Category Archives: Books

Frugal Luxuries: The Beauty of Simplicity

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that one of my mantras is “keep it simple.” Most of us have a tendency to overspend, over-complicate and overwhelm ourselves; in the process, we miss out on some of the beauty of simplicity.

Last night, I was sifting through my bookshelf and case across something I hadn’t read in years, Frugal Luxuries. To call it a good book is an understatement. Originally developed as a newsletter, Tracy McBride gathered her best tips into a single volume that makes for a delightful read. I really enjoy how she stresses the difference between being thrifty as opposed to miserly, and shows how you can pamper yourself without spending a lot of money.

There are tidbits about food, interior decorating, clothing, travel, etc. Sound advice like “buy less in general, but only the best quality you can afford” will never go out of style. 

Here are a few frugal luxuries that are within everyone’s reach (for $10.00 or less):

  • Take a hot bath
  • Take a walk at sunset or sunrise
  • Pick up a bouquet of flowers at the grocery store
  • Grab a sweet from the bakery
  • Paint your nails
  • Try a new lipstick
  • Wear soft slippers around the house
  • Drink a fancy coffee or glass of wine
  • Replace your hairbrush
  • Decant liquids into a pretty container (soap, olive oil, etc.)
  • Wear bright colors
  • Spend 2 hours by yourself
  • Write a pen-and-paper letter to a loved one
  • Buy a goldfish
  • Sit in a quiet room – no TV, no radio, no talking

Are any of these ideas revolutionary? No, but everybody needs an occasional break from the hustle and bustle. By taking a breather and cheering yourself up with a little treat, life seems a lot less scary and the simple life is the most manageable of all. 

Remind yourself to slow down, to actually enjoy the day, rather than rushing through it and crossing to-do’s off a list. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured! 

When Alternative Medicine Goes Horribly Wrong

Since I’m a huge fan of Tina Turner, I was eager to read her newest book. Thanks to a review copy, I had the opportunity, and wow, was it juicy. Tina has truly lived an incredible life, dealing with more experiences than 10 other people put together. 

My Love Story picks up where I, Tina left off (that was her first memoir). After breaking free from Ike Turner’s hellish abuse, she was understandably hesitant to love again. It wasn’t until 1985—almost a decade after she left Ike—that a new man, Erwin Bach, won her heart and it was another 26 years until they married.

The love story, of course, was interesting, but what really hooked me was her shocking array of health problems. Three weeks after getting married, Tina had a stroke. Then, in 2016, she received a cancer diagnosis. Due to side effects from all the medication, she made the worst possible mistake, turning to alternative medicine for help.

One of the “treatments” was drinking water filtered through crystals, so you can guess what type of nonsense it was. The end result was kidney failure! Tina was literally on death’s door due to complete quackery. 

Because I have chronic health issues, I’ve also explored the alternative route. While I have nothing against the concept of Homeopathy and Naturopathy, they can not cure serious illnesses and quite often can make people sicker, if it prevents someone from seeking conventional medical treatment. It can be a viable option for back pain and headaches, but never, ever for strokes, cancer, or anything life-threatening. (Just look at the tragic outcome for Steve Jobs.)

In Tina Turner’s case, there was a happy ending: her husband donated a kidney to her and the transplant was successful. Even so, she admits to having complications and will require a lifetime of medication to prevent rejection. 

Anyone who is sick needs to find a doctor they trust. Conventional medicine doesn’t cure every thing; it does cure many things. Alternative theories and treatments can be added, but it shouldn’t be a substitute. New Age hocus pocus like crystals or a vegan diet won’t kill a cancerous tumor or reverse organ failure. 

You only get one body. Please take good care of it. When alternative medicine goes horribly wrong, the end result can be an untimely death.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

No matter how crazy-busy my day is—and most of them are chaotic—I always carve out 20 minutes for personal reading. Sometimes, I can manage a little more, but I never do less. Books have always been very important to me and I really need those quiet moments by myself to relax and decompress, or I become extremely stressed out.

Lately, I’ve been on a non-fiction kick, mainly Judaica and Cooking. Despite having small blocks of time, by reading consistently every day, it’s not difficult to finish multiple books per week. 

Art of Revelation – Yoram Raanan

One of Israel’s most famous painters was inspired by an unimaginable loss: In 2016, Arab terrorists set Yoram’s village on fire, destroying his studio that contained forty years of work (over 2,000 pieces in total).

Instead of becoming horribly bitter or disillusioned, he turned the tragedy into triumph, with an incredible art book that describes the Torah through 160 original paintings, each of which is accompanied by commentary written by his wife, Meira.

I have always believed that Torah is so much more than words. Some people may actually connect with it better through other means like pictures or music. Yoram’s artistic gift, coupled with his wife’s interpretations, is a new and fresh way to look at familiar Scriptures. 

This book is 5 Stars, for sure!

Recipe for a Delicious Life – Zipora Einav

Written by a celebrity chef who worked with Mariah Carey, Bob Hope, Aaron Spelling, and Pierce Brosnan, Zipora’s interactive cooking experience is a book/CD set that combines recipes, stories from her interesting career, health advice, and lots of affirmations and positive thinking. This is not strictly Kosher, but some of the food will work for the Kosher kitchen. I’m eager to try “Pierce Brosnan’s Moroccan Chicken” because I’m a huge fan of his movies.

I agree with her suggestion that cooking accompanied by music is 100% more fun. This is a short book that’s easy to read and provides a nice distraction that doesn’t require a lot of concentration (i.e. good to read right before bed).

Do Not Photograph – Joshua Haruni

Have you ever wanted to peek inside a foreign world? If so, you’ll love this book that focuses on the Hassidic community who are notoriously camera-shy. For 8 years, the author spent considerable time and effort to win over his subjects and was rewarded with deeply personal moments caught on film, after he had won their trust. The readers get to see an Orthodox wedding, students in a yeshiva, holiday celebrations, a child’s first haircut, prayers at the Wailing Wall, and so much more. 

This form of Judaism is so different from my own, but some things are universal—Torah, family, life cycle events, etc. Definitely more pictures than text, making this one another easy read. 


Are you reading anything good? I’m always open to suggestions.

Can You Afford To Stay Home with Your Kids?

Most American families have both parents working in 2018. While some mothers truly enjoy working at a meaningful career, there are many women who don’t want to work outside the home—especially if they have a newborn or toddler—and do it only because of finances.

While the cost of living is higher than it used to be, many families can survive with only parent being employed, provided they are willing to budget carefully, reduce unnecessary expenses, and embrace simplicity.

Some folks may not be aware that there is actually a cost to working. If you’re paying for daycare, you have to make over 25K annually just to break even! Yes, most employees make more than that, but they compromise their time by doing so and kids are only young once. 

So what can you do if you want to quit your job, but you don’t have/make a lot of money?

Erin Odom shares her first-hand experience with this complicated situation in her new book You Can Stay Home With Your Kids. Erin is a mom of 3 girls and 1 boy. She and her husband originally wanted a shared career in ministry, but it didn’t happen, forcing them to move to another state where her husband took a low-paying job as a high school teacher in North Carolina. (When I say low, I mean low—probably 20K less than first-year teachers here in New England are paid! I was truly shocked at how little they earn.)

Once she was home all-day, every day, she researched any possible way to live on a bare-bones budget—using cloth diapers, cooking meals from scratch, buying only from thrift stores, becoming a one-car family, and downsizing to a small apartment with two bedrooms.

Because I’ve been into the frugal lifestyle for over a decade, none of her tips were new to me; however, they are excellent tips for someone just starting out, especially newly married and first-time moms. Erin divides her book into eight sections that are easy to understand and covers many topics related to family life. It’s not an in-depth masterpiece like my favorite budgeting book from America’s Cheapest Family, but it’s a good, quick read. 

My only complaint about her book is the size itself! It’s a pocket hardcover, half the size of a standard book. Anyone who suffers from eye strain like I do will find the size of the text challenging. Obviously, the publisher had a hard time expanding 100 tips into 200 pages, so just be aware of what you’re getting. I received a copy for free to review, but if I was buying, I’d have to do a Kindle version.