Oh Hey, Influenster Perk: Reese’s Spread

So the latest Influenster perk? Reese’s spread. Chocolate and peanut butter in frosting spreadable form. It’s like they plucked the idea directly out of my head.

2015/01/img_9851.jpgThe spread is a lot like Nutella, but with a definite peanut butter kick. It’s a little bit saltier, too, which makes it a lot easier to “accidentally” eat way more than you planned to.

I had it on toast, and it was pretty good. Not as good as Nutella, but not bad.

2015-01-21 13.09.51Then I had it on a spoon. And it was HEAVEN.

There are tiny bits of peanut (like in the inside of a Reese’s peanut butter cup) blended in with the chocolate. Seriously, it’s like nomming a spoonful of melted candy, without having to go to all the trouble of melting it and stirring it together and having people look at you funny. I could eat this ALL DAY.

(I may or may not have finished the whole jar entirely by spoonful. IT IS JUST THAT GOOD.)

THANK YOU, Influenster, for giving me Reese’s goodness in exchange for a review. You can do that again ANY TIME.

Book Recs: What I Read in 2011

I read a lot. This is partly due to the fact that I like books, but also because I read fast. Really fast. Crazy-person fast. It typically takes me two hours to get through an average-length novel. That’s as long as it takes to watch a movie, people.

As far as I’m concerned, the invention of the e-reader is probably the most awesome thing that’s ever happened to books, and possibly the worst thing that’s ever happened to my bank account. (Who am I kidding. 6pm.com and Sephora are the worst thing that ever happened to my bank account.) If I’m reading a series, I can finish one book and download the next one right away! If I’m browsing for something new, I can download the first chapter and see if I like it! If I just finished a series and am feeling bereft, I can impulsively purchase EVERY SINGLE THING THE AUTHOR HAS EVER WRITTEN even though it is 3 O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING and I REALLY SHOULD BE SLEEPING. Not…that that’s a thing. That happens. When I finish a series.

Anyway, aside from the fact that these are all YA (okay, with the exception of the Ridley Jones books), here’s what else they have in common:

  • Women authors unite! I’m not saying you have to have ovaries to write books I love with a fervor bordering on obsession; I’m just saying that it doesn’t hurt.
  • You know I really liked a book if I get to the last page and immediately turn to the beginning again to start it all over.  That was the case with every single one of these.
  • Each of these stories hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the very end. (Yes, even the Envelopes books…although I suppose running is less accurate in that case than flying off to London for reasons which will be explained.)

Anyway, behold: my favorite books of 2011.*

The Mortal Instruments Series: City of Bones · City of Ashes · City of Glass · City of Fallen Angels (Cassandra Clare)
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

These books are like crack.

Wait. That’s not a good way to start a review.

I should say: I literally could not put these down, to the detriment of my ocular health and personal sanity, and I am so invested in Clary’s relationship with Jace that it borders on alarming. That’s…better, right?

Seriously, this series is amazing. Well-written, fast paced, smart, WAY hotter than YA ought to be, intricately plotted and did I mention Jace? Because, yeah.

The first three books conclude the initial plot arc, and City of Fallen Angels continues the story with a new trilogy. If you’re wary of works in progress, you can safely stop after City of Glass. I don’t know why you would, but you can. Maybe to pretend that Cassandra Clare doesn’t enjoy ripping the hearts out of her readers and making them clutch, weeping, at the empty hole in their chests? NOT THAT THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE NEXT ON THE LIST OR ANYTHING.

The Infernal Devices Series: Clockwork Angel · Clockwork Prince (Cassandra Clare)
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

I stumbled on these books totally by accident. I had just finished Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (which I loved) and Clockwork Angel was one of the things Barnes and Noble thought I’d like. I’d never heard of Cassandra Clare, but I downloaded the sample chapter for fun and also because I have poor impulse control.

5 minutes later I was frantically clicking the “BUY NOW” button because if I didn’t find out what happened next I would explode. (See poor impulse control, above.)

The Infernal Devices series is a steampunk dream, all Victorian London and secret societies and shape shifters and demons and Tessa and Will and Jem OT3 Forever. Ahem.

You can view these as a prequel of sorts to The Mortal Instruments, or you could view them as a standalone series. Either way works just fine and you’re not going to get spoiled no matter which you read first (though there are lots of cool Easter eggs in both series if you know what to look for).

None of that eclipses the fact that when you get to the end of Clockwork Prince you will probably want to have a very large stack of tissues nearby. Just FYI.

13 Little Blue Envelopes · The Last Little Blue Envelope (Maureen Johnson)
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

I started reading Maureen Johnson because of Twitter.

True story.

Someone (I don’t even know who now…Wil Wheaton? The Bloggess? Someone else entirely?) retweeted some Maureen Johnson tweets and I thought, ha, she’s kind of hilarious. So I followed her, and she is THE BEST THING ANYPLACE EVER. If her tweets are this entertaining, I thought, her books must be fantastic.

I was right. (That’s not unusual.)

I liked 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I would have loved it when I was younger, in that OH MY GOD I AM GINNY sort of way that you love books when you’re sixteen or nineteen or twenty-three. But clearly I am way too grown-up for that now, right? Then came The Last Little Blue Envelope, and it absolutely blew me away. Partly it’s the complexity of the relationships between the primary characters, which are much more fraught than they were in the first book. But mostly it has to do with Oliver.

The 1-800-WHERE-R-U Series: When Lightning Strikes · Code Name Cassandra · Safe House · Sanctuary · Missing You (Meg Cabot)
Meg Cabot's 1-800 Series

Meg Cabot makes me feel like a failure. I mean, seriously, take a look at the number of books she cranks out in the average year. The only possible explanation is that she never sleeps, or is actually comprised of several different people, like Shakespeare. Or Frankenstein.

The 1-800 series isn’t particularly highbrow or literary-minded. It’s fun and fluffy and a little bit dark. Like lots of Meg Cabot books, the heroine is plucky and a little bit unhinged.

For those of us who grew up in the 80s, When Lightning Strikes is a pitch-perfect homage to Escape from Witch Mountain. Which – who didn’t love that movie? But if you take the series as a whole, you realize the story is less about Jess Mastriani’s cool precog powers and more about learning who to trust and figuring out what matters and growing up.

What. I just like them, okay?

The Hunger Games series: The Hunger Games · Catching Fire · Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

(I want to apologize in advance to those of you who click that link. Suzanne Collins is an extraordinary writer, but whoever “designed” her web site should have their internet privileges revoked. Authors: beautiful, functional web sites make the world sing in perfect harmony, just like Coke. Or that weird alien invasion from Torchwood. I DIGRESS.)

There probably isn’t anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard how fabulous The Hunger Games trilogy is. I’m just chiming in to say it’s all true. The books are amazing. I tore through them like my life depended on it.

I also highly recommend giving the books a second go while following the excellent recaps on Mark Reads. Are ‘recaps’ even the right word for those? Basically Mark liveblogs each chapter as he reads it, and it is awesome.

Bumped (Megan McCafferty)
Bumped by Megan McCafferty

THIS COUNTS as a series because the second book (Thumped) will be out SOON. Not SOON ENOUGH, but SOON. I am patiently waiting, see? This is me, being patient.

Megan McCafferty is the woman responsible for the fabulous Jessica Darling series (Sloppy Firsts, etc.), which I loved unreasonably and may still pull off the shelf with alarming regularity. You don’t know.

Bumped has all the snarky teen-speak of McCafferty’s previous series, but also the added bonus of being a dystopian look at a future in which teens are the only members of society able to have babies. Oh no, it’s AWESOME, trust me. It’s like The Handmaid’s Tale meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or…something like that, only good.

(Megan McCafferty’s web site is perfectly acceptable, by the way. See, authors? You do not need Flash intros or SOUNDS or huge, slow-loading graphics or a background that hasn’t been updated since 1998. Web designers are your friends.)

Beautiful Lies · Sliver of Truth (Lisa Unger)
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

I’m not usually into mysteries – wait. That’s not even true. I thought I wasn’t into mysteries, and then I started reading Lisa Unger and realized that what I’m not into is badly-written mysteries.

Beautiful Lies and Sliver of Truth follow the delightfully-named Ridley Jones through a series of realizations that what she thought of as her life was a series of carefully-crafted lies. How these lies are unraveled – and how much danger Ridley is in – ratchets up the tension, but the real kick comes from the way all the pieces fit together in the end.

And even though there didn’t seem to be any missing pieces at the end of Beautiful Lies, I was amazed to find that Sliver of Truth was able to go back and find the little details I hadn’t even noticed and turn them into a new, even more intricate puzzle.

 

 

*These were not all written in 2011. I just read them in 2011. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m skimping on details here. Also, I was in no way compensated for this or any other post because no one actually reads my blog.

belated tidings of nailpolish

I promised to report back on the nailpolish, didn’t I? Well, it’s a good thing I’m so prompt and not, like, almost a month late on that. Or anything.

nail polishAnyway, yes, nailpolish. I luuuurve it. The colors are fab, it’s super shiny, and it lasted forever on my toes. (Fingers = another story, but that’s mostly because once the polish chips at all I start worrying at it and the whole thing goes to hell. Yay, OCD!)

toesOne weird thing: it’s darker on the nails than in the bottle. Which I guess makes sense, seeing as it is essentially paint, and they say that about paint, right? Although it’s never quite made sense to me. It seems like it should be the opposite, and I can’t figure out why I think that but I do. So the Tramp Stamp color (pictured) is somewhat more gothy than I’d intended, which figures, since all my nailpolish is pretty gothy. I thought I was taking baby steps in another direction, but as it turns out I was wrong. Oh well.

So the verdict is that the butter LONDON 3 Free polish is a win, and I would totally buy it again if it wasn’t $12 a bottle. Or if I wasn’t so broke.

keeping up(chuck) with the Joneses

Few things are more unpleasant to throw up than a combination of mostly-digested hamburger and just-eaten cupcake. I speak as a (semi) expert, seeing as I had ample opportunity to compare the relative merits of regurgitated foods during my excruciating stint of morning sickness when I was gestating Happy Fun Baby. (The winner? Cheerios. They taste pretty much the same coming up as they do going down.)

I definitely would have eschewed the hamburger in favor of Cheerios had I known that my dessert was made of poison. We stopped at Cupcake Jones last night, since I have a love thing for cupcake bakeries. This place just opened up in the Pearl, and it is ever-so-slightly more conveniently located than Saint Cupcake, which makes absolutely divine cupcakes.

Cupcake Jones seemed like a great choice – open late, cute logo, etc. We popped in around 8pm and each ordered a Downtown Cupcake Brown and The Pearl, opting for a Pearl Mini for the baby. They only had one Pearl frosted, so they frosted the other one while we waited. (This might prove to be an important detail.) We brought our haul home (+/- 5 minutes; gotta love living downtown). Not So and I both decided to eat the Pearl first, and the first thing we noticed was that there was WAY too much frosting. The frosting-to-cupcake ratio was almost equal. Also, the frosting was squishy and warm – on both cupcakes (including the one that was more recently frosted). Still, it tasted good, and we ate our cupcakes (which were just okay, not toe-curlingly fantastic like the ones from Saint Cupcake). As we ate we decided not to give the Mini to the baby, since there was so much frosting on it. Instead I gave Happy Fun Baby a couple of bites of mine – bites that had no frosting but did include cake and custard.

Immediately after finishing our treat, Not So and I felt really unwell. We thought it was the sugar giving us a headache and making us feel queasy. An hour later I came in and said “My god, I feel sick.” Not So: “I do too! I wasn’t going to say anything, but I feel seriously bad.” The baby (who, yes, was still awake…bedtimes have not been working for us, again) seemed fine. An hour after that I was experiencing the joys of regurgitated hamburger and cupcake, and we both decided that the frosting must have turned because my god, we were sick.

I’m all about supporting local businesses (especially bakeries!) but food poisoning on our first visit? Not really a good motivator to come back. And, seriously, if you’re a bakery and you can’t figure out the proper temperature for buttercream that doesn’t poison your customers? You should really consider a new outlet for your creativity.

Today Not So has a migraine, and he never gets migraines. Related? Unrelated? Who knows. All I know is I won’t be visiting Cupcake Jones again.

Tags: , portland, cupcake bakery, food poisoning

have skitch, will travel

I finally scored a beta invite to Skitch! The happiness, it is all mine. Mine, I tell you. Here’s my first image, all notated and simple-like.

(Yes, I know, the bags under my eyes know no rivals. Have I mentioned I’ve been having dreams that I am a) trying to find an apartment in a country where no one speaks English or b) trying to kill my sister for borrowing things without asking? The sleep, it is not a thing I have these days.) (That reminds me, I need to set up my sister – who I don’t want to kill, even a little bit – with an Akismet account so that her site doesn’t get quite so much spam. I am totally going to do that now, even though I said that very same thing on Monday.)

Um, yes, but Skitch! Skitch is the rockingest, especially if you have a Mac. Which I have. Because, see, it only works on a Mac, so the rocking does not so much happen on the PC. I mean, sure, Grab is fine for screenshots, but it inexplicably insists on saving everything as a tiff. I have nothing against tiff files per se, but they are somewhat…how shall I put this…useless. I have to go through a ponderous opening Photoshop and saving as a jpg process every time I want to do anything with a screenshot, and do you think I have that kind of patience? Because I do not. I am very important and have many lofty responsibilities. You see.

Skitch is lovely in that not only does it solve the whole pesky tiff problem, it also lets you do other things. Neat things. Like, I can browse my iPhoto library! Without opening iPhoto! And I can take pictures with my iSight! And write on them! And upload them to Flickr! Wheeeeeeee.

I’m going to go play with my new beta account some more. At some point I will have invites, and when I do? You, my lovely friends, just have to ask and I will send one. I am nice like that.

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lazy people like the holidays too

Santa was good to me this year, if by “Santa” you mean Not So. He got me a sewing machine (I’m thinking of calling her ‘Esme,’ but Not So suggests that it is a boy and should be called ‘Eduardo,’ because we are big, big dorks)(points if you get the ref). He also got me a blender – this was the year of the housewares, apparently – which I’ve been wanting for, oh, ever, and a new camera to replace the one that went all wonky and decided that all colors were purple.

I hear you, by the way. You are saying something to the effect of “A new camera? But you have the D70! You do not need a new camera! Also, children are starving.” To which I reply “Yes. I am obviously part of the problem. Also, I will gladly give them my old Canon, which I hear makes a lovely stew.” I am a firm believer in the point-and-shoot for spontaneous picture-taking moments. Do you honestly believe I am going to lug the D70 every time we leave the house? Because, no. The baby, he is heavy enough. Also, I am lazy.

And the D70, while rocking like a rocking thing in all other respects, does not do video. The little cameras take surprisingly good video clips and are much easier to wrangle than the camcorder. The upload is simple as well – there is no searching for the adapter cable, hooking it up, plugging it in, converting the video. There is just plug. I like things that have only one step.

(All of these, including the self-portrait at left, were taken with the new camera. I am, as always, blisteringly photogenic.)

The new point-and-shoot is a Nikon Coolpix L3. It is very, very wee. Hey! That made a rhyme, and I could follow it with a ditty about how I do not know I am a poet, but I will not. Merry Christmas!

The camera’s great, but it has what I have learned to think of as “Ugly Screen.” That is, everything on the preview screen on the back of the camera is rendered in uglyvision, and it isn’t until the shots are uploaded that it’s possible to tell which ones are good. Also, it handles color in a way that can only be described as “interesting.” I look like a thug in most of the pictures, but my eyes? Very blue. It’s a trade-off. All hail Adobe Lightroom, that’s all I have to say.

It does excellent video, though. I am all about the love for the L3 video. I could compose odes to it, but I won’t, because…lazy. Instead I will let you be the judge: check out the little test video we shot (before we set it to max resolution, even). Also, my kid? Cute.

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-8423189249165959578&hl=en

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my kind of fairy

At 11 months (well, almost), Happy Fun Baby’s vocabulary is at a whopping four words: “ghee” for “kitty,” “luh” for “love,” “ba” for “ball” and “da” for “yeah.” “Do you want to go downstairs?” I ask. “Da,” says the baby. It’s like living with a little Russian diplomat.

I’m pretty sure yesterday (and today)’s crying jags are tooth-related. A couple of times today the baby has, apropos of nothing, put his hands to his mouth and wailed. I feel so bad for him, but I don’t know what I can do aside from offering snuggles and the occasional dose of Tylenol, which he sucks down like a little addict. Do you remember when medicine tasted bad? This cherry-flavored baby crack is not exactly off-putting. On the other hand, do I want to wrestle with my child before he will take his painkillers? No I do not.

The Code Fairy (aka my inimitable husband, who loves it when I call him a fairy) performed some sort of magic on my Buzzverb site and now it works gorgeously. I’ve posted the second of my 30 Days of Writing Links: if you’re doing NaNoWriMo (or even if you’re not) you should check it out. I’m not collecting all these links for my health, people.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year (seriously, where would I find the time?) but I am all enamoured of a new manuscripting application. I downloaded the Scrivener beta yesterday, and it is, in fact, all that and a bag of chips. If you write novels, you know that Word is somewhat lacking in its outlining capabilities; I’ve always needed to either print out my notes and ideas so that I can refer to them while writing or have lots of windows open, neither of which is an optimal solution. And changing the order of chapters? Not exactly painless. Scrivener addresses these concerns and more. I’m digging the hell out of it. I may even do some work on the novel I started a couple of years ago and then abandoned in favor of sleep deprivation and mood swings. Er, I mean, parenthood. Stranger things have happened, you know.

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