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Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's chapter four time, baby. In this installment, Penny attempts to go to her first day on the job writing obits, but is thwarted by her sex-crazed neighbors. If you don't like sex-crazed neighbors, well... um, I'm sure there are other books.

There's a bonus rap break in this one! Don't say I never did anything for you. Enjoy, and don't forget to like my sexy Facebook for bonus fun and links, including this amazing BuzzFeed list of published books that will make you believe anything is possible. All I have to say is, If God Loves Me, Why Can't I Get My Locker Open?

(Catch up on the other chapters here.)


Cooking with Steph: Liberace's Sticky Buns

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I interviewed the fantastic Frank DeCaro for the paper. He used to be on The Daily Show, and now he has his own show on Sirius Satellite Radio. His latest project, though, is The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, a collection of recipes from stiff stars. Here's the story!

I loved talking to Frank about all the old stars and their specialty noms, especially when he started raving about Liberace's Sticky Buns.

I mean, how could you not?

Frank ate nine as soon as they came out of the oven when he made them, he said. Respect. Today, I stared at the recipe for 10 minutes. I obviously had to have Liberace's buns in my life immediately. I'm a thorough journo, y'all.

They're basically doctored crescent rolls, which is just fine by me. I could live on crescent roll alone.

Lib's recipe called for raisins. I thought about leaving them out entirely, because, well... honestly, I've just never heard someone say, "OH, GOOD, THIS HAS RAISINS." You know? But this wasn't about me. This was about a young man named Wladziu Valentino Liberace who liked his raisins golden and shiny.

First step? Soak them in rum. CLASSIC.

I tried a couple from the bowl. You guys, I have to tell you. Raisins soaked in rum are (hic) DELIGHTFUL. Who knew shriveled grapes just needed a little spicy hooch?

Next, since this is a recipe committed to heart health and weight control, I melted two sticks of butter.

Then, because we are interested only in clean, responsible living that is not reckless in any way, I added a cup and a half of brown sugar to the bubbling butter.


Next, it started to get real Liberace up in here. The array of spices is nutbar! He calls (from beyond the grave) for nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger -- GINGER! -- and cloves. I was elated. Finally, I could use the untouched bottle of cloves on my spice rack. Earlier this month, I swear to you, I Googled "what do cloves go in" and "uses for cloves" and "cloves expiration date" because I honestly had no idea what they were doing in my kitchen. The answer, it turns out, is Liberace's Sticky Buns.

One problem.

My cloves were whole. I figured people would appreciate biting into a whole clove even less than they'd appreciate a fist of raisins. I tried to be resourceful, but here's a pro tip:

You can't use a garlic press on cloves.

Ok, so, no cloves. I think Lib would understand. He would just light a 45th scented candle on the baby grand and say something like, "You must dare to dream in color, child!"

Next, the crescent rolls. Apparently, there was a run on Liberace's Sticky Buns at Publix tonight, because I only saw the MEGA BIG GIANT FLUFFY THIGH CELLULITE-MAKING CRESCENT ROLLS, which I'm pretty sure they didn't have in the 1970s since people weren't totally size-obsessed back then (at least not in polite company). I had to buy the little cans of regular rolls, six instead of three. This meant instead of just rolling out the log of dough, I had to use something called "spatial reasoning" to connect them. I spread out the parchment paper, which kept curling and curling until I held it down with a full bottle of Shiraz and an onion in a produce bag.

I connected the rolls of dough in one slender strip, and it was longer than Alligator Alley. "Self," I said. "This doesn't look right." Then I stepped back, held up two small cans together and rubbed both brain cells against each other. A-HA.


Next, I put syrup and pecans in the bottom of each muffin tin. Then, I spread the syrup mixture and the Drunk Uncle Raisins on the dough and rolled it up.

Then, Liberace advised, I was to cut the roll into 1-inch slices. This required something called "skills of estimation." I made the first slices way, way too big. There was no way I'd get 24 buns out of this. I made a note to adjust. Then, I said "&;%*^*#^(#&8;^%*#^$*#!!!" because I realized I completely forgot to put pecans inside.

I repeated the process two more times using "spatial reasoning" and "skills of estimation" and "portion allotment" and "pecan putting in" to try to get them right. My third and final roll looked as if it had been injecting human grown hormone for the past four bodybuilding seasons. But somehow, I got 24. It was the magic of Liberace! Better than Christmas!

You'll notice I had to buy those crappy foil tins at the store, because as you may have gleaned during our time together, I'm not the kind of person who owns more than one muffin tin.

They went in for 15 minutes at 325. This gave me a chance to have a butt-sit and read some more of Frank's book, including Edith Head's Chicken Casa Ladera! I worship Edith Head. Grace Kelly's clothes in Rear Window pretty much made me believe in love. The least I could do was read about Edith's penchant for chicken livers.

Back in the kitchen, things had not yet reached their crescendo. Liberace would not simply wedge the sticky buns out of the tin and into the GladWare. No. Liberace, in true form, demands you FLIP THE PAN SWIFTLY, rendering the tops of each bun oozy with butter goo and adorned adorably with a smattering of pecans. I had visions of the entire set of 24 rolls flying onto the kitchen floor, and me Swiffering butter out of the grout at 4 a.m.



If that's not sexy, I don't know what is.

All in all, they are delicious. They didn't all cook evenly, probably because my fine cookware cost $3.99 and came with "COMPLIMENTARY CUPCAKE WRAPPERS." And despite the rum's best efforts, the raisins are still kind of... depressing, in context. They're just a depressing food item, am I right? It's like, you can dress it up in glitter all day long, but a raisin is a raisin.

Word, Lib?

Oh, never mind.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chapter 3 is here! I had some family stuff happen, so I'm running a little behind. We're pretty much a one-man operation here at, well... me. "Wait," you say. "These Cecil B. DeMille works of art aren't made with the aid of 25 eager interns?" Well, no. Not unless you count my dog, who yesterday got startled out of a slumber and accidentally peed a little.

You'll notice I'm wearing glasses in this one. This was a mistake. But when I took off my glasses, I couldn't see the words, and I'd already taken out my contact lenses, and I wear dailies, and they're like a dollar a pair. So... even though there's not a print copy (yet), if you try hard, you can read it in the glare of my frames. It's like a classy new Kindle!

In this chapter, Penny tells her exotic, tattooed, bird-flipping sister, Nicole, about her job writing about dead people. See how Nicole reacts.


Interview time! Talking to Samantha Verant


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chapter Two is ready to go! My illustrations are getting more ambitious, per fan request. Pretty soon, I'll be getting invitations to show in galleries (HAHAHAHno). Here's chapter one if you need to get caught up.

In chapter two, Penny hits an all-time low at work and stumbles into her new career as an obituary writer for the newspaper.

Watch and enjoy, sports fans. Chapter three is next week. And don't forget to like my annoying author page on Facebook. It's a week old and already starting to talk back.


A love letter to Mindy Kaling, Hanson, so on

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Deep down inside beneath the fragile walls of stability, I have the potential to be one of those celebrity stalkers who falls so in love with a stranger that she loses precious touch with reality and ends up stuffed in an orange prison jumpsuit writing extreme fan letters about the texture of the chicken and noodles from the comfort of cell block 12.

I just get really interested in people, OK? People I know and people I don’t. I’m a journalist, so I can play this off as a healthy and productive behavior, which works out great. The truth is, I grew up on a steady diet of People magazine, so famous people were always there for the dissecting in glossy pictures on the tank of the toilet, buying fresh cut flowers from Whole Foods (who does that?), sandwiched between What Color Is Your Parachute? and the TV Guide.

I’ve only ever contacted one celebrity. His name was Taylor Hanson.

I executed said stalking with my friends Michelle and Summer in the 7th grade, on the floor in front of Michelle’s bunk beds. We put glitter stickers all over the letter and politely asked the Hanson brothers (including the other two out of angelic charity) how they liked being home-schooled. We never got a response, and Taylor now has 6,456 babies with a woman who is not me. I learned that day letter writing campaigns never pan out like you think.

But I did excellent work nonetheless obsessing over the following celebrities, in either a romantic way or in a platonic girl crush, be-my-friend-and-get-beers-with-me-and-tell-me-where-you-got-that-caftan-now way:

1.  Jordan Knight (age 7)
2.  Lucille Ball (age 10)
3.  Taylor Hanson (age 12, see above)
4.  Ricky Martin (age 14)
5.  Darren Hayes from Savage Garden (age 16)
6.  Craig David (age 19)
7.  Jenna Fischer (age 25)
8.  Lily Allen (age 26)
9.  Cristiano Ronaldo (age 27)
10.  Soccer players in general (age 27)
11.  Tina Fey (current)
12.  Beyonce Knowles (current)
13.  Joan Collins (current)
14.  Mandy Moore (current)
15.  Cesar Millan (current)
16.  Matt Damon (current)
17.  Mindy Kaling (current)

I’ve loved Mindy since day one of The Office, when she used to wear navy blue ascots and school marm buns. I loved her even more when she started wearing gold stretch pants and declaring she would name her child “Usher Jennifer Hudson Kapoor.” And I loved her even more when I realized she could not only play a hilarious character, but that she was also a comedy writer, and therefore, the best.

I’m obviously reading her book now, like a good silent stalker. It’s called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), and in the first chapter she says she wants to be friends with Beyonce (see entry 12, above).

Later she talks about her first big break, a play in which she and a real-life non-stalker best friend who we are led to believe may still wear maxi pads, cross-dress together and channel Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (see entry 16, above) in a play called Matt & Ben. They had no budget and borrowed clothes from boys they knew. And Time magazine called it one of the 10 best theatrical events of that year.

How? Why?

Mindy explains:

"If I can give one bit of advice to any drama major, high school theater kid, or inmate who is reading this in a prison library with dreams of being cast in the prison play, it's this: write your own part. It is the only way I've gotten anywhere. It is much harder work, but sometimes you have to take destiny into your own hands. It forces you to think about what your strengths really are, and once you find them, you can showcase them, and no one can stop you."


I read this late last night as I was feeling very vulnerable and somewhat ill, having as you may recall just posted a video of myself reading part of a novel I wrote about a girl who kills a guy with juice wine.

Real talk. It would be much safer for me to just stay in the house all the time eating sesame chicken and scoops of peanut butter with the blinds closed and never take any chances at all, but, if Mindy is to be believed, that kind of timidness will only help you land a chorus role in the community production of a Victorian musical.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s what you’re into. But I’d rather play the proverbial Matt Damon. He has great teeth and seems like he'd be really cool to, you know, grab a beer with or whatever. (Call me.)


Monday, January 2, 2012

Alright, friends! As I said in the last post, I'm experimenting with reading you my novel on YouTube while I navigate the publishing process. My reasoning is fairly simple. I have created something and I want you to see it.

I'm hoping to read you all a new chapter every week. If you like it, spread the word. If you don't like it, don't! I'm easy like Sunday morning.

OH, ALSO. I did the author page on Facebook. It still feels a little early for me to be claiming to have any fans whatsoever. But, hey, there's no being shy in this, and it'll only help. I figure I'll get, at least, my mom. So do me a charity and click LIKE, please? Kthxloveyou.

So, here we go. Presenting...

OBITCHUARY, chapter 1

In this chapter, we meet our heroine, Penny Perkins, as she stands over a dead body in her parking lot.