That time a celebrity friended me on Facebook

Several years ago, a celebrity friended me on Facebook. I’m not saying who. In fact you probably won’t recognize his name if you scroll through my contacts, but, for some reason,after I wrote an article about someone he’d worked with, he started following me on Twitter. Then sent me a Facebook friend request. Then, I think, we forgot about each other.

Every once in a while, though, he posts something, and it is always so inconsistent with the other posts I see regularly that it shocks me out of my Facebook daze. It’ll be Throwback Thursday, and I’ll be looking at photos of my friends’ proms, and all of a sudden I’ll see a wedding picture from the ’90s with an Oscar nominee as one of the groomsmen. I will be reading someone’s rant about whatever is going on in the world to day, and then I’ll scroll down to find details about a new project this guy is working on with my high school self’s favorite band. And the front man of that band will have left comments on the status. It’s all a little surreal.

I don’t know if this guy realizes it, but his posts were a godsend last year, when I was home, dazed by the first year of motherhood, no sleep, worried about bills, fighting postpartum depression, upset about my physical appearance and sad about moving. Every time he posted a status, I got a little snapshot of a world much more exciting than mine was at the time. I don’t think it’s world I’d like to live in, but it made me feel better to see it, maybe because even as I was changing diapers and dealing with colic, and not writing nearly enough, I felt like I was a part of his world, just a little. It was like a little glitter from his glamorous world drifted out of the computer and onto me.  And also, seeing celebrity faces in my Facebook feed, right next to photos of a friend’s cat, jolted me out of my depression for a few minutes.

I know we’re told as kids that we shouldn’t strive to be cool, and that we should just be ourselves, but I didn’t want to be myself at that point, and dammit if his posts didn’t make me feel cool. And for whatever small reason, that helped me. Thank you, Hollywood celebrity guy, for friending me. You make my Facebook feed a fancier place, and you made a very hard year a little bit easier.

DinoLand news and even bigger news.

Just a brief post to tell you that the second chapter of DinoLand goes live at Geek Eccentric tomorrow. (Update: Click here to read it.)

Quite frankly, I’m proud as can be to be posting the chapter as scheduled, especially because of my second piece of news: On Tuesday, my husband and I became parents to T.W., a little boy.

We know next to nothing about babies, so there’s been a big learning curve here. Fortunately, the baby knows nothing about human society, so for all he knows, we’re doing everything right. And bonus: he speaks no English, so he doesn’t understand us when we say things like “He’s been quiet for a long time. Is he still breathing?” or “Oh no. I just realized the last time I changed a diaper was in 1994.”

Not that I mind any of this.
As terrified as I’ve been of motherhood my whole life (and that terror is not entirely gone), T.W. is the most excellent, most natural addition to our household. I’m just really happy he’s here.

Mommy's little writers block.

Mommy’s little writer’s block.



How to make the best thing in the world: An avocado milkshake

avocado milkshake

This is my favorite thing ever, and I will show you how to make one.

I discovered avocado milkshakes back when I was living and working in Boston, when I first began to come up with the idea for Beware the Hawk. As you might guess from the book, I spent a lot of time in Boston’s Chinatown; I walked through it every day to get to work and to get home, it was right near the bus station, so whenever I went out of town, I came through Chinatown, and then there was my lunch half-hour, and where better to spend it than in the warren of restaurants up the street.

My favorite restaurant wasn’t actually a restaurant at all. It was a food court. I don’t mean a food court like you get in a mall. Rather it was this hot, greasy, second-story room with a lot of vendors and a couple of cafeteria tables crammed into it; I’d have never even known it was there if a friend hadn’t taken it upon himself to bring me up there. It wasn’t a good idea to look too closely at the floors or the tables, but the food was incredible. And even better was a tiny juice bar wedged into a corner of the room. They sold bubble tea, of course, but they also had this watermelon juice that tasted, as my friend put it, “like summer in a glass.” But then there was this other concoction; the avocado milkshake.

I made a face the first time I saw the light green drink.

“Just try it,” said the friend I was with, another recent Chinatown food court convert. I did, and then I abandoned the Watermelon juice for good. The delicate, creamy flavor was unlike anything I’d ever tried. It was the perfect, subtle mix of sweet and savory. For the year I worked in Boston, I ordered an avocado milkshake on every single hot day. But then I got a job in another state and never found an avocado milkshake again. And then the Chinatown food court closed and I despaired. I had my last avocado milkshake in 2001. Until last week, when the weather heated up and I discovered that we had half an avocado in the fridge.

Now it wasn’t that I didn’t try to make these shakes until now. Before I left Boston, I watched the juice man make my drink carefully. I tried to see what he was putting in the blender. I asked him but either he did not speak enough English to tell me, or he wasn’t interested in sharing. And then, when I was living in a city with no avocado milkshakes and a hot day rolled around, I tried to make one. I kept trying, sporadically, for 12 years. I ruined countless avocados and at least one blender.

But now? This is my summer drink. This is what I will make when I take a break from writing during the hot months. It’s back in my life, and I’m not letting it go.

So how do you make an avocado milkshake?

My avocado milkshake uses almond milk rather than cow’s milk. This is partially because I happened to have it, and partially because the calories in an avocado are high enough that I like to offset them with a relatively low-fat alternative to dairy. But even better, the nutty flavor of the almond milk goes very well with the creaminess of the avocado. You’ll see. Also, it’s vegan. (I’m not a vegan, but eating vegan things makes me feel like I’m high-fiving the planet. It’s the CT yuppie in me. I can’t help it.)

It turns out the secret ingredient is patience, which is always in short supply in my kitchen. It’s worth mentioning that I really had no knowledge of avocados at the beginning of this quest. My introduction to avocado milkshakes was also my introduction to avocados, so it was through this attempt to make a milkshake that I became acquainted with the maddening process of choosing a ripe avocado, or ripening an unripe avocado, and understanding the various ways in which they can go bad. So many of my attempts were ruined by unripe avocados and a desire for a milkshake right now.

That, my friends, can only end in tears.

So here’s the first step. Go to the store. Get these ingredients:

avocado milkshake, agave

Don’t make my mistake and get the agave. Apparently it’s terrible for you, goddammit.

Avocados, which are usually on sale this time of year. Get the softest ones you can.
Almond milk.
Some sort of sweetener. (I’m using agave nectar, but only because I didn’t read all the blog posts about how agave nectar is going to grab me by the liver and throttle me before I bought the bottle. You can use honey, maple syrup, Stevia, or good old-fashioned sugar.)

You will also need:
cold water
a blender

Step 2: Forget all about your avocado milkshake until tomorrow. This step is the one that defeated me for a decade. I know this is hard, but you must forget. That avocado needs to be really, really ripe.

Step 3: Is it tomorrow? Is the avocado ripe? Cut it in half. You will only need half an avocado per shake.

The pit will magically keep that other half from spoiling.

The pit will magically keep that other half from spoiling.

Step 4: Put a handful of ice cubes in the blender and crush them.

Step 5: Take the half without the pit, scoop out the tender, soft green stuff in the middle of the avocado and add it to the blender. Put the other half-avocado in a container and put it in the fridge. The pit will keep the avocado from turning brown immediately. It will keep for a day or two like that.

avocado milkshake

Step 6: Add a cup of Almond Milk, a cup of cold water and however much sweetener you want and blend. Once the mixture is well blended and the consistency of a milkshake, it’s ready.

avocado milkshake

It should look like what we affectionately call “Frog in a Blender.”

Step 7: Pour into glass and enjoy. Or you can drink it right from the blender. I’m not judging.

Fake blood & fro-yo: this is what happens when I try to self-publish.

denying the sea, ebook

Like House of Cards promo art, but with a mollusk.

So this evening was my husband’s night out with the boys, and as usual, when he left the house looked normal and I was full of project ideas.

When he came home, there was sand and fake blood all over the bathroom, the house was a disaster, and I was holed up in my office with a carton of fro-yo. For art.

It’s a testament to either my husband’s character or to my insanity that he didn’t bat an eye. In fact, he didn’t even ask why the bathroom looked like Quentin Tarantino had just filmed a scene there. He’s that used to this kind of thing.

But you might want to know, so I’ll tell you.
I recently got the bright idea to self-publish two already-published stories with Amazon’s Kindle Direct. The stories are not doing me any good just sitting around in my computer, so why not?

Apparently, however, you need to have a cover for such things. Since I probably won’t make enough money off these stories to cover the cost of a graphic artist, I thought I’d try to come up with a cover myself.

One of the stories is about a killer sea god. (Thus the fake blood and sea shells.) The other story is about a creepy lady who conveniently has an ice cream addiction. (Thus the half a carton of frozen yogurt I consumed.)

The result of my photo shoot? A bathroom that looks like a triple homicide was committed in it, a blown diet and a few okayish photos (but not of the fro-yo, because I ate most of that.) I think the photo in this post is probably the best. It doesn’t show how my fingers are now dyed the color of Mikhail Gorbachev’s birthmark.

I will keep you posted on the progress of the short stories, but at the moment, I’m not sure when they will  be coming out. This is mostly because of the cover art. Despite the fact that the bathtub might now be permanently pink, I still think I need better photos.

Might it be a good idea to hire an artist? It might. But only if that artist is willing to work for fro-yo.

Haiku and a bag of Fritos

haiku, fritos, valentines dayLast night, in a fit of oh-no-Valentines-Day-is-coming, I went online to the font of all DIY wisdom, Pinterest, to see if there are any new ideas for Valentines Day floating around the Internet. And you know what? I’ve discovered that the crafts that girls used to make for their boyfriends in high school are alive and well among grown women. I’m talking about personalized scrapbooks, jars of reasons why you love him, handmade photo frames.

Forgive me ladies. I know handmade is better than store-bought, and I know it’s the thought that counts, but I just don’t buy that any man (or any person, really) would want any of those things.

So then I was curious. I went over to Google to see what guys were saying women want for Valentine’s Day. I think the gifts for ladies have been pretty clearly laid out by Hallmark and similar companies, but I was curious to see what the guys said.

On a couple of lists I read? “Amp up your usual hangouts” (this appeared to be code for do nothing differently than you would normally do) and “spend the day in bed.” Fascinating.

I really think the gentlemen and the ladies at Pinterest should be taking each others’ V-day suggestions. There might be fewer lackluster Valentine’s Days in the world.

I gave up and went over to Twitter. Scrolling down my feed, I came across this tweet from musician Amanda Palmer.

Palmer’s tweet gets me right where I live because that sort of unapologetic, idealistic declaration is the sort of thing I feel in my soul. If I were able to reshape the world*, I would leave Valentines Day out, because for me romance doesn’t look like pink and red hearts, because companies are capitalizing on our affections and because there are a lot of people who are already lonely and don’t need Valentine’s Day to make them feel worse.

But here’s the thing – I still celebrate it.

I guess I do it because it’s expected and there is some social pressure, but that’s not the whole reason. On the one hand, I do think it’s an example of capitalism on steroids, as Christmas is. On the other, I think there’s something worthwhile underneath the avalanche of plastic pink hearts and cheap chocolates.

Because I was curious about how other people felt about the holiday, I asked people on my Facebook page how they felt. I got a range of answers – some people love V-day, some people celebrate grudgingly – but mostly I was surprised by how many people’s responses fell into a gray area. Many people celebrate in a small non-commercial way, with a special meal or with parents, children and students. One commenter wrote that’s good to celebrate love with her family. Some people celebrate alone, and cheerfully, with heart-shaped Krispy Kreme donuts. (Jealous!)

A couple of people wrote that celebration is okay, but that cherishing a relationship year-round is more important.
“It’s awfully easy to make the romantic gesture, it’s much harder to maintain a consistent kindness,” commented writer Elizabeth Hilts.

And they are all correct. Maybe that’s why I can’t pull a Palmer and leave the holiday alone for good. Because Valentine’s Day exists, and it’s nice to celebrate love in a small way, even if it’s far more important to celebrate love year-round. I’d love to get some more input on this, if anyone wants to comment below.

Anyhow, unlike Palmer, we are celebrating this year although not in a Pinterest or kind of way. Not that I bought anything with a red or pink heart on it, either. Instead I’m falling back on my tried and true plan for Valentine’s Day, one which has gotten me through many a V-day: a haiku and a bag of Fritos.

It’s much less effort than a scrapbook and he seems to like it. And I’m willing to bet that when I wake up tomorrow, he’ll be there holding out his standard Valentine’s Day offering: breakfast with a side of haiku.

*Actually I think the only people served by this holiday are people who have been dating for less than three months. Because that’s when Valentine’s Day is appropriate, when a person is wracked by endorphins, infatuation and insecurity. If I reshaped the world I would institute mandatory Valentine’s Days for every couple on their three-month anniversary. 

The white party.

There’s not been a lot of writing going on this weekend, but there has been a lot of shoveling.
I just got in from what was probably my 10th stint of shoveling in more than 24 hours, and I’m not going to lie: it was awesome.

I’ve mentioned before that I love shoveling. I realize that in some countries this is an acknowledged sign of extreme mental illness, but I don’t care. Shoveling can be a lot of fun if you have all day, which I do. It’s an excuse to play in the snow, basically. And because I’m pretty much my own child, I will accept any excuse to go out and play in the snow. It’s my own big white party.

It hasn’t been all snowmen and forts, though. We had some excitement last night when our heat went out because our new furnace’s intake was clogged with ice and snow. We were lucky; if it were the exhaust that would have been much worse. Thankfully, my husband noticed the problem in time, and we were able to clean the intake and the exhaust off by hanging out the bedroom window at 2 a.m. with a broom. Good times.

Below are some photos of the snow, because
A) everyone is posting photos and I don’t want to be left out,
B) I needed to learn how to build a photo gallery in WordPress, and
C) I just want to show off our snow like a big kid.

It’s true. I’m not proud.

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I banned chocolate in my house this month and now there is a cheesecake in my fridge.

gluten free cheesecake.

“I want another piece of cheesecake.” – My husband after I read this post to him.

I’m starting to get back on the calorie-logging diet I’ve been neglecting for a few months. So what am I going to do with half a homemade gluten-free cheesecake, handmade by a husband who doesn’t eat sweets but knows I love them?

This is part of our pattern: I announce that I don’t want junk food in the house and ask my husband to help me out. My husband – who is the cook – enthusiastically agrees and we have one or two weeks of exceptionally healthy dinners. Then reward food starts turning up, because we’ve both been so diligent. Usually it’s chocolate. I thought I cut my husband off at the pass this time by banning chocolate, but now I see that he’s subject to my own problem: I can’t forbid myself to get chocolate because I’d never think of anything but dessert.

I learned all this when I came home yesterday to find cheesecake in the oven and rib-eyes in the fridge.

When I pointed out that his timing for cheesecake was a little odd, he just said “But we had all the extra cream cheese from Christmas and it’s a calorie-free weekend.” This made me wonder if I should not have told him about weekends, my measure for not burning out on my own diet. I don’t log my calories on the weekend, but I try not to overeat on the weekend either. Now there’s a cheesecake in the fridge and my OCD is telling me it must all be consumed by tonight.

Am I upset? Hell no. It’s impossible to be upset with anyone for making a cheesecake. But what the heck do I do with it?

If we had kids or something, this wouldn’t be a problem, I’m sure. I’d just eat one piece and let the little piranhas have at it. I’m sure the dog would have no problem eating it, but I don’t really want to have to explain this to the vet. Maybe I can send it with my husband when he goes to hang out with his buddies. But then, does cheesecake go with beer or is that nasty? I think it’s nasty, but will they? Also, if they think beer and cheesecake is nasty, it seems a waste of the cheesecake. I can’t bring it to work; that would be gluttony, since I’m an author, I work from home and my only co-workers during winter break are the characters I make up.

Maybe I can hide it in the back of the freezer until next calorie-free weekend.


Needing a little Christmas.

20121223-091650.jpg20121223-091724I am happy to report that Gandalf is looking down on me from the top of our tree as I type this, surveying from his uncomfortable perch, a living room that’s so overdecorated, you’d never believe that two grown-ups who aren’t hosting even one holiday party live here.

20121223-091449Yeah. I kind of overdid Christmas this year.

20121223-091251Our house is more decorated than ever, the tree is so big that we had some problems fitting our furniture back into the living room, and carols have been playing more or less nonstop for the past two weeks.

I went nuts decking our halls, because we lost almost all our ornaments in the flood that came with Hurricane Sandy, but I went nuts on a budget, because I hate spending money unless I’m buying shoes.I made it work.

600051_10151136786859249_282079868_nInstead of buying decorations, I crafted like a bunch of preschoolers on go-go juice. I made a wreath and stockings and ornaments and cards and wrapped my husband’s presents using only aluminum foil, just because I could. Every night, there was a different project.

I stopped posting my creations to Instagram after someone commented on my apparent love of Christmas, but that didn’t stop me from making stuff. I needed to make stuff. Making stuff made me feel more sane, like I was rebuilding something, even if it meant that I ingested half a teaspoon of glitter in the process. And now, looking around our insanely festooned living room (it looks like a drag queen exploded in here) I think that my crafting binge may have helped.

I think I just needed the holiday. It’s been a bad couple of months in our area of the country, and so Christmas and a new year seem particularly welcome right about now.

So happy holidays to those who celebrate. Catch as much of the spirit, and the comfort, of the season as you can.card

What I’m thankful for.


I’m also thankful for 18 minute, 16 second songs that can be replayed on YouTube.

I am thankful for a wonderful husband. Every day with this man feels like a holiday.

I am thankful for our two furry beasts, who serve not only as companions but working animals:
The dog is a doorbell, a personal trainer and a confidence booster and the cat is a mouser, a foot warmer and keeps us from getting too confident.

I am thankful for parents who are now friends, a brother and sister-in-law I’m always excited to see, and a supportive and fun extended family and in-laws.

I am thankful to be in touch with good friends from every period of my life, from high school to college to the newsroom to my time in Spain.

I’m thankful for the publication of my first book this year.

I’m thankful for a full draft of the sequel and an editor who is interested in seeing it.

I’m thankful for our home, and that our kitchen floor is not an inch lower.

I’m thankful for my job at the college. I seriously have the best job on campus.

I’m thankful for my students, who keep me young and, presumably, cool.

I’m thankful for a garden that keeps us in vegetables well into the winter and a neighbor who continues to introduce me to fruits I’ve never seen before.

I’m thankful for the health of everyone I’ve mentioned.

I’m thankful that there are so many good books I haven’t read yet.

I’m thankful to have been born in a time and place when I have rights, which given history and the odds, is pretty amazing.

I’m thankful for the people who read this blog. When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure anyone would want to read what I was writing here. Thank you for proving me wrong and thank you for all your comments. I’ve met some cool people through this blog, and I always look forward to reading what you have to say.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

What are you thankful for?