Thursday, December 27, 2007

Star Power

I really only allow myself to read gossip magazines in two places: the hair salon, and the airport. But the internet spews the same information at me constantly. My room mate introduced me to Perez Hilton several months ago, and I'm guilty of checking his website about once every two weeks. Sorry Perez, but you bring my faith in humanity way down.

This man is famous for drawing fake coke and cum on photos of celebrities who may or may not be down on their luck. Regular parts of his vocabulary are "fugly," "pAArty," "hot mess," and "hag," not to mention his juvenile, dirogetory nicknames for his favorite celebs (i.e. Mischa Barton = Mushy Fartone and Britney = Unfitney). Hilton's escapades have moved from his blog to YouTube (his channel is mostly him going over his own personal life and dancing for the camera), a show on VH1, and, apparently, guest appearances on various other media outlets. At least Paris Hilton is famous for being famous, not bringing her peers down. I don't think I could live with myself if I centered my life around the downfalls of others.

So apparently Britney Spears is so addicted to fame that she goes looking for paparazzi. I wonder if she would have dug such a hole for herself if Perez and his colleagues hadn't given her the shovel.

At this point Perez can make or break a new artist by mentioning him on his website. This is a power to lift up, so I can't comprehend why he instead chooses to — with such unwavering joy! — make one destructive post after another.

Yeah, I read it. But I find that, generally, tales of celebrities' personal problems just make me disillusioned at best. I did, however, find this satirical celebrity gossip blog, that doesn't have the same attitude problem as Perez. Should I feel the need to feed the celeb goss cravings, I feel a little less guilty there than at perezhilton.com.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the Season

I have a problem. As my readers know, I'm a bakeaholic. I spend a lot of time concocting in my kitchen. You would think I knew how to use a potholder.

The sad truth is, a few times a month I get a little buzzed from all the culinary excitement, and, woops, grab a hot plate/pie tin/baking sheet from the oven, promptly giving myself second-degree burns. Tonight marks the worst yet:


That is, thankfully, my left hand, after using my right hand to pull a batch of cookies out of the oven with a dish towel and, upon the cookie sheet being too hot, and coming in for the save with a whole lot o' nothing protecting Leftie. Poor Leftie.

Since then (about an hour ago) I've taken 3 Excedrin (no sleep for me tonight, hence this blog) and been running my hand under freezing cold water. I've also been alternately clutching a paper towel filled with ice and splaying my hand so that the skin stretches a bit (the internets says that if you don't stretch the burned skin it could heal too tightly, thus making your life extra miserable forever). Most of this post was typed with one hand.

Incidentally, the cookies I pulled out of the oven were burned, too. First time testing a new recipe. I put them in a tupperware for my room mate with the following note:

CARRIE - THESE BURNED COOKIES TRIED TO TAKE MY HAND. PLEASE EAT THEM. THANKS. -EMILY. (DETAILS IN MY BLOG)

Hi, Carrie.

Don't worry, folks. I give Carrie plenty of non-burned cookies, too. She ate half the sugar cookies I made in November, and was shocked and disgusted to learn tonight that they have Crisco in them. Oh yes, I do love my Crisco. All my old family recipes have them. Holiday treats shouldn't be healthy anyway.

In any case, I'm calling my new recipe "Burn Unit Special Xmas PB Cookies." They're basically peanut butter cookies, with a little candy twist: Hershey's candy cane kisses. Yes, friends, peanut butter and peppermint work shockingly well together. I would normally use my mum's recipe, but her's calls for, well, Crisco. I had to invent this one. Get out your sprinkles:

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter (softened)
2/3 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar (packed)
1 large egg
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
colored sugar sprinkles
1 bag of Hershey's candy cane kisses

Preheat oven to 375 F

Mix together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer or a quick hand, blend butter and peanut butter, then add the sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. When the mixture is smooth, slowly add flour. Pinch off teaspoon-sized sections of dough and roll into balls (dough will be soft, don't over-handle). Dip into colored sugars and place on cookie sheet about an inch to two inches apart. Squish a kiss into each ball of dough and place in the oven. Bake 9-12 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Transfer to rack to cool.


And, folks, please remember kitchen safety. Pot holders can save your hands from a shit load of pain. I promise.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Obligatory Christmas Gift Post

Believe it or not, I'm literate. I spend a lot of time reading pop novels, because that's what I like to read. I'd like to think that one day I'll battle through Ulysses, or even engage some of the Hemingway tomes I've bought for my boyfriend. I have books by Virginia Woolf and fully intend on reading them. It should be noted here that one of the reasons I have yet to read Mrs. Dalloway is that my emotionally unstable siamese peed on it (along with Microserfs by Douglas Coupland and Averno by Louise Gl├╝ck) when I left it out on the kitchen counter, which is, apparently, her new favorite place to assert her authority. The truth, however, is I probably wouldn't have read it yet anyway. Though, it may be noted, that I have a ton of books by decorated poets. And I've read most of them.

The point is, I think, that pop novels make for great holiday gifts. I've read all of these books, and thusly can give my stamp of approval. I'm even gifting some this year (I feel safe saying this because my giftees either have an aversion to internets or to blogs). And, as tacky as it is, Happy Holidays to all two of you who read this blog. And a happy new year, or whatever.
( And, yes, I'm aware that I'm a bit late for Hanukkah, but that never stops the cashiers at Macy's from saying "Happy Holidays." I recommend avoiding that place right now, it's a zoo. A zoo filled with steroid-enhanced wildlife that may or may not have recently snorted cocaine.)


A Tale of Two Sisters by Anna Maxted
I read this one last year, picked it up because it's by one of the only chick lit authors I enjoy, Anna Maxted. But it surprised me. This is as much a warm, heartfelt book about taking responsibility for one's own place in life as it is a punchy comedy. The story takes turns between the perspectives of two sisters, Lizbet and Cassie, as they struggle through their relationships (Lizbet is single but committed, whereas Cassie is married but questioning her vows), their jobs (editor and lawyer, respectively), and their feelings for eachother just as a surprise, followed by a tragedy, hit the family. Perhaps it sounds a bit cliche, but trust me when I say that this is Maxted's best book, rife with wit and cynicism, and a great gift for any woman in the family.

The Seas by Samantha Hunt
What I love most about this book is its insane romanticism. Let me pause. It's not insane because it's romantic, it's romantic because it's insane. Or is it? The narrator has a special idealism in the face of imminent tragedy, and is convinced of certain paranormal experiences - most prominently she believes she's a mermaid - that really define the ebb and flow of the story. She is engaged a doomed love affair with a much older Gulf War vet, and lives in a small ship-building town, that, despite giving no specific geographical location, reminds me of northern Maine. It's the spirit of this book that has caused me to already gift it twice.

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
It's not really about religion. Its characters, in various states of spiritual decomposition, don't have a platform on Christianity. In the wake of a high school tragedy, the four narrators of this story are all determined to move forward. Some get there faster than others, and, like you might expect from Coupland, each character's progress is interwoven with the others'. Like most of Coupland's work, this novel leaves both an apocalyptic and a hopeful aftertaste.

Songbook by Nick Hornby
This was actually given to me a few years ago, by my childhood best friend. It's nonfiction - part memoir, part music journalism, with Hornby's musings on his 32 favorite songs. This makes a perfect gift for a music-lover - the friend who has a story for each of his favorite songs. You know, the "Oh the first time I heard this I was driving down Congress Street with Joe..." friend. It's also a quick read, so it's not like you'd be burdening him with the chore of reading War and Peace. Unless, you know, he's into that sort of thing.

Cockatiels for Two by Leo Cullum
Leo Cullum is among my favorite New Yorker cartoonists. And cat cartoons never cease to be funny. This book, comprised entirely of his cat cartoons, is a no-miss gift. Unless your recipient is a dog person. For him, there is Cullum's book of dog cartoons. But that one doesn't interest me nearly as much.


Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
For lovers of fixed-verse poetry and cat fanatics alike, children and adults, this Eliot classic is a pleaser. I mean, who wouldn't love a poem about Jennyanydots, or Macavity the Mystery Cat? These poems are entertaining and nostalgic, and most fun read aloud!

Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates
A coworker recommended this book to me as she said it reminded her of having gone to college in a rural, eastern location, much like I did. It takes place at an all-girls college in New England, where one girl's obsession with a professor of literature, and, in turn, his wife the art teacher, quickly becomes unhealthy. While dark, Beasts is a compelling read that draws a narrow line between art and self.

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
When I initially purchased this book from half.com, I suspected that it might be a young adult novel. The cover art, I suppose gives it away. I mostly didn't care, as a) Joyce Carol Oates is awesome and b) I like kids' books. What surprised me was the careful, strong narrative Oates crafted using two teenage misfits as protagonists, and, in the aftermath of so many school shootings and bomb threats in the 90's and 00's, the way she tackles such an incident without gimmick or glamor. This is the sort of smart, funny novel that teenagers should be reading, and that adults can certainly get a kick out of, too.

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
This was the first Murakami book I read. I know, he's a huge buzz name right now, but hear me out. Your contemporary-literature-loving friend probably doesn't have this one. It's not one of Murakami's more well-known novels, but perhaps it should be. I admit, I chose it not on its merit, but on the fact that it was the shortest of the Murakami novels that were on sale at the Strand. I don't regret this. It mostly takes place on a remote island off the coast of Greece, in search of a woman who has disappeared, seemingly, without a trace. While Murakami is, arguably, hard to read, once you discover the elaborate mystery and romance of this novel, it's difficult to put down. I, for one, missed my stop on the train at least once while reading it.

Latin for Even More Occasions by Henry Beard
Okay, this was geek-love-at-first-sight. Henry Beard may not be a creative genius, but I can't say I haven't enjoyed this book a little too much. And I'm certain that anyone with an interest in Latin, language, or Greco-Roman studies will get a kick out of this. This is especially useful for the holidays: Cogito sumere potum alterum.

Slam by Nick Hornby
I haven't finished reading this yet, so I can't give you an absolutely definitive opinion. But, I can tell you that Nick Hornby's first young adult novel is a hoot. It takes on both heavy and light-hearted subjects with the sort of narrative voice that I have enjoyed In every other Hornby novel that I've read through the eyes of Sam. Sam is a 16-year-old skater (not an ice-skater, mind you, a skateboarder) living in London. He has girl trouble. And there's very little not to enjoy about his story.

Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland
Another Coupland novel that I devoured this past year, Miss Wyoming is as delightful as it is frightening. Frightening in the sense that, yes, this is the human condition. It skips about in time, narrating both the history and current affairs of a former teen pageant queen and a washed up movie star. Susan Colgate has survived a plane crash followed by a year-long disappearance, John Johnson has survived a drug overdose followed by months of self-prescribed homelessness. They both have survived, as you can imagine, some extremely odd family dynamics. As the story switches perspectives and carves out each surprise, you find yourself putting faith in the aforementioned human condition, and the odd little mission that this pair ultimately have set out to achieve.

There you have it. Happy shopping (read: may you not venture into any malls or department stores). And, if you're wondering what to get me, here's my very own Amazon wish list. I like presents.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Happy Accidents

These cookies are entirely a misunderstanding. My dear friend Amelia, who is, sadly, at current, trapped in a small town in Texas without internets, texted me a few weeks ago to tell me that she and her daughter had been baking up a storm. "I made chocolate chookies with peanut butter chips and Andes mints!" she said. I texted her back, "You're a genius! Mint and peanut butter together!" Well, Amelia hadn't put both in the same cookies — she'd made two batches, one with peanut butter chips and one with Andes. But, upon testing a bite of each together, she texted me with, "Wow, this is genius, salty and also fresh. Great combo."

Well, I think that's how the texts went. My cell-phone automatically deletes things after a while. But I have a pretty good memory.

So, today, I rustled through my baking cupboard and pulled out the ingredients necessary for this happy accident. Said ingredients are as follows:

2 C flour
3/4 C white sugar
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C cocoa powder
1 C peanut butter chips
1 C mini chocolate chips
1 package chopped Andes mints
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. With an electric mixer cream the butter (softened) and the two sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Slowy add dry ingredients and mix well. Drop by teaspoon-fulls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-12 minutes.

Monday, December 3, 2007

And Then There Were Five

It's official: I'm off to Texas.

If you'd asked me a year ago if I were ever going to move to one of the redneckiest states in the nation, I would have given you the evil eye. However, after having visited the lovely city of Austin, its suburbs, and also having roadtripped to San Antonio, I'm making one of the craziest moves of my life. I blame my boyfriend, Mark, who has enticed me to join him there. Despite my lovely Brooklyn, and all the seductions of the city that never sleeps, he didn't want to come here. And, well, my roots are barely planted, so as a writer, why not wander?

After the initial shock of friends and family wears off, they've been asking a lot of questions. How will you get there? Are you living together? Are you living TOGETHER together? How will you get around? What about your job? And, finally: What about your cats?

As you all know, I have two special cats. On the left, Telemachus, my 16lb+ Maine Coon with a heart of gold and the will to snuggle. On the right, Mocha, the small but plump (about 10lbs, where she should be 6 or 7) Siamese that was abandoned by several owners before finding her way to me and peeing on my carpets and kitchen counter. More on that later. These animals are family and of course are making the trip with me to the Lone Star State. Most likely by plane. Because of Mocha's nervous habit of urinating-at-will, the plane ride is a huge concern. I brought her to the vet on Saturday to find out that, well, she needs kitty Prozac.

I shit you not, the vet gave her antibiotics in case of an infection, but assured me that her pee problems are most likely the result of anxiety. Given her abandonment issues and past on the harsh streets of the Boston 'burbs, I can't say I blame the poor girl. But cat Prozac? I thought this was the sort of thing that only ridiculous celebrities and crazy show dog breeders would recommend, not a nice, friendly neighborhood veterinarian. Mocha has run up a nice list of veterinary bills for me already - her former owner ditched her with me when she moved out of my current apartment. At the time Mocha had ear mites which lead to her scratching her ear so hard she gave herself a hematoma that required surgery. She also needed to be dewormed and demited.

So why, after all this, are Mark and I adopting another cat? No, wait for it:

a three-legged calico kitten whom Mark has insisted upon naming Imogen Beatrice SQL Fleeterson should the adoption papers go through. Yes, this is our soon-to-be-lovespawn.

She's precious! Just look at that face! She apparently suffered some nerve damage to one of her front legs before she was rescued from the streets of Austin and had to have that leg amputated.

I'm a veterinarian's dream.

So, in Austin, I will have three cats, a new house, and a new job. Which, of course, all ties into this post. I want to be a veterinarian. Sort of.

Whenever I take the cats to the vet I wish I'd had the brains to stick to biology and the stomach to do veterinary school. I know I couldn't handle a lot of the things vets do - invasive surgeries, euthanasia, etc. But, why not get a job at a veterinary office? Yes, right now I have a fairly successful publishing career under way. I am looking at a ton of publishing venues from University presses to Austin-based magazines. But if the price is right, so is a change of pace. And, hey, I bet I'd get a good deal on veterinary services for the animals, seeing as I have several sickies to take care of.

Given the fact that I have no experience in animal clinics or shelters, this is just another pipe dream. But, I can volunteer. With any luck Mark will keep me from bringing home every stray animal I encounter, and I can help some orphan cats and pups stay healthy and happy. And, with that in mind, I have two hungry cats waiting for me to finish this up so I can cuddle and feed them. Cat Lady Out.