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!