we have Deck the Alley — Elfreth’s Alley
America’s oldest street, Elfreth’s Alley, decks the halls for the holiday season. Residents of the historic street open their homes to the public on December 5 as carolers and colonial reenactors create a festive mood. It’s a cool place to visit at any time of year, but especially when it’s all dressed up for the holidays.
Food-wise, Philly has more to offer than just cheesesteaks. So let’s go to Reading Terminal Market.
The Reading Terminal Market, at 12th and Arch Streets, (established in 1892) is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Cool, no? Here, you can find virtually every type of cuisine, (yes, even those cheesesteaks). During the holiday season, the market sets up a very cool holiday railroad. It has fourteen working train lines and miniature scenery of Center City and the countryside, surrounding almost one-third of a mile of track.
Let’s get physical! I’m talking ice skating, of course.  I have two awesome locations for you:
The first is the Blue Cross RiverRink, an Olympic-size skating rink overlooking the Delaware River. During Winterfest, they also have a ski chalet-style lodge and winter garden, a heated tent, holiday trees, and fire pits. 
Option two is in the heart of the city at the ice rink at Dilworth Park, right next to City Hall. You’ll skate under great views of the city skyline.
If you’ll be in the city through New Year’s, then a tradition that’s a MUST is the Mummer’s parade on New Year’s Day. 
The Mummers Parade dates back to 1901. Men, women and children dressed in colorful, lavish costumes dance, perform, and strut down the one of biggest streets in the city. Mummers belong to more than 40 organized clubs. The clubs split into five divisions: the Comics and Wench Brigades satirize issues; the Fancies wear glamorous outfits; the String Bands play banjoes, saxophones, percussion and other reed and string instruments; and the Fancy Brigades are known for fantastic choreographed performances. The clubs are in it to win it – local bragging rights.
You have to see it to truly appreciate and understand: 

This is only a sampling of all the city has to offer for the holidays. Come for a visit!

Happy Holidays,