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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So what book am I waiting on?

As the final installment of the Dark Young Adult Blogfest, we're supposed to write about what dark YA book we are most looking forward to.

Because of the book I read last night, this question is eas-ay to answer.

Eve by Anna Carey is the most interesting dystopian fiction I've read in awhile, so even though it only came out a few months ago, I'm already anxiously awaiting the sequel. 

In the twelve short years in which America became New America following an overwhelming plague, the society that we all know changed irrevocably -- and not because America now has a king.

Orphaned girls like Eve, Pip, Ruby, and Arden were born in a world just like ours and have vague memories of places like Oregon and Arizona, but they grew up in a School where they take classes like the Dangers of Men and Boys. They've been told that when they Graduate, they will go on to learn trades and then live in the mythical City of Sand, where they will have four-poster beds and sip lemonade under umbrellas. Unfortunately, the reality of what happens to girls after they graduate becomes readily apparent to Arden and Eve, and they escape into the wild.

The thing I loved most about this book was the overwhelming sense of horror Carey created without delving into melodrama.  The very near future setting made it even that more troubling -- Eve and her friends play with wrinkled Finding Nemo cards, listen to Vogue on cassette tapes, and are still assigned to read The Great Gatsby in School. After escaping, they hide in abandoned houses and look at the photographs of people just like us on refrigerators.

I would not especially recommend Eve to younger readers because of some disturbing content.  Despite raising orphaned girls to fear men and boys as manipulative rapists, New American society is more misogynistic than any band of marauders the girls might fear beyond the walls of School. That being said, Eve offers a hopeful view of humanity as well, as Eve and Arden encounter (gasp!) some men and boys that not only want to help and befriend them, but are in need of the girls' help and friendship as well.

Go.  Read it.  And then I won't be alone in looking forward to the sequel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yes - THAT JUST HAPPENED

Ahoy there!

Back from Thanksgiving, attempting to finish NaNoWriMo with some semblance of respectability ("respectability" being 20,000 words. Question: Can I include legal writing in my count? Because if I can, I take it back, I finished ages ago. Although it is a very boring book.), and preparing for my pre-Christmas vacation this weekend.

Because I don't know about you all, but I need to get rejuvenatey before the holidays kick into high gear.

In short, not much to report.  I got some new books to read over the weekend (Eve, Shatter Me, Bad Taste in Boys, Domestic Violets, and Rage -- jealous? Maybe I'll share the love next month. 'Tis the season of giving and all that.) and made a new financial goal (no credit cards in aught-12!).

Meanwhile, something awesome happened.

Over at A Peek at Karen's World, my blog was nominated for something awesome! Along with some other awesome people!

So if you, like me, are having trouble focusing on this Any Given Day, head over there and explore the blog selection.  It's grand fun.

Now I'm off to see if I can sneak in an Angry Nap before heading off to get new tires. 

Sigh.  You really have to prepare mentally before dealing with sales people.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ahhh, a return to a season of ingratitude

Last night as I was walking Spence, a stray kitten leaped out at me.  Of course I screamed as if it were an axe-wielding fiend and called for Diego (as a cat person) to come assess the situation.

It was cold last night in New Denver, and the kitten kept trying to go in the house with us, so I suspect it knew inside > outside, despite not having a collar or anyone concerned it was out-and-about at 11:30 pm.  I did not want a strange animal in my house, however, so Diego and I decided we'd leave a box with one of Spencer's old beds outside with some leftover turkey, puppy chow, and milk.  Hopefully one of these three things would appeal to the kitten's palate.

Of course, when we returned with our goodies, the kitten was gone, so we left a porch light on for it.  I felt guilty over my refusal to let it come inside when I had the chance, but Diego was convinced it would return.

And boy, did it ever.

This morning I woke up to find that the kitten had returned, eaten all the turkey and some milk, which it promptly threw up on my porch. Then pooped on my steps for good measure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks-Winning

Today I am grateful for:

A cozy house

An interesting job

An apparently infinite supply of patience for blowhards

Library cards

Pub trivia

Good friends

Good family

Crunchy leaves

Flight vouchers

&

Spencer Pie




What are you grateful for?  PS, Thanksgiving is an awesome holiday, which puts me in a splendid mood -- so don't worry, if you're thankful for Etsy or bejeweled headbands or estate tax reform, I won't judge you for this week and this week only.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pins and needles

Things are rough in Ru Land these days.

1. Have I ever mentioned that my "busy season" is November through March?  No?  Well, it is.  I find myself increasingly overwhelmed with everything I have to do.  And that's all we have to say about that, given my office's strict social networking policies.

2. I'm roughly 10,000 words into my NaNo project.  In case you're wondering, that puts me roughly 15,000 words behind.  No, I'm not giving up yet.  I have every reason to believe that I am capable of writing a boatload this weekend, but I am dreading the thought because sometime last week, I started to hate everything. My plot.  My secondary characters.  Even poor little main character--and she hasn't done anything to me!

For further explanation, refer to point 1.

3. I'm waiting on some maybe-good, most-likely bad news.  And the waiting is putting me in a seriously bad mood.

4. When I'm in a bad mood, I don't really take it out on others.  Mostly I just start talking faster, ordering things on the Internet I can't afford (riding boots, you will soon be mine), and focusing on unrelated projects.  This week's unrelated project: THANKSGIVING! 

(Side note: How wacky is it when your parents get divorced, amiright? 

Don't worry, this isn't going to become the Adult Children of Divorce Chronicles.  Gah, "ACOD."  What a horrid acronym.)

So for obvious reasons, my dad no longer has things like serving dishes, cake platters, salad tongs, and tablecloths, so I've been ordering some online as well as picking out Thanksgiving Day recipes. That is actually really fun, does anyone have any recommendations?  Personally I never saw the point in a gravy boat, but I could be persuaded otherwise.  See above, re: ordering things on the Internet I can't afford.

5. I need some snow tires. Why didn't I buy any back in October, when snow flurries were not an oh-so-guaranteed part of my life? And when I wasn't saving up for a new computer?

Oh beautiful new iMac, our time together has once again been postponed.  I really need to be able to drive around New Denver this winter without creating mass chaos.  Maybe I will get you for my birthday instead of Christmas?

Also, why did I go to H&M this week when I need money in my iMac/snow tires/kitchen remodel fund?  Because in my anxiety I'm substituting financial stability for cozy sweaters, that's why.

PS, how weird is it that I have a healthy retirement fund, no credit card or student loan debt, and a house -- and yet I'm terrible at saving money for a rainy day fund?  Rainy days just happen so often, y'all. And when you look at it that way, THANK GOODNESS for the H&M sweaters, otherwise I'd be soaked and cold on top of broke.

6. On an up-note: The article I wrote last spring was finally published, hurray!  I'd link you to it, but (a) it's lawyerly and you'll most likely find it boring, and (b) it would lead right back to real me, which as previously mentioned is a problem for my future employment.

Anyone else want to share a piece of their own crazy?  Just remember, things get bad for all of us sometimes, but we should count our many blessings: at least we're not pregnant with vampire babies.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The tragedy of high expectations

Do you all ever hear about a really hyped up book, get super stoked to read it, and then find yourself underwhelmed?

("I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever be just 'whelmed'?"/"I think you can in Europe."  NAME THAT MOVIE.)

That happened awhile ago, and thanks to the Blog Rule that you never, ever rip on a book on the blogosphere (unless it's like The Grapes of Wrath or something and Steinbeck is too old, dead, rich, and not on the Internet enough to get his feelings hurt) if you want to someday exchange your mere Writey Pants for a Ballgown or Tuxedo of Author Awesome, I'm not going to say which one.  (Thanks, Paranoia Penguins!)

But, gosh, that book had such promise.  I tore through the first half, completely engrossed, and then somewhere in the middle I started thinking ...

Is this really happening?  

Did ____________  (character name) really just ___________ (action) with ___________ (character name) without so much as ________________  (action) first?  Son of a ______________ (expletive).

I can see the ending coming from a mile away.  Is it really ...?  Yup, it is.


There's going to be a sequel, right?  Because this is a lot of back story.  And I mean A LOT.  We're setting up the sequel here, right?


Why did so many people recommend this to me?  Did they not finish it?


Am I off-base? Am I the only one who thinks this went off the rails at the 2/3 mark?

IF EVERYONE LOVES IT, WHO WILL COMPLAIN ABOUT IT WITH ME??

Am I being too harsh?  I mean, I did absolutely love the beginning.  Am I really moderately satisfied, but just disappointed that the level of awesome was not maintained, and mistaking that feeling for irritation? 


Was the bar just set too high from the get-go?

The problem is, now that I'm looking back on it, a lot of those things don't bother me anymore.  I mostly just remember how awesome the first half was and that, yes I didn't love the ending--but I don't think I actually hated the ending.  I just didn't like it.  And with a book that hyped, I expected total  adoration from cover-to-cover. 

This happens to me all the time with movies, but rarely with a book--probably because books don't get as much hype as movies period, unless their titles kind of sound like Larry Cotter or Shirl with the Wagon Igloo.  (For the record, Shirl also disappointed me.)

Anyone else in the same boat (with a book they may or may not choose to name specifically)?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fun times with iTunes

It's Week 3 of the Dark Young Adult Blogfest: pick a soundtrack for a young adult book as if it were being made into a film.

The book: REMEMBER ME by Christopher Pike.

The synopsis:

When Shari Cooper awoke at home after being at her girlfriend's birthday party, her family acted like she wasn't there. They didn't hear a thing she said. They wouldn't even look at her. Then the call came from the hospital. Her father and brother paled. Her mother started to cry. Shari didn't know what was wrong. Not until she followed them to the hospital. There she found herself lying on a cold slab in the morgue. The police said that it was suicide. 

Shari knew she had been murdered. Making a vow to herself to find her killer, Shari embarks on the strangest of all criminal investigations: one in which she spies on her friends, and even enters their dreams -- where she comes face-to-face with a nightmare from beyond the grave. The Shadow -- a thing more horrible than death itself -- is the key to Shari's death, and the only thing that can stop her murderer from murdering again.

This was one of my favorite books in high school  and I strongly recommend reading it (and skipping the sequels).

So here we go.

Playlist:
"Cameo Lover," Kimbra
(Shari is getting ready for Beth's birthday party, on in the background as she gets ready)

"Paper Planes," MIA / "Pumped Up Kicks," Foster the People
(Beth's birthday party, prior to the seance) 

"Lost Cause," Beck
(Shari accompanies her family to the morgue)

"Jar of Hearts," Christina Perri
(Shari's funeral)

"West Coast," Coconut Records /"The One That Got Away," Katy Perry / "Thunderstruck," ACDC
(When Peter finds Shari at her grave site--flashback to Peter, alive in high school and then killed in the motorcycle accident--Peter explaining that his new ghost calling is to help other ghosts to cross over)

"The Underdog," Spoon
(To be used when Peter is trying to teach Shari about all her new ghost skills when she refuses to cross over until the murder is solved)

"Lost," Coldplay
 (When Shari is spying on Det. Garrett as he is investigating her friends and family and finds out that his daughter is a drug addict)

"Haunted," Taylor Swift
(When Shari decides to spy on her friends and family on her own)

"Moon River"
(When Shari spies on her brother Jimmy's black-and-white dream)

"Sexy and I Know It," LMFAO / "I Like the Way You Move" Body Rockers
(When Shari spies on her boyfriend Dan's dream and realizes he's having a sex fantasy about her and Beth)

"Renegade," Styx
(When Shari spies on Jo's dream and sees Jo as an old fortune teller)

"What Do You Want," Jerrod Niemann
(When Peter asks Shari to give up her investigation and cross over to the other side)

"Amen Omen," Ben Harper
(When the Shadow shows Shari a flashback of her entire life, from her birth to her murder.) 

"I Shall Not Walk Alone," Blind Boys of Alabama
(When Shari convinces her brother Jimmy to forgive her murderer so he can pop the air bubble in his heart/When Shari watches Jimmy get loaded into the ambulance/Peter returns to help Shari) 
 
"Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen / "Faithfully," Journey
(When Peter and Shari transform themselves into a devil and angel to scare Det. Garrett's daughter into giving up drugs to thank him for solving Shari's murder and saving Jimmy)

Now, obviously, there should probably be some instrumental sad/scary music in there.  I mean, I'm not really suggesting that Shari get thrown off a balcony to Foster the People, solve her own murder to a country song, or that the Shadow should chase her to Katy Perry.  But you get the basic drift.

And yes, I know there's some cheesy music on the list, but jeez.  It's already a movie about a seventeen-year-old ghost suspecting her friends of murdering her at a birthday party and covering it up--you need some levity or it will be a total downer.


***
I tend to find blog posts that are nothing but a string of embedded songs fairly annoying, but I also know it's kind of lame to just list some songs, knowing that most of us (me, at least) can't remember what a song sounds like just from it's name even if we do know it.

So here's some videos.

Kimbra:


MIA:


Foster the People:


Beck:


Christina Perri:


Coconut Records:


Katy Perry:


ACDC:


Spoon:


Taylor Swift (not the official video, of course, since there were a million teen girl posted ones that I didn't want to sort through):


Coldplay:


Moon River, Louis Armstrong version:


LMFAO:


Body Rockers (with some seriously terrible video quality):


Styx:


Jarrod Niemann:


Ben Harper:


Blind Boys of Alabama (shockingly, they don't seem to have an official music video. Please enjoy this awkward mash-up of images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tiananmen Square):

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why mean trumps stupid - every time

A professor in law school once told us, "Ideally, you're only going to have cases where the opposing counsel is competent, reasonable, and accommodating, but when you don't, hope for vindictive over crazy and crazy over stupid. Stupid is the worst."

At the time, that seemed a little counter-intuitive. Wouldn't it be better to go up against someone dumb and slam dunk your case against them?

You might think so, until you've spent a little time in the lawyer trenches.  And then the rationale behind the formula

vindictive > crazy > stupid

becomes very clear.

A petty lawyer might at least be smart, and you can argue against smart.  More importantly, vindictiveness implies a measure of self-interestedness.  No matter how mean someone is, if you can show someone where their own best interest lies, you can negotiate with them.

A crazy lawyer will eventually reveal him or herself to be crazy.  More importantly, crazy can eventually be manipulated in turn because everyone wants something. 

But stupid is hard to nail down.

Any lawyer who opens a brief and thinks, "This? What is this? How do I argue against this?  Can I just write, 'Seriously?' in response?" knows what I'm talking about. My old professor was absolutely right.

Take The Walking Dead for example.*  If you've been watching it on AMC, you will probably be familiar with the following faces.



On the top you have Andrea, who is college-educated and depressed about the death of her sister.  On the bottom you have Merle, who is a hot-tempered racist drug addict and probably not completely right in the head.

And yet, anyone who is watching this show knows that as distasteful as he may be, Merle is the lesser of these two evils when it comes to Zombie Apocalypse.  Because Andrea may be moral and gutsy, and Merle a psychopath, but Andrea is dumb as a box of rocks.

Would Merle have insisted on wasting an arrow to mercy kill a zombie? No. Would Merle be alienating all his allies in the camp? No. Would Merle have shot at someone from a distance without knowing whether that someone was a zombie or a human? No.

But Andrea would.  Because you can't argue with fundamentally stupid. 

Five different people warned Andrea not to fire in the most recent episode of The Walking Dead, but she thought she knew better than them and did it anyway.

A smarter person would have thought, "Hey, some of our people are still out in the woods, I should wait and be sure" or, "All the guys are running up to him/it anyway, I shouldn't waste our finite bullet supply," or "Experience in Zombie Apocalypse has taught me that loud noises attract more zombies, perhaps a baseball bat attack would be preferable in this situation," or "Aren't four of my friends currently in the line of fire, and hasn't there already been one near-fatality because someone pulled a trigger without checking to see if the field is clear, and damnit, didn't I just learn to shoot YESTERDAY?"

But Andrea thought none of those things, and nearly killed the most valuable member of the camp. 

I'm not saying that one would want crazy, violent, racist Merle Dixon on your team. But I am saying he'd be easier to deal with than Andrea. Because even Merle would not have pulled that trigger.

Do you have any examples in film, TV or literature of a dumb character ultimately being a worse antagonist than a clever, evil one?




* Uh, yeah I fixate on particular books, movies, and TV shows for weeks at a time, why do you ask?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Conversation: Blasphemy Edition

I went to breakfast awhile back with Diego and Echo in honor of getting the day off work (hurray!).  For some reason, the crucifixion came up.

Echo: And, you know, the crucifixion was obviously the worst part of His life.

Diego: Really? You think so? 

Ru: What if He had a really bad breakup that's not mentioned in The Bible?

Diego: What if Mary Magdalene gave Him the old, "You're sooo nice. Too nice, really" and hooked up with Judas?

Echo: You guys suck.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tricky tricky

One of the many problems with home ownership is that a lot of people set out to screw you over, either deliberately or through their own negligence.

When I bought the Casa, my real estate agent recommended that we ask the sellers to include this Magical Insurance in their closing costs -- that way, if any major appliance or utility breaks down in the first year of home ownership, I can get it repaired or replaced for $60.

Well, a little while back my furnace stopped working.  The effort I went to in attempting "self help" shall not be recounted here -- way too long. 

The short story goes like this -- after awhile, I called my sorority sister Chrissy, who has a brother who does HVAC and recently located to New Denver.  Chrissy's bro spent a couple hours cleaning my furnace before letting me know that without the rest of his HVAC guy equipment, there was no more he could do.

But he told me to call my Magical Insurance provider and have them come out and fix it for a $60 fee -- and he told me there were two things that needed to be fixed and/or replaced.  But whatever I did, I wasn't supposed to tell the insurance company I already had an HVAC guy come out to look at it because they might try to invalidate my insurance.

So here's how the conversation went.

Insurance HVAC guy: Yup, looks like there isn't anything wrong.

Me: Oh ... really?  Because it turns on for a little while, and then turns off before it ever gets up to the right temperature.

Insurance HVAC guy: Are you sure?  It looks like it's going pretty well.  (At this point, he had been looking at it for roughly one minute.)

Me: Um, yeah, pretty sure. 

Insurance HVAC guy: Well, everything looks fine.

Me: Really?  There's not something wrong with that blower-motor thingy?

Him: Hmm.  I guess it is a bit dirty.  I could clean it, if you want.

Me: That would be super.  (And for $60, kind of the least you could do.)

Twenty minutes and a giant pile of dirt and cat hair later ...

Him: Wow, that was really dirty.  Well, everything should be in tip-top condition now.

Me: Oh.  So everything else is fine?  It's all clean and ... that temperature gauge isn't broken?  Because ... I googled it.

Him: (getting suspicious)



It's a fun game we played.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good thing I work well under pressure ...

NaNo Update?

Not doing well.

I'm not giving up, but I am becoming more and more concerned about my lack of forward momentum. 

Luckily for me, I'm still the girl who wrote a 10 page paper on genetic drift theory in an afternoon!  When things get down to the wire, I get geniusy.

(I hope, anyway.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

thoughts on dog surgery

1. When I got Spence home, I thought about taking a picture of his undercarriage so I'd be able to compare levels of swelling and redness from day-to-day. But I have a work phone, and I don't want anyone to ever ask me why I have a picture of cauterized dog balls on it.

2. I kind of thought the Elizabethan collar would be cute.  It's not.  It's kind of mean and pathetic.

3. I suspect that Spence will someday forgive me for this -- in heaven.  I picture us up there on the clouds, him bounding around some giant column, and there will be lots of snuggling time.  And then he'll tell me, "You know that was a dick move, right? I mean, we're in heaven and now I'm over it, but I feel like it needs to be said."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nice moves there, Clint Eastwood

Last night around 2 AM, I woke up to the sounds of a woman screaming.

I sat up in bed, panicked and confused.  The screams sounded like they had maybe come from the basement ... or possibly outside.  And really, those two are very different places.

For a second, I was frozen, but then I was spurred to action when I heard a creaky floorboard and had an amorphous thought along the lines of, "What would Daryl Dixon do?"  I know that's a nerdy admission, but seriously.  How am I supposed to believe that I could survive zombie apocalypse if I can't even search my own perimeter?

I grabbed my cell phone to light my way as I investigated my house and potentially call 911.  Actually, mostly the 911 thing. I'll be honest, I actually did the pause-with-your-hand-hovering-over-the-doorknob thing while I tried to listen for the sounds of footsteps out in the hall.

(Memo to self: Bring baseball bat in from car trunk.)

I checked to make sure the doors were locked and the windows were secure.  They were.

I peeked outside to the street to make sure an assault wasn't going on in my sleepy little neighborhood.  Nope.

Then I checked my room, to make sure that the murder hadn't slipped past me in the dark to hide in my closet, which is what I would if I were murderously inclined.  But there were only my clothes and shoes.

I started to feel foolish and wonder if I'd dreamed everything up.

And then I remembered what the screams had sounded like -- shockingly realistic -- and wondered if I should grab Spence and lock myself in the bathroom (which, memo to future murderers, is the only room on the first floor of my house that locks).

I thought about waking Diego and Hannah to help me search, and then realized if I did, I would no longer be heroic Zombie Fighter, but the Shrill Stupid Female who mistakes a neighbor's cat for an intruder.

So I decided I must have just had a really vivid dream, given that I couldn't find evidence of any ne'er-do-welling, and got back in bed. After, of course, letting Spence out of his cage to sleep in my bed so his finely tuned canine senses could alert me to any intruders, and briefly picturing the Rubber Man from American Horror Story watching me from a shadowy corner when he refused to lie down and stared at the door all night.

(I officially watch too much TV.)

...

...

...


And then this morning, as I puttered around the kitchen making breakfast for myself and Spence, Hannah came up to start the coffee maker and announced, "I had a night terror last night."

I stopped pouring yogurt over my cereal.  "A what?"

"You know, a night terror.  A nightmare so bad you wake up screaming.  I get them from time-to-time."

My jaw dropped.  "I knew it!  I heard screaming so I searched the house to investigate but I couldn't find anything!"

Hannah laughed, embarrassed.  "Oh yeah, sorry dude.  That was me.  I've done it a few times before.  Awkward that it was loud enough to wake you up, though."

The very best part of this story?

According to Hannah, after she sat up in bed screaming, Charlie looked over at her from his dog crate, huffed a little, and laid back down.

So in the event any of us are really being murdered, our first and last line of defense is apparently me with a bat -- because the pit bull is so over it.

SOUP!

I'm not much of a cook, so when things turn out right, I have to share.  If you're looking for some tasty, probably unhealthy, fairly easy to prepare sustenance in these chilly autumn months, let me recommend the following BEER CHEESE SOUP!  Mmmmmm.  I made it for the dad and bros and they loved it.

Well, my dad and I loved it.  The brothers grunted, which I interpreted as love.

(Now, if only I had some really arty pictures so someone would Pinterest the shenanigans out of my blog ...


Just kidding.)

I got this recipe online and then tweaked it a little (due to some previous mishaps with soup, and also some failure on my part to plan ahead for the correct ingredients).  Here's the altered version, since that's what I made, with instructions:

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (And perhaps some more, depending on your preference -- I threw in some more Franks Red Hot at the end.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • a dash of black pepper (In my book, a "dash" is three cranks on the pepper shaker.)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bottle of beer (I used Diego's last Corona -- sorry Diego -- but I think any beer should do.)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 6 heaping cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (WARNING: Do not buy pre-shredded cheese. Buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself. Pre-shedded cheese is usually coated with something so it won't clump together in the bag, which means getting it to melt into the soup is a nightmare.)
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
Directions:
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together chopped carrots, onion, celery, and garlic. Pour in chicken broth and beer, add  hot pepper sauce, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Simmer until vegetables are tender but still a little crunchy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Heat butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Stir in flour with a wire whisk for about 3 or 4 minutes. Gradually stir in milk, whisking to prevent scorching, until thickened. (Mine never looked all that thick, but I think that's OK.) 
  3. Turn heat down to low and gradually stir in shredded cheese.  Stir until all the cheese is melted into the milk mixture.
  4. Stir veggie mixture into cheese mixture. Stir in spicy brown mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and dry mustard. Adjust for hot pepper sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Serves 8. Buy some bread bowls if you feel all fancypants, which I did.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The creeper has been creeped out

Here's an embarrassing confession: Sometimes I decide that I would be friends with someone before I've ever met them. Knowing that it is extremely unlikely I will ever meet them.

For the sake of clarity, I'll just admit that I've got one person in mind as I make this weird revelation, and yes, this person is kinda-sorta a celebrity.  Which, yes, I know makes me a major weirdo.

(Does it help knowing that even if I told you who this person was, you would most likely not recognize her name and be forced to google for her identity, which is seriously like K-list it's so low?  I'd like to think it would.

Of course, I would then lose all the ground I had just gained by promptly admitting that I'd like to marry this person's brother, since then we'd be sisters-in-law.  CREEPY.)

Anyway, this person popped back in my radar recently in the most random way imaginable, and of course I took the opportunity to wonder if she (or her ridiculously attractive brother) were on Facebook.  And like everyone else on the planet, THEY WERE.

And that's when I found out she has a little pup.

And that pup is a SPENCER CLONE.

Seriously.  I stared at a few pictures of this girl (who I'm sure I'd be friends with if we were to ever meet) and her dog, which looks like a skinnier version of my dog.  Down to the freckles.

I gotta be honest ... part of me wondered if in an alternate universe, she secretly thinks I would be friends with her.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Warm Fuzzies and NaNo updates

For week 2 of the Warm Fuzzies blogfest, we're sharing some pictures and songs that go along with our current WIP.

Since mine is currently a mishmash of ideas, this challenge is a bit of a toughie,  but I'll give it my best shot.




And a NaNoWriMo update ...

My name is FakeNameJane if you want to "friend" me or whatever, I'd like to know what everyone's up to.  My story genre is young adult contemporary, but it sadly won't include any country-rapping (despite any ideas that video may have given you).  And while I'm normally not an outliner, I am giving that a shot for the first time ever since I think it will be fun to try to do things in a new way.  (Ahem, "fun.")

Last but not least - I haven't entirely figured out the word count widget on the NaNoWriMo page, but see that little blue bar down there?  Waaaaay down there and over on the right side of your screen?  That one will hopefully be pretty accurate at all times this month.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

the fabulous world of online dating

Tell me if any variation of the following sounds familiar:

I like to stay in shape and have a lot of respect for people that also have the discipline to make that a priority in their lives.

Because I see it constantly on guys' profiles out in online dating world. 

Tell me if you think it would be ok for me to write the following:

"I like to make a lot of money and I have a lot of respect for people that also have the discipline to make the dolla-dolla bills a priority in their lives." 

Probably not, am I right?

Gentlemen, just a few thoughts.


1. If you want to write "No fatties," just write "no fatties."  You're not sounding less shallow because you fancied it up; in fact, you kind of sound worse.  Refer to Point 2 for an explanation.

2. A "priority"?  Seriously, a priority?  When I think of my "priorities," they include family, friends, Spence, my job, keeping up my house, saving money, reading, writing, traveling, volunteer work, cultural experiences ... the list goes on.  Nowhere on that list will you find GOING TO THE GYM.  But neither will you find NAPPING or WASHING MY HAIR or IRONING or OIL CHANGES.  Why?  

Because those things aren't priorities for anyone normal--they are things you just do.  If you're confused about this, please google the word "priority."  Or go watch Keeping the Faith and focus on the scene where Ben Stiller and Edward Norton explain that "jogging is not a skill."


I could go on and on about other funny things I've seen on profiles (like the guy with immaculately sculpted facial hair who declared he was looking for a woman who was "exceptionally intelligent and physically stunning" -- enough said), but I should probably work on this "NaNoWriMo" thing I signed up for.


Because I start a lot of projects and I have a lot of respect for people who have the discipline to make starting projects a priority in their lives.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Stuck in Neutral"

As part of the Dark YA Blogfest, I am recommending all of you run out and get a copy of Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman.

Why? Charming main character, check. Terrifying conflict, check.

Shawn McDaniel suffers from a severe form of cerebral palsy.  He can't speak or control any of his muscles, but despite that, he has a fully functioning brain and is aware of the world around him.  He loves his siblings and parents, even though he can't hug them or let them know he understands them. He suffers from seizures that look terrifyingly painful, but to Shawn are actually kind of like being high. So even though his life is extremely limited, he enjoys it.

But when he's fourteen years old, Shawn begins to suspect that his father is thinking of mercy-killing him.

Go. Read it. You won't regret it..

A day late and a dollar short

As usual,  I've come up with my best ideas for Halloween costumes on November 1st. But these I think are pure gold.

Now, part of my paranoid brain worries that some of you out there might steal them 363 days from now, but so long as (1) you acknowledge that witty girl on the Internet who gave you the idea and (2) none of us go to the same parties next year, I don't mind one little bit.  Enjoy!

Napoleon Blownapart
(due credit to Diego)

Take a regular Napoleon costume -- rip out one side, insert fake guts.

Genghis Khanman

Take regular Genghis Khan costume -- add cheesy plaid sports coat and pornstache.

Mary Queen of Skanks
(due credit to Diego) 
It's going to take some doing to make sure you're not lumped in with the "slutty princess" crowd.  Therefore, you need as an authentic-as-possible Mary Queen of Scots costume BEFORE you slut-it-up.

Felon of Troy
This requires more sewing - get white-and-black stripe (or bright orange) fabric, make a Grecian gown. Add handcuffs for full effect. 

George Washington Redskins Fan
Add Redskins jersey and foam finger. At this point, isn't it getting a bit self-explanatory?


Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

reevaluating childhood memories

Last night was Halloween, as you all know, and my first as a "grown up."

See, I don't think you experience adult Halloween until you're the person giving away your own candy.  And I have to say ... it didn't go well.

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work only to find the shelves stripped bare.  I clutched the remaining six bags I could find (two packages of Laffy Taffy, one package each of Butterfingers, Reeses, Baby Ruths, and tropical Starburst.  And not the Starbursts that come two-to-an-individualized wrapper.  Regular Starburst.  I was desperate.) 

Of course, this grossly underestimated the amount of children my house would receive, and around 7:45, I found myself running to a different grocery store to replenish my stash.  (And this was after dumping a box of granola bars and Fruit Roll Ups I found in our cupboards into the bowl.)

This grocery store wasn't much better off, but I got two bag of Crunch bars, a fistful of Airheads, and ... wait for it ...

A bag each of York Peppermint Patties and Werther's Originals. 

Old lady candy. 

Suddenly I find myself very sympathetic to those jerks who handed me a single tiny Tootsie roll as a child. Literally, at one point I considered, "Should I start handing out warm cans of Diet Coke?"

So all around, a very illuminating Halloween.

PS, the best costume I saw?  Four-year-old girl as Steve Jobs.  Black turtleneck, round glasses, and an iPhone was all it took.

Tune back in tomorrow for Round Two of Halloween Wrap Up ... ALL THE COSTUMES I SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF LAST WEEK!