page links

New website, new plans to take over the world, etc.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

NEW WEBSITE, Y'ALL.

Check this hive out. It's not every day you get to see stick figure drawings of dead guys AND cupcakes.

I wanted to revamp my site because very soon, I'm going to start reading my book, OBITCHUARY, to you in chapter-by-chapter video blogs. That's right! New adventures in publishing, right here! To celebrate, I thought things needed to look a little prettier and more official. Click around, check out the pages, especially the one for OBITCHUARY which explains my master plot a little more. I'll be releasing the video for my first chapter in the next few days, but I wanted errbody to bask in the glow of my cupcake art first.

Leave your suggestions. I still have to add some linky-doo widgets and whatnot. I'm thinking of creating an author Facebook page so I can more adequately pimp the book and blogs, but the thing that's holding me back is not wanting to look like a douche. Should I get over that and just go for it? Please, let me know.

Special thanks to Jim for helping me gussy up the website. It's great to have a boyfriend who is also a programmer. You should all get one.


Things I read in 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Between writing a book, starting another then chucking it and starting another, writing newspaper stories and blogs, trying to figure out the publishing industry, shopping for new lipsticks, eating pie in front of the open refrigerator, picking up dog poop and getting the occasional manicure (now's when you give me a cookie), I tried to read some books throughout 2011.

Many (but certainly not all) were a little light in the subject pants. Of course, that's what I like and that's what I write and I will defend it to the darkly humorous death. But in 2012, I want to find time to read more. And I might push myself into more territories unknown. Like, you know, maybe I'll read a historical steampunk gothic fantasy set in a fourth-level dreamscape and/or Brooklyn that explores alternate concepts of reality and the evolving role of the modern post-feminist male inside his own pastel ennui. Or whatever.


Oh, probably not.

What did you read this year? Here's my list.

The Leftovers - Tom Perrotta
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Room - Emma Donoghue
Skinny Dip - Carl Hiaasen
Star Island - Carl Hiaasen
Curse of the Spellmans - Lisa Lutz
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
One for the Money - Janet Evanovich
Fly Away Home - Jennifer Weiner
Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding (for the 852nd time)
A Stolen Life - Jaycee Dugard
Mule: A Novel of Moving Weight - Tony D'Souza
Winter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell
Miranda's Big Mistake - Jill Mansell
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Rich Again - Anna Maxted
Commencement - J. Courtney Sullivan
There's Always a Way - Tony Little (for this profile I wrote of him)
Something Blue - Emily Giffin
Matilda - Roald Dahl (for the 456th time)
The Twits - Roald Dahl (for the 745th time)
Fantastic Mr. Fox - Roald Dahl (for the first time!)
Thin, Rich, Pretty - Beth Harbison
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The September issue of Vogue (it should freaking count, it's so thick)

These lyrics are amazing

The Dog Whisperer changed my life

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everyone tries to live a certain way. Me? I assume things will work out exactly how I want, and when they don't, I turn all red and timid and stammery. Then later, in private, I stomp around and flail and complain to whatever warm body is nigh until I pass out in my jar of peanut butter. It offers solutions as well as expected.

That was the old me, I mean. Then I got a dog.

When we adopted Stuart last Christmas, we started watching reruns of the Dog Whisperer on National Geographic. I'd heard of it before, and I'd seen the episode of South Park in which Cesar Millan pinches Eric Cartman into submission, but that was it.


Cesar on the show comes into homes, says nearly nothing and stands there like, "I GOT THIS ON LOCK." The Dobermans, who were five minutes earlier eating the upholstery, fiberfill and wooden frame of the Jennifer Convertible sleeper sofa, flop reverently at Cesar's feet and do exactly what he wants, when he wants it.

WOW.

So, listen. I'm a professional skeptic, and I don't believe everything I see on reality shows, unless it involves the Kardashians. I imagine cutting room floor footage exists of dogs eating babies in front of Cesar or whatever. However, in the grand scheme, I decided Cesar was just... right.

His advice is about energy, about being "calm-assertive" and not letting others dominate you. Instead of forgetting how to use your words and making a variety of high-pitched seagull noises in stressful situations, you breathe and proceed as if everything is totes cool. People dogs, overwhelmed by your confidence, will do as you say.

I've tried to incorporate this into daily life, not just with my dog. Sometimes it works. Other times, it's back to the peanut butter.

Jim and I were in the mall late recently, and became stuck inside JCPenney right after they closed the big sliding doors. Our car was at Macy's, far away. We approached the cashier, who advised us to go to a back door by the salon, twelve feet above the delivery door cordoned off with criss-crossed jewel heist lasers through which we could attempt to snake, then rappel down the side of the store with a grappling hook, then walk six miles to our car in the black of night. With the luck-o-the-Irish, we wouldn't get assaulted.

I paused.

"Could you just open a door?"

She looked stunned for a minute, unsure of what to do. But you know what? She opened a door. Calm assertive! Victory! Spectacular!

It helps to praise yourself for being calm-assertive. Cesar would call this "positive reinforcement." I did this at lunch today when I calmly and assertively requested grilled chicken on my salad instead of fried. Then, when the clerk gave me a small cup instead of a large, I handed it back and said, "I ordered a large." Mama needs her Diet Coke, and small is for n00bs. While walking to a table, I thought, "Really good job at being calm-assertive, Steph. Your heart rate is really low."

And then I SPILLED MY ENTIRE DIET COKE EVERYWHERE. Here, I'll draw a picture.


After the young lady came over with the mop, I attempted to calmly and assertively open my salad. That's when I realized it was ABSOLUTELY COVERED in won-ton strips, a direct violation of my low-carb diet challenge with Aaron. So I spent the rest of lunch sniveling into my salad and picking off won-ton strips with two fingers muddied by Thai peanut dressing. Dogs everywhere rejoiced, crashing into bathroom trash cans, pulling cookie-cakes off counters, pooping in public parks and eating it.

A girl across from me kept issuing snide looks in my direction, like, "LOOK AT THIS B. SHE'S NOT CALM-ASSERTIVE AT ALL."

I remembered my Cesar training and gave her the calmest, bitchiest smile I could muster, all smug eyes and closed lips. Brenda Walsh here will help demonstrate.

 

It worked! She didn't look at me again.

Thanks, Cesar.

Cooking with Steph: Peppermint Bark

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Every year, by some stroke of luck or bribery, I get invited to a lovely holiday cookie exchange alongside the beautiful and smart women with whom I work. I'm talking women who have reported from war-torn nations, women who produce the front page of the best newspaper in Florida, women whose reporting shuts down all varieties of shady characters. Also, dammit, they know how to bake.

Naturally, I feel inadequate, subpar and incapable of ever maintaining a house and hearth about the time the "Macadamia Sage Coconut Frosted Macaroon Mini Moon Pies" go around the circle, and I whip out the "NEST-LAY TOLLHOUSE-AH," as Phoebe would say.


This year, things got even more prickly. I'm on a diet, see. It's a contest with my friend, Aaron, to see which one of us can go the longest without eating bread and grains. It started as a friendly quest to lose a couple pounds, but it's really about victory at this point. We've lasted five weeks so far, and I'm not about to give in. YOU HEAR THAT, AARON? You'll have to drag the trophy from my dead, lifeless, skinny, meaty hands, because the most important thing in the world is winning, kids.

But I still had to make something impressive for the party. I didn't trust myself around raw cookie dough. What breadless cookie-style wonder could I make and also enjoy? Then it hit me. Peppermint Bark!


See this one? That's the Williams-Sonoma version. Isn't it beautiful? There's even an adorable dog on the tin. And it's easy, right? All you do is crush up some candy canes and dump melted white chocolate over the top. Right?

Right?

I went to the store and sized up the candy cane selection. The traditional white and red ones were a dollar more than the red, white and green ones. So, my choice was obvious.

I got them home and prepared to crush them. What a delightful holiday activity this would be! But wait. In order to do that, I had to peel a thousand and twelve little plastic wrappers off of each one. At that point, I poured a glass of Cabernet.

The pictures you'll see from this point on were taken in Hipstamatic, in an attempt to make everything look better than it actually is. Hipstamatic, by the way, is great if you have acne, blotchy skin, dry hair, wan cheeks, flaky lips or a wayward third/lazy eye. It really solves every problem. It makes me wish we could go back to the time before MEGA CRYSTAL CLEAR HDTV I SEE YOUR PORES HAHAHAHA-style photography.

 

6,000 hours later, I had peeled all the candy canes. Time to crush them. I put the canes in a Ziploc bag and beat them with a meat mallet, which worked for a spell, until I started puncturing holes in the bag and dust went everywhere. Then, I switched to the blender.


At that point I remembered my first grade color wheel and realized buying the discount canes with the green stripe was a grave and irreparable error. Instead of looking pink and chunky and festive, the candy canes turned into dust the color of dry cement.

Fantastic.

Next step, melt the chocolate. The back of the bag of chips said to use a double boiler, which I do not have. Underneath that, in smaller type, it presented the option of microwaving the chips and stirring every 15 seconds. Now, listen. If you present me the opportunity to microwave ANYTHING instead of cooking it the proper way, please believe that's what I will do.

I dumped two whole bags of chips into a big bowl and microwaved responsibly for 15 seconds. I pulled them out of the microwave, and they looked like perfectly solid chocolate chips that had never before seen a fleck of heat. Since I am very busy and important, I decided I could not be bothered to check every 15 seconds, and instead would put the whole bowl in for two minutes and relax while I sipped my Cab and admired the artificial tannenbaum in the next room.

This was the result:


Super.

"It smells burned," came from the other room, to which I gently and respectfully replied, "I KNOW THAT!!!!!!" Then I slammed some things.

I chucked that batch and started over, adding far fewer chips to the bowl and checking every 15 seconds. Then I dumped the sticky, chunky chocolate over the gray concrete dust and smooshed it around.

Let me remind you again what I was going for:


And now let's look at my version:


This looks like Ewok vomit. Like bathroom sink caulk. Like a bacterial growth heretofore unexamined by science.

It's in the fridge now. My plan is to hammer it apart into small chunks that won't repulse people, then arrange it on a festive Christmas tray interspersed with some of the extra candy canes and chunks of a delicious fruit cake my mom made. The final step will be to put on really cute shoes and go.

I might also swing by Williams-Sonoma.

Corgi legs made it across the finish line!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We did it!

 

Feast your eyes on Melissa, Jim and me after our stunning 5K success! Just click to zoom in on our sweat pockets. I came in at 36:15, so basically, I smoked my treadmill time. I also ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY AND RESOUNDINGLY THOUGHT I was going to vomit the second I came across the finish line. No, really. I was like, "Well, I'm going to vomit in front of all these families taking pictures at the finish line. That's going to be a great way to start my Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for janitorial barf powder." But I pulled it together at the last second and sat down and focused on not up-chucking on the track.

We all did better than we expected, which either means we're awesome, or we don't believe in ourselves. I'm gonna go with the former! It was fun, and Melissa and I are thinking of trying to up our speeds for a race in April.

And yep, it has been two weeks since the race. And you know the reason I just thought about posting these? It's because I just got back from the gym session in which I attempted to run again for the first time in two weeks and got about a mile in before giving up.

Corgi legs!

Anyway, let's not dwell on my immediate post-race failure. Let's celebrate this picture of me crossing the finish line, Richard Dean Anderson mullet blowing in the breeze!

 

Thanks to Melissa's hubs, Pete, for the pics!

Couch to 5K to Couch again

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In my community, there is a phenomenon in which people wake up in the unrelenting black of morning on Thanksgiving and arrive at a single location just in time to run en masse in a three-mile loop. In Croatia, some parts of Budapest and Clearwater, Florida they call this a "holiday 5K."

I did this with a friend years ago, when I was somewhat doughy and slovenly. I walked the whole time and was sore for six days. Nowadays I'm still kind of doughy and slovenly, but I'm a big gym person. Actually, no, that's a lie. I'm a big cookie dough on the couch person, but that wasn't working, so I became a reluctant gym person. I can do all sorts of planks and maneuvers with Swiss balls (NSFW). But I've never been a good runner, like, AT ALL. It has to do both with endurance, and the fact that my legs look like this:

But shorter.

This year, my boyfriend's sister, Melissa, asked if I wanted to train for the Turkey Trot (sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times where I work, so yay!). Being committed to health (HAHAHA) and personal challenges (HARHAR), I agreed to try and run it. How bad could it be?

Now listen. I'm not looking for praise, honestly. My friend Mallary just ran a half-marathon in, like, three seconds. Go praise her. But for me, running several days a week took a lot of effort (see: Corgi legs). I used the Couch to 5K method, and only yesterday, two days before the race, did I complete a whole 5K running.

My goal was 40 minutes. Last night, I almost broke my knee trying to get in under that time, and I still came out 30 seconds over. The dude next to me on the treadmill was going 8 miles an hour, prancing along so calmly he could have filled out paperwork for his Roth IRA. His legs looked like this:


If my kneecaps don't fall off, I might keep running after tomorrow and see if I can get faster. Who knows? Maybe one of these years I'll decide to run a 10K at 3 a.m. on Guy Fawkes Day! Or, I'll just go back to keeping cardio to a total minimum at all times. We'll just see.

I made a 5K playlist. There's nothing worse than when you have 2.7 miles to go, and then, you know, The Blower's Daughter comes on, and you're all, GAHHHHWHYAMIDOINGTHISWHYWHY?



Anyway, here's my playlist. It's about two hours, padded with extra songs in case I need something to listen to on the paramedic ride to the local hospital. I'm just going to put in on shuffle so I'm surprised when a new song comes up. Motivation!

Feel free to steal (or make fun of me). And say hello if you spot me and Melissa tomorrow, that is, if you can see through the dark night sky. I'll post some pictures from our race adventure, as long as none of my dough spills out of my running shorts.

5K of Doom Playlist

American Idiot - Green Day
Animal - Neon Trees
The Bad Touch - Bloodhound Gang
The Beautiful People - Marilyn Manson
Black and Yellow - Wiz Khalifa
Blackout - Breathe Carolina
Call Your Girlfriend - Robyn
Cousins - Vampire Weekend
Danger Zone - Gwen Stefani
Disturbia - Rihanna
Face Down - Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Fashion of His Love - Lady Gaga
Get By - Talib Kweli
Good Girls Go Bad - Cobra Starship and Leighton Meester
Gucci Gucci - Kreayshawn
Heavy Cross - Gossip
Icky Thump - White Stripes
Lights - Ellie Goulding
Little Sister - Queens of the Stone Age
Machinehead - Bush
Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5
Move If You Wanna - Mims
N----- in Paris - Jay Z and Kanye West
Oh No - Girl Talk
Power - Kanye West
Til I Collapse - Eminem
Waking Up in Vegas - Katy Perry
Wanksta - 50 Cent
World Town - M.I.A.
You're Gonna Go Far, Kid - The Offspring
3 - Britney Spears

Oh dear. I have to be up in six hours. This is gonna suck.

I want to come back as Beyonce.

The stages of growing out short hair

Monday, November 7, 2011


About 8 months ago, I stumbled across some pictures of myself from high school. I had a pixie cut and looked like Tinkerbell, except not the Disney version with the severed Lorax tree on her head, and not the Julia Roberts version with the wig plucked out of David Caruso’s NYPD Blue trailer.


 I looked great! I was 18!

Eager to replicate the effervescence, beauty and magic of an era in which I once ate a huge plate of Hunan chicken followed by two bowls of Lucky Charms and a taco yet still maintained a healthy weight of 103 pounds, I decided it best to cut all my hair off at once. Recapturing your youth, by the way, is kind of like dipping your hand into a vat of petroleum jelly and trying to palm a rainbow trout. Except less successful.

My stylist, Josh, was stoked to get his hands on the blond tresses snaking down my back, in the way Edward Scissorhands had to get at those judgey potato salad queens in the neighborhood.


Josh did a fantastic job.


I really, really loved it. I looked fresh and exciting, even though it was ten years later and my metabolism ROFLMFAOed when I ate a half-stick of fried cheese.

After about six months, though, I got bored. You can only do so much with a pixie cut, and my attempts at mixing it up only made me look more and more like Justin Bieber. I decided it was time to grow it back out, thus entering the period I like to call:

THE SHORT HAIR CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS

You start out as Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, Edie Sedgwick. You are precocious and fawn-like with alternative, modern concepts of beauty. Your features are gentle yet pronounced. Your life is great. People shower you with praise. They wish they could be you. But all of a sudden, seemingly overnight, you enter...

HARRY CHAPIN PHASE ONE


The top starts to get a little long. The sides curl up, and in no time at all you have what can only be described as Serious Freaking Sideburns. Total strangers approach you on the street and ask, "When you coming home, Dad?" And you're all, "I don't know when. But we'll get together then."

A couple weeks pass. Your bangs catch up with the sides, and you're feeling good about where things are headed. But then, without warning strikes... 

PRINCE VALIANT/HE-MAN PHASE TWO



This is also known as the "pageboy." You are sad, very sad, because although you have the strength of ten steeds and the ability to defeat a stampede of Nordic huns, you also have a sissy little girl haircut, and you suck.

The back of your neck starts to feel warm, fuzzy. While you once reveled in the fun, shavey boyfriend feeling of your lower hairline, you realize there is now enough length to gather into several tiny ponytails. You try to tuck it behind your ears, but it only accentuates the obvious. You are deep, deep, deep into...

RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON PHASE THREE


You're going to need MacGyver to get out of this mullet.

You utilize a series of clever headbands and bobby pins to get the situation under control, and for the most part, it works. Your hair is a K'NEX Set, a study in architecture, a fine balance of scaffolding and glue (aerosol hairspray).

You find yourself enjoying a lazy Saturday off work. You take a late afternoon shower and let the whole mop air dry, because, who do you have to impress besides Judge Greg Mathis on your DVR? It's only when you go to the bathroom to wash the Crunch 'n Munch residue off your fingers that you notice...

THE BROTHERS GIBB PHASE FOUR


That's right. All of them.

You run to your basket of hair supplies and grab the aerosol spray, because although you are all alone eating your emotions in regards to no longer being 18, this cannot persist. You spray and brush and spray and brush and spray and brush, but alas, there is no escaping it.

PHYLLIS DILLER PHASE FIVE


While this is the most terrifying phase, it is also the most important. You look like a steel pot scrubber, yes. But there is no denying you are a hilarious and vibrant three-martini woman of considerable confidence once again. And so inner peace comes to pass.

And then you call your hair guy for the 48th time and he fixes it.

(I'm looking at you, Josh.)

Marisa de los Santos loves mystery!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I've always loved Marisa de los Santos.


She's an extraordinary talent, and her books feel like a warm blanket with little bits of cold whipping through. That, by the way, is my favorite feeling. It's why I keep the air conditioning turned down to 69, let my phalanges lose all feeling, then climb under a comforter on the couch. It's THE BEST, YOU GUYS.

I'm getting off topic.

The point is, I love her even more after reading her interview with Chick Lit Is Not Dead. She gives a belly rub to mystery writers:

Give me a well-written, character-driven mystery and I am happy as a clam.  Kate Atkinson, Tana French, Alexander McCall Smith, Dorothy Sayers, Jacqueline Winspear, Raymond Chandler, Alan Bradley, Cornelia Read, Agatha Christie.  I try hard not to be envious of other writers, and mostly I succeed, but I am dead jealous of mystery writers.  I want to learn to plot like that, to end every chapter with a cliffhanger.  I want to write people into dark, dark places and to ruthlessly examine the ugly side of humanity.  I want to create detectives that are complicated, vulnerable, and wicked smart.  So far, no dice, but I am not giving up hope!

Yeah, I'm jealous of them, too. My first novel (no word on it yet, sorry) is a mix of mystery and chick lit. My work in progress (almost to 20,000 words!) has much less mystery, but I still find myself plotting unexpected turns and proverbial DUN DUN DUN moments. I can't help it. My brain is Law & Order, remember?

I hate when people denigrate those styles (or any, for that matter -- this shit is hard, y'all, no matter what your personal taste). So to hear a prize-winning poet praise detective fiction on a chick lit blog made me feel all... BLANKETY again. Blankety. Yep. That's the word.

Why I don't shop online more

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


A REAL-LIFE CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE, DRAMATIZED.*

*only slightly

Me: I want to check on my shoes. They shipped six thousand days ago. I looked at the tracking, and they're back in New Jersey.

Lady: What's your order number?

Me: 7563875638bhg7467355^&&%748393bhfh6679596

Lady: Stephanie?

Me: Yes. 

Lady: It says "returned to sender." Why?

(long pause)

Me: That's... what I'm asking.

(42 minutes of faint typing)

Lady: It says "connection missed." What does that mean?

Me: THAT'S WHY I'M CALLING YOU. TO FIND OUT.

(12 minutes of faint typing)

Lady: The shoes came back here.

Me: I know.

Lady: If we send them again, won't the same thing happen?

Me: This... is just where I live. I've gotten plenty of packages before.

Lady: Is there another address we can send them to?

Me: No.

(76 minutes of faint typing)

Lady: We'll refund you, and if we can ship them again, you'll get charged again. Ok, great, bye?

Me: Wait...what do you mean "if"?

(heavy sigh)

Lady: Well, Ok, let me check if we have them.

Me: GREAT.

(87 minutes of faint typing)

Lady: We have them. We'll send them 2-day so they don't get lost.

Me: GREAT.

(217 minutes of life lost)

*****UPDATE*****

(I check bank account, see I have now been charged twice for non-existent ghost shoes. I call back.)

RECORDING: ALL OPERATORS ARE BUSY. YOU ARE NUMBER SEVEN IN LINE. EXPECTED WAIT TIME SIX MILLION MINUTES.

(Wait six million minutes)

Lady: Hello?

Me: Hi, I just called. My shoes got lost in the mail, and you re-shipped them, and now it looks like I've been charged twice.

Lady: What's your order number?

Me: 756387...

Lady: Wait, slow down.

Me: 7563875638bhg7467355^&&%748393bhfh6679596

Lady: Stephanie?

Me: Yes.

(46 minutes of faint typing)

Lady: When your lost pair gets back here, you'll be refunded.

Me: THEY ARE THERE. THEY'RE BACK IN NEW JERSEY. THAT'S THE POINT.

(65 minutes faint typing)

Lady: "Order returned to sender."

Me: YES. I KNOW.

Lady: Ok, I'm going to send a request up to my supervisor for the refund.

Me: How long will that take?

Lady: Two business days.

Me: (Nothing. There are no words.)

(Total life lost = 328 minutes. Total charges for shoes = 2. Total shoes acquired = 0.)

(Scene)

 
Nataliedee.com
(Note: It wasn't Zappos. But this feels so right.)

Some days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"I already feel like an idiot most of the time anyway - with or without the fireman's pole." - Bridget Jones


A message to my millions (dozens) of followers

Monday, October 17, 2011

Greetings, readers!

Perhaps you found this blog by Googling "Elvira makeup witch tips Halloween." Or maybe you're one of the many interested in "luxury Carrie Bradshaw walk-in closet shoes white dog." Maybe you have a critical "staph infection ear pain." Or maybe you're actually interested in me, and writing, and publishing, and bad cooking, and hilarious mid-90s cartoon photos.

Whatever your modus blogerandi, I hope you'll subscribe to my scintillating feed. Lately, I've noticed Blogger is being a trifling, good-for-nothing type of brother (and if you recognize those Destiny's Child lyrics, let's please be besties).


Holy smokes, I love them.

Anyway, there is a problem. The "follow" button has not been showing up immediately on the right side, nor the comments. Apparently, I am not alone with this issue.

If you hit refresh, said follow button and comments should magically appear, allowing you to subscribe to page after page of invigorating posts about Troop Beverly Hills and grammar.

I hope this is rectified soon so I don't have to be all, "Silly me, why haven't I found another? A baller. When times get hard I need someone to help me out. Instead of a scrub like you who don't know what a blog's about."

Um...

Welcome, those of you who just searched "lyrics destiny's child baller trifling." I hope you'll stay! See above for instructions.

Cooking with Steph: Whiskey, Donuts and Murder

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We went to Jim's dad's Saturday to watch football, and his stepmom mentioned she had bread pudding in the fridge. We got all excited and then something shiny flashed on the TV and we forgot to take any home. Later, hating myself and all I stood for, I Googled photos of desserts in memory of what could have been.

That's when I came across this recipe from Bon Apetit: Donut Bread Pudding with Jack Daniels Whiskey. Obviously, I had to have it immediately.

First stop, the liquor store!

You should know something about me. In my head plays a perpetual episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I jog at night and imagine entire assaults, trials and tearful courthouse hugging scenes. A car trails me too long and I assume the driver is planning stab me cleanly. Even tonight when I took the dog out for a pee, some guys were unloading mattresses from a truck. Who does that at 9:30 p.m.? That's some shady business, folks, happening on my street. In fact, it's almost a scene straight out of my book. Everyone is on meth, everyone is a lovable serial killer, and every menial task results in tense, high-heel bargaining under glowy lights in a cell block. "JUST TELL ME WHERE YOU HID THE BODY AND WE'LL BOTH BE ON OUR WAY." It's pretty much the reason I write.

Anyway, I went to the liquor store to buy the Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. Even though I'm pushing up to 30, I still get nervous inside liquor stores. It is because I look like this:


I figure no one will believe my ID, that I'll end up held for questioning in a musty back room, McLovin-style, liquor store owner screaming, "JUST TELL ME WHERE YOU HID THE BODY AND WE'LL BOTH BE ON OUR WAY."

I selected a 1.75 liter bottle of Jack, referred to in some aboriginal cultures as "BIG ASS," or "FAMILY SIZE." It's not that I needed that much, but there was a great sale on the BIG ASS, and I can't bring myself to pay more per ounce than totally required. I brought it to the register, sweating, prepared to be arrested. The guy rang it up and said, "Have fun." Have fun! As if my 5-foot, one hundred and shmihfyiysiphsigf pound frame was gonna down the whole BIG ASS all by my lonesome. I'd have to enjoy my bread pudding in the hospital through a banana bag drip.


Liquor acquired, I ran into Publix for a few things, including donuts. The recipe calls for cake donuts, specifically Entenmann's. I found some called "Softees," (awww). But were they too soft? Bread pudding is usually made with stale bread. Would this be my undoing? Just then, I saw some guys at the end of the bread aisle sizing me up. They had been in the liquor store when I bought the FAMILY SIZE, and they were obviously following me to steal my FAMILY SIZE and stab me cleanly in the parking lot. So I grabbed the Softees and ran to pay, totally forgetting the tin foil I needed.


First step at home: Eat donut.


One must always test one's ingredients for flavor and freshness.

Next, I had to rip up a bunch of donuts into a pan. It said to grease with butter, but since I am committed to health when it comes to my whiskey donut bread pudding, I used cooking spray.


Next, I mixed heavy cream, eggs, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and an eighth of a teaspoon of nutmeg. And I'll pause here to say, HONESTLY, WHAT IS THE POINT? An eighth of a teaspoon of anything is basically a smattering of fallen skin cells. Why bother? Let's just have skin cell bread pudding!

Gross.

I added the whiskey. It called for a quarter cup, but I might have gotten carried away. It was a Saturday night, after all. Here's the bowl of goo, which was pretty boring to photograph, so I flashed a traditional thumbs up to add some interest. Yeah, baby!


I poured all the goo over the donut chunks and smooshed them together. When I was a kid, I used to call this "making potch," which basically means smashing together soggy things. It is my favorite thing to do, aside from imagining salacious first-degree murder trials.

Braaaaaaiiiiinnsss!


This delectable intestinal bile sat for an hour, then went in the oven. It should have been covered with foil, but as stated earlier, I was too busy dreaming up my own mugging to purchase any. I popped it in at 350 for 45 minutes.

What to do now?

Listen. I'm not a woman who typically drinks hard liquor. It does bad things to me, and I'd much prefer a nice glass of wine. However, there was a BIG ASS bottle of Jack on the table, and life is mercilessly short. So, you know, I had a little.


Suddenly, I was a hard-charging dame, capable of cleanly stabbing all the world's rapists in a single swoop! I was the type of lady who could rock a leather jacket like a gritty urban detective rather than a reject from the Bratz Dolls Joan Jett cover band! I was the foul-mouthed sister on Dexter! I was finally, FINALLY, Mariska Hargitay! I was unstoppable!

Ok, I was the same, only my cheeks were red and my stomach kind of felt bad.

The bread pudding came out looking SEXY.


I served it with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious, but it would have been better with stale donuts, and it would have cooked more evenly with foil. The moral of this haiku is to stop inventing crime stories and pay attention at the store. I think in some cultures they call that "INNER PEACE" and "MENTAL STABILITY."

But that's all trivial in the end. You can dress her up for church all you like, but Saturday night's dessert was a bowl of donuts with a side of whiskey. I suggest you all try this recipe at your earliest convenience.

IT'S (camping) COOKIE TIME!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We here at Chez Hayes are hard at work planning an epic camping trip for November. We are not the most rugged outdoors people that ever lived. I sleep with the air conditioning turned down to 69 degrees. I prefer my "sun exposure" to come from dihydroxyacetone. The other night, we had the doors open for an hour until a bug flew inside. The last time I went camping, I was about 8, and I crashed my vintage purple Schwinn (stylish!) into a parking block after going to the campground store to buy chocolate (not so stylish). So what I'm saying is, we'll probably be eaten by giant Man Bear Pigs, our bones burned for forest kindling. But we're all about trying new things this year, and so we're going, even if it means pooping in a hole mere moments before death!

No matter what happens, I'm taking my style cues from the greatest film in the history of films, Troop Beverly Hills. Some might say Citizen Kane is best, but they obviously haven't seen Shelley Long tell  perm horror stories in a lavender peignoir.


So, I'ma ask you one time.

DO Y'ALL KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?

Author self-publishes without being an idiot, fools everyone!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I think this is really, really smart. I'm curious to see how well it works out for her. Author Felicia Ricci tells Huffington Post Books how she self-published her memoir Unnaturally Green (about being the green understudy for Elphaba in Wicked!) and made it LOOK, in almost every way, like a traditionally published book.


Smart, smart, smart. And her website is super slick, too. The whole presentation makes you take her seriously. Check out the whole thing here.

Candy on a stick, and books (no stick)

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm loving these essential quotes from Stephen King via Screen Junkies, especially this:

“My candy of choice is Junior Mints. And while I don’t bring bootleg food into the movies, I do bring bootleg toothpicks. Then, as I relax in my seat, I take a toothpick and poke five or six Junior Mints onto it. It ends the dreaded Chocolate Hand and it’s also kind of fun to eat candy off a stick. I call them Mint-Kebabs.”

This man is BRILLIANT AND INSPIRED. Junior Mints aren't really my bag, but the idea of a STICK of CANDY is a revelation, and I'm ashamed I haven't thought of this already. It's like I don't know who I am or what I stand for anymore.

I also like this:

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

Duh, and well-said. I've been reading a tear lately, even more since I got my Kindle. Here are my latest conquests.


I'm about 39 percent done with Water for Elephants (thanks, Kindle, for being so mathematically precise as to my progress!), but I'm loving this book. It feels painstakingly researched and authentic, and it's making me want to revisit the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, not far from where I live. It's also riotously funny in parts, and I wasn't expecting that at all. But I have concerns. I told a friend I was reading it, and her face got all sullen and dark and furrowed and she said, "I know how that ends." And that was it. I'll be bawling into my pizza box for six days, won't I? Wait, don't tell me. Sigh.

Before that, I finished Carl Hiaasen's latest, Star Island.


I also read Miranda's Big Mistake by Jill Mansell. Big Kindle sale!


And Room, by Emma Donoghue. Totally devastating.


After I finish Water for Elephants, I'm downloading the Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. I've been waiting for his next book since the Abstinence Teacher came out four years ago. He just might be my favorite fiction writer. I'm totes ready.


Would love to know what you're reading! And if you get the sullen sad scary face about Water for Elephants, I'll clock you square in the nose. Well, virtually. But it'll still sting.

Broody lyrics all over your face

Monday, September 12, 2011

I have a stomach thing and I'm feeling a little broody today, so allow me the indulgence of posting sullen song lyrics.

Seriously, I'm not the kind of person who likes to post sappy, purple lyrics (unless it's WEEZY F. BABY, KNOWHAMEAN?) or cryptic quotes from dead people (unless it's TUPAC, KNOWHAMEAN?). But the other day, I was listening to this song I've listened to a million times and it just struck me how much I like the lyrics. They don't MEAN anything to me, personally, but I like the pacing and the wordplay and the story of the song. It has kind of complicated lines juxtaposed with simple ones. It's the way all good writing is structured, really. Careful and patient, finished with a punch.

Here are your broody song lyrics from Miz Amy Winehouse (R.I.P). I'm going back under the blankets now. Hold my calls.


It's okay in the day, I'm staying busy
Tied up enough so I don't have to wonder, "Where is he?"
Got so sick of crying, so just lately
When I catch myself I do a 180

I stay up, clean the house, at least I'm not drinking
Run around just so I don't have to think about thinking
That silent sense of content that everyone gets
Just disappears soon as the sun sets

He is fierce in my dreams, seizes my guts
He floods me with dread
Soaked in soul
He swims in my eyes by the bed

Pour myself over him
Moon spilling in
And I wake up alone

As far as my heart, I'd rather be restless
The second I stop the sleep catches up and I'm breathless
This ache in my chest as my day is done now
The dark covers me and I cannot run now

My blood running cold, I stand before him
It's all I can do to assure him
When he comes to me, I drip for him tonight
Drowning in me we bathe under blue light

He is fierce in my dreams, seizes my guts
He floods me with dread
Soaked in soul
He swims in my eyes by the bed

Pour myself over him
Moon spilling in
And I wake up alone
And I wake up alone
And I wake up alone
And I wake up alone

I exist on carbs and shame

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I have to document this before I forget.

You guys, I had the WORST NUTRITION DAY EVER. Worse than the time in high school when I had Lucky Charms followed by Taco Bell followed by Chinese food. Well, maybe. Anyway.


It was Thursday. I was craving a bagel, so I picked up a half-dozen to bring to work because it never feels right buying just one bagel. I ate said bagel about 11 a.m., which was kind of late, so I didn't have lunch after that.

About 3:30 p.m., my body came to the stark realization I hadn't had anything other than a sesame bagel and caffeine all day. I started shaking, getting warm, feeling like I needed to lie down. I checked my desk for something nourishing. Finding nothing, I settled on the partial box of $5 Milk Duds left from when the Scarface movie reel broke down last week at the very special one-time engagement that turned out to be a sham. Interestingly, there were A LOT of Milk Duds in that box, way more than you would think. I guess they all kind of squish together or whatever. Anyway, I ate them ALL, EVERY SINGLE MILK DUD, REALLY FAST, IN MY FACE.

Then, instead of magically feeling better, I felt warmer, and I had to grip my Diet Coke can with two hands to lift it to my dried mouth. It was then I realized I hadn't had a single glass of water all day, just Diet Coke and coffee. So I got a glass of water, which helped a little.


Just when I started to stabilize, I had to leave for a work thing. By this point, my body had entered a state of starvation ketosis, and my tissue was actually feeding on itself. So I ran by Tijuana Flats and picked up two tacos. I ate one in five minutes flat while applying false eyelashes and strapping on high heels and wiggling my ID out of the wallet case to move to a clutch. I discovered a black bean in my grill mere moments before embarking for the event. Nonetheless, I felt very slim and healthy for only eating one taco. I was so proud of myself for my superhuman caloric restraint. Moderation! It's the road to thinness!

Over the next several hours, I had two flutes of champagne, a large Diet Coke and a partial glass of Pinot Grigio. When I returned home, I sat on the couch for a while watching reruns of Hoarders and contemplating the extra taco in the fridge, contrasting the feeling of immediate satisfaction with the long-lasting feeling of thinness I would get by overcoming my temptation in full. Then I ate the taco. This was about midnight. Also, there were some chips in there and I might have had those, too.

So, in summary, on Thursday I ate:

Diet Coke
Coffee
Sesame bagel
67 Milk Duds
One water
One taco
Two flutes champagne
Diet Coke
One partial glass wine
One more taco
Chips
Shame

More in defense of chick lit

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Here's a good piece on Metro Pulse about the ever-difficult defense of chick lit, regarding its strongest soldier, Jennifer Weiner. Oh, hey, remember when I met her? Yeah, that was cool.

I cleaned today, and yes, I want a cookie

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Normally on Sundays I meet my family to hang out and bond and eat cheese items and whatnot. But today, I woke up with a headache I'd had for two days. So I stayed home.

This is the most boring thing I've ever written, so far.

Anyway, after my headache finally subsided, I looked around and found myself alone in a war zone, a.k.a. "My House." We at Chez Hayes have been really occupied lately with life distractions, novels and careers. Also, I HATE CLEANING SO MUCH. So if I find a spare moment and my choices are A) Scrub the tomato splatter out of the microwave, or B) Watch Millionaire Matchmaker with some Pinot Grigio, go ahead and take a wild guess.

Today, though, I couldn't take it anymore. My mom used to do this when I was growing up, and I never understood it then. All of a sudden, something would switch and she HAD TO CLEAN, and I would just get out of the way or do what she said. I do the exact same thing now.

Today I:

1. Did laundry
2. Cleaned up various odds, ends, Diet Coke cans, receipts
3. Dusted
4. Vacuumed
5. Freaked out the dog
6. Affixed new decorative throw pillows on couch
7. Hung print that fell down three months ago
8. Printed photos of family and friends for wall frames that had not been updated since 2002
9. Scrubbed bathroom sink and counter and TOILET
10. Emptied out TWO DRAWERS OF TERROR
11. Organized my jewelry
12. Selected some for donation (angelic)
13. Did dishes
14. Scrubbed kitchen counters
15. Hauled out trash
16. CLEANED THE GAWDAMN MICROWAVE

Here's the thing. My microwave is high above the stove, obviously installed by some Huge Man Beast with Big Man Beast Arms (proper noun). I reach it by extending my hobbit limbs and slamming it until it makes a sound like an SG 550 rifle. I do not suggest this microwave placement in your own home. It's sort of out of sight, out of mind, and thus turns into a scene from Pearl Harbor and requires intensive chair-standing and balance to remedy. Last night, thoughts of the microwave haunted me as I fell asleep, which I think contributed to my madness today.

As stated earlier, I HATE CLEANING. I mean, I guess no one likes it, except maybe those people who wake up early and go for runs. The older I get, and the more I continue to hate cleaning, the more I consider a maid. It sounds snobby, but seriously. I work hard for my meager wages, and if I want to pay some nice lady to come over twice a month and clean the godforsaken mothereffing microwave instead of, say, spend that money on sushi, who cares? Right? Am I right? We're all adults here. I'd like someone to come scrub the cancer from the toilet and then leave. I'm serious. I guess you're probably saying, "Donate the money to orphans, Steph."  Well... well...

Fahhh.

Here are some pictures of my clean house, because, well, it's all I have.


Here's the jewelry. Ain't it cute? This will all move into my office/closet one day, one far, far, far off day. Baby steps. One thing at a time.


In the corner, that's Stuart's dog bed. It's outfitted with a Christmas blanket and a leopard pillow. He told me he didn't want to be "matchy matchy." Also, I hate that tall lamp. I didn't realize how much I hate it until I saw this picture. Related: Anyone want a lamp?


Look how domestic! I put a picture of my boyfriend and myself in this frame, which had been sitting face down on the shelf since I got it in, oh, February.


And here we have the picture that fell down, restored to it's mass-produced Target greatness.


Where the blog magic happens.

So, I'm taking votes. Cleaning lady, or orphans? Don't hold back.