Martha Stewart Knits Her Own Ball Gag

Ok. Here’s my obligatory mention of the cool weather.

It’s fucking cold.

Moving on. Yesterday, I thought to myself, “damn, I bet the gym will be empty! I’ll get a primo locker, no one will stare at my ass as I change, and I’ll get first pick of the torture devices!!” Nope. Friggen New Yorkers. WHY MUST OUR PEDESTRIAN LIFESTYLE AND COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT LEAD TO SUCH STRONG CONSTITUTIONS??

Bitches were like: “back off my verti-climber.” I gave that woman my best “thousand-yard stare” (from 2′ away…so a point-blank-but-very-serious-stare) and let her be. Who the hell likes that machine anyway? It makes you look like a trapped hamster on a wheel. Especially when you add the sport water bottle.

On the bright side, nowhere do I feel more coordinated simply because I can fasten my bra from the back, than in the gym locker room. Don’t you twisters get rope burn from twisting the bra from front to back? How many times do you accidentally put it on upside-down? Do you have an insane amount of front-clasp bras?

Completely unrelated: Rachel Ray is on in the background right now, and I don’t love her, but I appreciate her need for speed. Again, that was a tangent. What I meant to say was that she’s wearing a really cute necklace right now, but the way the camera angle and light is hitting it, makes it look like she’s got a really long, dangly nipple clamp on the outside of her shirt.

Rachel Ray is a secret Mistress with hardcore bondage fetish.

Bondage is finding it’s way into ALL OF THE CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE AND PNR NOVELS, so why not daytime tv? We already figured Martha Stewart made homemade paddles, (with birch from her estate in Bedford, NY.) Next must be Dr Oz wearing heels and tied up with his own stethoscope.

Let’s talk about the abundance of these situations in books lately, shall we? WHAT THE F, AMERICA? We’re not tied-up enough by our own insecurities that we need to fictionalize being dominated? I feel like this bondage situation snuck in on readers and now has a stranglehold on the genre. Nobody likes a surprise spanking. *save Cleveland Browns or Stockholm Hammarby fans…we’re accustomed to it, yet always seem surprised when it happens, and it gives us something to kvetch about.

So please, authors, Martha, Rachel, save the ball-gags for waterboarding. (read: How Martha gets her team to work faster.)

Not that I wouldn’t laugh if Dr Oz did his show in pumps. Mostly because he’d fall a lot and warn of the inevitable death which wearing heels leads to.

Ugh, I switched to “Hungry Girl” on the Food Network, and her set has scrabble-tile decor, and one of the words is “guiltfree.” That is TWO WORDS. YOU LOSE! I SAID GOOD DAY SIR.

I have had entirely too little sleep and too much Green Mountain Nantucket..

there once was a man from Nantucket…..

Onto a HEALTHY recipe that Hungry Girl would apparently hate, because every recipe I’ve seen her make requires string cheese or a tortilla, but I digress.

Spicy Glazed Asparagus

It has onion, garlic, other stuff. It’s super healthy. It makes my LIFE.

spicy glazed asparagus spicy glazed asparagus spicy glazed asparagus

Spicy Glazed Asparagus

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Keywords: saute appetizer side vegan vegetarian paleo soy-free nut-free low-sodium

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 1 lb fresh asparagus, chopped in one inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 2/3 cup veggie stock
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

heat oil in large skillet with lid on medium

toss in garlic and onion and asparagus

cook 2 minutes

add spices and stir

add stock and cover

cook 2 minutes

remove cover, turn heat to high

cook until most liquid evaporates (about a minute or two)

season and serve

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Best of Books and the Pantsless Viewing Pleasure.

It’s 12/31 and I’m JUST NOW sitting down to write my “best reads and watches of 2013″. Why, you ask? Because I’ve been incredibly busy with my regular job/school/life/stuff.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t see many movies in the theatre this year, which sucks, but it was just logistically difficult. Much like fitting PMS boobs into a middle-of-the-cycle bra. It didn’t fit. What I did have loads of time to do was watch movies and listen to audiobooks while cooking/working out/delivering chicken soup to sick friends. (the actual soup, not the shoddy book collection wherein everyone is all tea parties and smiles)

G-d bless my sponsor and all-around mommy sane-i-fier Netflix for streaming on no fewer than 6 of my devices. That means, if I hide from my children in the bathroom, I’ll not miss a bit of Taystee and Crazy Eyes. Oh the antics of those ladies!

But first….THE BOOKS!!

Ok, we all know I have a bit of a sweet tooth for books when I’m stressed. Getting a graduate degree in literature and teaching and auditioning and life, makes for a bit of a stressful year. While I read and enjoyed quite a bit of “literary fiction”(in quotes because I think this is a bogus category, I’ve read contemp romance and sci-fi that are far superior reads to books in this, most lauded of segments in the New Yorker‘s category list) I also enjoyed a fair amount of PNR, YA, Contemporary Romance and Urban Fantasy.

If I listed ALL of the books I love which were released in 2013, my list would be borderline insane. Therefore, here is my criteria: It MUST’VE been released in 2013, I must’ve put it directly in my “re-read” pile upon finishing it. It MUST NOT BE AN EBOOK RIDDLED WITH ERRORS!!! It would also, ideally, have been finished in one day. (save if it’s quite long)

2013books

I’m not going to categorize these, because they’re all just really fucking good books. Yes, some may have werewolves or dragons, and some might have lickable cowboys, but they’re all just really, really good. They’re also in no particular order. (click the pic for the amazon link)

If you have read Howard Zinn or Audre Lorde, and wondered to yourself “if they were alive, and had a baby, raised him to be an essayist who fed at the table of Langston Hughes and Sylvia Plath, I wonder what that’d be like?!” I have the answer: Hilton Als. This book. Man, this book. I don’t care if you hate essays, or if you’re purely a romance reader, or if you’re against books with bold typeface, read this. Just read it.

It’s the OMGFANTASTIC sequel to The Shining. Everyone is talking about Stephen King’s newest tome, and for good reason. It will scare the ever-loving-fuck out of you. In a good way.

Joe Hill was unknown to me until a bunch of colleagues recommended this book to me. If you like thrillers with an underlying depth of love and unexpected sweetness, this is for you. It’s a terrifying, gripping, horrific story of vampire-esque time lord like creatures, supernatural mothers, and psychic scrabble players. It also features the beautiful love between a devoted father and son, sacrifice, and missed opportunities.

This book makes you grateful just to have read it. Imagine if you could re-live your life over and over again, righting errors and making new mistakes, would you? Ursula can, and does. The tale is a testament to programs like scrivener, or a very well-organized mind, because, holy hell, the details.

This is book 924876394 of a series, but it really kept me reading. It’s hysterical, it’s fast-paced, it’s sexy, it’s all of that. Plus, the leading lady is an ATHLETE!! hells belles it’s about time.

Great writing. Strong (Slavic! BOOM!) heroine, a sexy and understanding hero, a great partnership (much like the authors themselves) and a later installment in a series that proves they don’t all start to suck at book 6 or 7. Huzzah!!!

To me, this book, along with the next one on my list is something singular. So often, we’re beaten with formulaic plots and uninventive prose that is difficult to distinguish between one and the next. The Ghost Bride transports us to a place we’ve never before seen in literature, and it’s amazing. It’s not often I find a book a singular experience like I did with these two books, and I consider myself fortunate to have found them. In my opinion, this book didn’t get near the press or accolades it deserved. That’s not ok. This book deserves press. Pin the shit out of this one.

I must confess, I’ve already read this three times. The story of a clay golem ordered by an orthodox Jew who passes soon after giving her life and the djinn who awakens in a Muslim neighborhood, only to become captivated by the soft-spoken golem? It’s enchanting and beautiful. The story is set to a backdrop of early 20c. NYC, amidst the tenements and ethnic disparities of the time. In a word: spectacular.

Just read the whole effing series. Seriously. Get it on audio, too. It’s one of the quippiest series you can read. It reads like a paranormal Gilmore Girls. The hero and heroine make my life with their shenanigans. He may be the son of satan, but sometimes the fires of hell are just the ticket for a warm bed. 

An awkward, smart, tall, lady protagonist who catches the eye of a sexy security company owner. Yes. This.  She’s hilarious as she often goes off on these weird and seemingly random academic tangents full of bizarre facts. I can’t relate at.all. Or she’s essentially me.  This book is a great example of why “literary fiction” and “contemporary romance” are not mutually exclusive. This book is smart. And don’t tell me that it’s any less smart and well-written than others in the category. It simply fits both. (not to besmirch the book, The 100 Year Old Man Who Crawled Out a Window and Disappeared, but that book is just as witty and “silly” and is lauded across the blogs as literary fiction, and I have a bee in my bonnet…moving on)

What if the government determined its citizens’ diets? Surely, there’d be contraband fatty fat fat fat dealers dealing in pork and pudding. This book explores that, and it’s hilarious. I can’t explain just why I loved this so much, but I couldn’t put it down, it was that hilarious. I missed dinner reading a book about food.

ONTO VIEWING!!!

honestly, Hollywood didn’t bowl me over this year. There were several really good movies released, from what I gather, but honestly, I’m waiting for them on Netflix. That way, I can watch them without wearing mascara, or pants. What I DID LOVE was this….(all available on Netflix, not just because I get free Netflix, I started watching these long before that deal, but because, pants)

Ok, no surprise here. EVERYONE is watching this. EVERYONE. In my queer lit theory class, there wasn’t a single person who wasn’t hooked. If it can lead Julianne Hough to make an epically bad Halloween decision, it must be worth seeing. Oh white people, when will you learn? (I’m looking at you, Ani DiFranco)

WHAT?!?!? Kevin Spacey WHAT?!??!?! Just the fact he’s acting somewhere I can see again makes me tingle inappropriately. To top it off, HOC has some of the most on-point writing this year. The direction takes a darker turn, and the cast? Impeccable.

I wanted to live this movie. I wanted to crawl inside and be besties with the characters. I want to watch and re-watch this movie in a manner that puts my seventh-grade obsession with Junior to shame. (I can still quote every line of that very odd movie that I still love. stop judging me. I can her your eyes rolling.)

It’s no secret that I love Henry James. I am also notoriously hard on book-to-movie adaptations. This one? It just worked. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking. The acting is so effortlessly moving as to make the viewer forget they’re not a part of the story. As an actor, trust me, there’s no better compliment. It’s just something. It’s wonderful. I haven’t words.

 

 

 

Most Annoying

I’m a writer. I put words on pages. I love to write. I love to weave stories and spin tales of grandeur or poverty, fantasy or realism. I love my little online pseudo0-memoir here on this tiny space of interwebs. I like the freedom of the chase of the characters as they run freely out from my imagination into my readers’ consciousness.

I have never, however, aspired to pen the Great American Novel. For many years, I assumed this plateau of Pulitzer-worthy aspiration was silly enough as to be idiomatic. It’s not that we as writers don’t set out to write something captivating and wonderful, but to say there’s one “Great American Novel” is akin to saying there’s one “Most Annoying Kardashian.” It simply cannot be accomplished.

Back to my point which you had no idea I was making–your medium doesn’t determine your worth as a writer. Yes, I am a “published” author. (academia) I am also a blogger. One in an army of thousands of men and women driven to spill their brains like so much milk into wordpress or blogger or HuffPo or Salon or NPR, etc. We are a legion the likes of which cannot be measured by our dot com address, nor should we be.

We began as town criers. Pamphlets. Stories by the fire. We began by writing thoughts in leather-bound journals  we were never able to publish. We were the creators of correspondence. We were the playwrights and the players. We were the gumshoeing reporter on the sidelines of history. We are the Emily Dickinsons. We were Bartolome De La Casas and Margaret Fuller we were Chekov and Atwood. Writers. All of us.

When people initially stopped buying papers it was because of us. This is neither good nor bad. It is simply change. Like everything in history save procreation and my love of fruity candy, things change. They have to. (because I now have several crowns in my mouth. fecking skittles)

Now we are Joe My G-d and Carla Birnberg, we are Arianna Huffington and Sherman Alexie. We are across all mediums. We are YouTube and YA, books and blogs, artists and academics.

Remember, writers, people may give you side-eye when you tell them you’re a blogger or a youtuber, but we, the creators, are the writers of history. We tell the stories. Tell yours.

And because of the crowns…soft fudge recipe. Because, well, damn! This is my blog and I will blog a recipe after a serious post if I wanna!

This recipe is deep and dark, much like my shame. (jk..I have no shame! You know this, you’ve read my blog!) On the surface it’s light and fluffy!! (like my bra)

 

Micrwave Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

Micrwave Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge Micrwave Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

 

Microwave Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

Microwave Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

Ingredients

  • 6 oz UNSWEETENED chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 6 oz dark chocolate chunks or chips
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/2 bag peppermint marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Instructions

  1. melt the chocolate with the milk in a microwave-safe bowl in 25 second intervals on high
  2. stir in extract
  3. pour into greased 8"-8" square pan, lined with parchment, also greased
  4. push mallows and canes into top of batter
  5. chill for one hour
  6. pull out of pan to cut into squares
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Safe Word: Will Smith

This time of year is typically spent with me grading 94379384769384 papers, watching “Love, Actually” all day, every day, and spending entirely too much in Jeff Bezos’ love den. This year, I’ve been busier than ever, and haven’t seen my lovey Liam’s movie ONCE. The tragedy of this falls somewhere on the scale between Old Yeller being shot for going rabid, and a bad cappuccino at Starbucks. (I said ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DEGREES. THIS IS CLEARLY ON FIRE!!!)

Shut up, you know you have a peculiar order now and again as well, miss “do you have any butter I can add to my coffee? Can you maybe just keep shaking that whip cream until it becomes butter? I’m bullet-proofing it this month.” –I am not making this up. People are drinking greasy coffee. It’s a “DIET” thing. Meanwhile, I put bourbon in my morning coffee and it’s a “problem” thing. double standard if you ask me.

(just kidding. I hate bourbon. It’s vodka)

I haven’t even compiled my best books of 2013 list for the blog, yet. I am behind Time Magazine, NPR, Goodreads, Entertainment.com, and that weird guy who works at the Strand bookstore who’s always trying to convince me that I’ll like sci-fi BDSM erotica. Not just aliens invading the Earth, but aliens with safe words and now ever-larger anal probes.  There’s probably no need for whips if you’re rocking tentacles. Just a guess.

“Small Wonders” meets “50 Shades” and suddenly Anastasia is fighting back.

I am, however, trying to do my best to take at least an hour every night to just zone-out. I don’t read, I don’t write, I don’t grade or work on my own graduate school work. I just chill. I walk, or I hit the gym. During the rest of the year, I am a social beastie a few times a week at the gym, mostly for motivation…not at the end of term! This time of year I can fully sink into my introverted nature, and say “sorry freeeeands, you’ll just have to know I love you, but Eff off a bit, k?” Ok, I may be nicer than all that.

The solitude feeds me. It nurtures me somewhere deep in my being that cannot be reached when I’m around people. I can think about recipes or next semester’s syllabi, or just the sound of my own breath. The demons don’t get to me as much when I’m in motion. It’s like they can’t catch up to me. I am apparently a really fast walker. Much like Jason Vorhees or Michael Meyers. Keep running, bitches. I’ll catch up to you at a leisurely pace.

As I said, I brainstormed recipes while running. Today’s is PERFECT as hell for this season. I’m kindofalittlebit obsessed with Swedish glögg, aka mulled wine (only drunkier) and I wanted to put a bit of a spin on the classic. The Swedes are pretty boss at the imports, read: Ikea, actors, rye bread. The original Swedish warming bevvie calls for nuts (which have no place in wine) and raisins (which terrify my sister) along with honey, brandy, and cab sav. I ditched the raisins and nuts, added cointreau, and POACHED PERSIMMONS IN IT. BOOM!

mike drop. minds blown.

Persimmon Mulled Wine or Swanky Swedish Glögg

Persimmon Mulled Wine Persimmon Mulled Wine

Persimmon Mulled Wine

Persimmon Mulled Wine

Ingredients

  • one bottle deep red wine (cab, shiraz, malbec)
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/3 cup cointreau
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean pod
  • zest of one orange
  • 3 sticks of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 persimmons, sliced

Instructions

  1. bring all ingredients together on the stove on LOW heat
  2. let heat until just simmering
  3. strain all but persimmons and orange
  4. put in warmer/crock pot for serving
  5. drink.responsibly. (keep your phone turned off so you don't take any naked selfies in front of the julgran--Christmas Tree)
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Petit Mort (Not the Good Kind)

I have a terrifying, crippling fear of spiders.

I can barely tolerate the plastic sort.

When I belonged to a large, chain gym in NYC, I stopped going to one of the locations because it was beside a pet store that had a tarantula display in the front window. I avoid the entomology lab on campus like it houses the Governor from the “Walking Dead”. I have made my five year old kill one for me. (I’m not proud) I suffer from hypnogogia; otherwise known as “near-sleep hallucinations,” wherein I see spiders everywhere. 

I wake the man up and demand he remove the spiders from my ceiling and our bed. I used to charge into my sister’s or parents’ bedrooms and do the same. Thank all of the gods they’re accustomed to my very strange behaviors.

So, that’s why when I woke up to this story about black-widow spiders being found in bags of grapes, I determined that the only grapes I would be eating for the rest of my life would be highly fermented. At least that way, if I eventually see a spider in that bottle of grapes, I won’t give a damn.

You know how when you watch a horror movie that’s particularly gruesome, you immediately decide to watch a Disney Movie, or something featuring a topless Michael Fassbender so as to mitigate the effects of the horror movie on your psyche? That.

I went full-on happy feel-please G-d-get-that-thing-out-of-my-brain-and-produce on my Netflix queue.

I have never been happier working with a company on my blog. Why? because black widow spiders. Because arachnophobia. Because sometimes, books-to-film need to act like RAID on your medulla. (like after watching congress on C-Span) 

So I buzzed on the ol’ Netflix and instead of falling into an “Orange is the New Black” k-hole (because my daughter is sitting RIGHT here, and she’s not quite ready for a trip to women’s prison, yet….baby jail…aka her crib, is where it’s at for her) I decided to watch possibly the best book-to-movie-for-brain-cleaning, ever. I may be partial….”The Little Prince.” Because it’s the anti-black widow. You know what little princes on asteroids don’t have? venomous creatures. Have you seen? Have you READ? You need to do both. Seriously, people. The book came out in 1943. Get on that, already. This version is visually stunning. Absolutely brilliant…even if every time the fox appears on screen, your daughter sings “tchuff, tchuff, tchuff, ta chuff ta chuff.”

I’m not going to lie. “The Little Prince” also kept little hands in their little lap, and well-occupied for the 8.5 minutes I spent staging my petit fours. Petit Fours befitting a Petit Prince.

Peppermint Mocha Petit Fours

peppermint-mocha petit fours peppermint-mocha petit fours peppermint-mocha petit fours peppermint-mocha petit fours peppermint-mocha petit fours

 

These could not be simpler. I used this recipe for peppermint mocha brownies, doubled it and baked until done in a jelly-roll pan, cubed, froze, dipped in melted white chocolate, and topped with crushed candy canes. It’s very easy to keep the white chocolate pliable if you melt in small increments and keep the bowl on a heating pad, hot water bottle, or warming plate set to LOW. Yes, you WILL get covered in white chocolate…but I am sure you can come up with new and interesting ways of cleaning it up while your child is otherwise occupied with Netflix.

Disclaimer: Netflix has compensated me for these posts, but all opinions (even if I think a movie is total crap) are my own.