Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Flash Fiction: 1/6/13

Found this in my drafts folder....

I started writing again, and I ended up with a flash fiction piece I'm currently expanding.

Ultra Violet

I like walking at dusk. Dusk is the end of the day, sure, but it's also the beginning of the night--and night is when I get my best thinking done. I walk through the park, which used to be a garden or an oasis for some people, but now it's a literal wasteland. At the end, a lot of people lived here, in tents or hobbit-holes, or up in the trees. Now even those parts have fallen in to disrepair.
The animals got out of the zoo, and some survived for a while but for some it was too hot or too cold. Ironically, I guess, for the bears the park was just right and now they've taken over the ice rink and a couple other places that used to be crawling with people.
The sign has fallen down. The sign that used to proudly announce the entrance to the zoo. It's all overgrown with vines and wild flowers--a veritable rainbow of floral arrangement no one could have designed if they tried. I think wild flowers are why I don't believe in God. Chaos is a more perfect designer than "intelligent design", and then we feeble humans sat down and worked out math and science and they are our justification for the chaos. But then when I think about mathematics and fractals and science and the laws of gravity...somehow my faith is restored.
It's sort of like how purple makes me think of beginnings. It's the beginning of the night when the sky turns purple. The beginning of a new spectrum of light when you've reached the end of a rainbow. The beginning of a new world order when purple flowers carpet the zoo, and the park where the yuppies used to walk their yappie lap dogs. They wanted to be seen more than they cared about exercising their mutts. Now they wouldn't be caught dead here, which I guess is lucky for them since most of them are. Dead, that is. Some of them aren't--they're on Mars or the Moon or floating in space on an all-expenses-paid-by-their-trust-fund lifelong cruise through the sky. I'm sure even some of them are dead, too, though.
I'm getting old.
There are remnants of whole households that had moved out here. It's like what I imagine Pompeii looks like, or looked like--or probably still looks like. I'm sure no one's bothered to touch Pompeii. Mattresses and campfires and tupperware bowls are carefully placed where people had their last moments as a family. Most were probably spent screaming. Cans from beans and metal pails are everywhere. I feel a strange urge to collect them, and drop them off for recycling. It's like having a phantom limb where civilization used to be. There's patches of overturned dirt where everyone agreed to shit in the ground. Some piles are probably treasures buried deep below, and if they aren't they should be. Would have been a brilliant place to hide valuables for someone with a good memory.
We built up from the Earth in at the beginning; literally crawled out of the primordial ooze and became what we were by the end. You'd think we'd have made it farther on round two, like some survival instinct from the oozey days would have kicked in or something, but a lot of people gave up. We'd gone soft--like we'd reverted back even further before the ooze and it was just too much effort to get back.
One mattress is on top of a box spring, complete with sheets and a quilt. I can't help but laugh. Who had the time for that? Who had the energy left? It looks like there's another quilt next to the bed, but this one's in-process of being made. The bed is lumpy. There's still someone in it--an old man, dressed as a woman. I remember Little Red Riding Hood and my heart jumps. He's dead, but barely. I touch his forehead. Cold, but the skin is stiff. Rigor mortis has set in. He has a patch of the new quilt in his hand. I take it from him.
Another ending/beginning. Goodbye life, hello freedom. Wherever he is now, whether he is anywhere or nowhere, he certainly won't have to worry about how bad he smells, or the fact that he shit the bed. I pull the quilt over his head. I put the half- finished one on top, too. Animals will get him, eventually, but not today. Not tonight.
I used to play this game-- a long time ago, in another life, where there was nothing. You started in a field or on an island, or in a desert, and you built up from nothing. At night there were these monsters that would come out and some...well most of them...made noises. Most--all but one. One would just sneak up outside your line of vision and suddenly you'd hear a sizzle and you'd know your life was about to end. Those were my favorite monsters because there was no fight, it was just the sizzle, an explosion, and boom--life renewed.
I think my survival is punishment. Really I do. I'm stuck in purple, knowing there's renewal around the corner, knowing this all has to end sometime, but never crossing into the new spectrum. Always waiting. Always waking up the next morning. 
The sky fades again from purple to black and the stars come out. The moon shines, its light now blemished by the colonies no one thought to build from reflective material. I close my eyes and feel the wind on my face.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Relax. It's Easier Than It Sounds.

I suffer from depression and anxiety. A lot. And recently I put together a list of things that help calm me down. This list was born largely from wanting to show Jeremy the things that I like—the things that may not make my depression go away, but that I like having without having to ask. I also decided to share them here, considering I bet there are a lot of people who suffer from similar problems. Sometimes a little pampering goes a long way. This list is my top ten ways to pamper/indulge myself when I’m feeling particularly low:

APPLY HEAT: I made myself a re-heatable rice pouch a while back. I got the idea when I realized how damn expensive those adhesive heat pads are—the ones from CVS that warm specific parts of your body. Yes, those are much more useful for when I have to go out or when I used to work at the shoe store. However, when I’m sitting at home or laying in bed, a reusable pad works just as well. I didn’t have the money for an electric blanket, so I went online and looked up alternate solutions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

VoxBox Lipstick Review


From my instagram 

I got the Influenster voxbox about a month ago and I've become obsessed with how bright and lush the moisture renew lipstick from Rimmel London makes my lips. You would think that for this kind of color saturation, you'd need at least two coats, but let me assure you that it goes on bright with the very first coat.
The color is vibrant and slightly glossy when it first goes on, but you can pat it down with a tissue for a more matted, lip stain look. The color won't fade when patted down. I've also made a vine of the application process, so you can see what I mean by the vibrancy of one coat.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Historical Heartthrobs" is WAY More Than a Sexy History Book

"The dreamers by day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible" --The real life 'Lawrence of Arabia'

We've been hearing for ages now that Nerdy is the new sexy, but it seems the author of Zest Books' Historical Heartthrobs is ready to prove that that's always been the case.

Kelly Murphy has created a book that makes history romantic, and focuses on figures who don't often receive their due. Case in point: the tagline of the book is "50 timeless crushes", but JFK is nowhere to be found, and Marie Antoinette only gets a 2/5 on the "Heat factor scale". Looks aren't everything in this surprisingly measured title.

This book could have quickly turned into a weird objectification of historical gents and ladies, but Murphy establishes early on that she's not here to play that game. The figures included are rated based on a variety of elements. First they each have a mini-biography along with a photo, the tale of their sex lives (or lack thereof), why they matter, their best feature, how high their "heat factor" is, and quotables either from or about them. The book is put together like a middle school scrapbook, but like it was created by professional middle schoolers (if that were a thing). The result is a collection of portraits that humanize men and women who we may not think about as, well, men and women.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jen's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms

FIRST A STORY
Well, not really a story so much as a fact about me: I love eating mushrooms. I've been fascinated by them since I was a little kid. I used to pick them out of the backyard and collect them in baby food jars, and leave them lined up in the little fort part of my swingset above the slide. Someone probably should have stopped me.
I was smart enough to never eat them, or I was taught well enough, but that didn't stop me from wanting to. My favorite dish when I was little was Swedish Meatballs. I also ate Cream of Mushroom soup like it wasn't something you were supposed to mix into dishes. No lie I had a thermos of the stuff for lunch like once a week for a while there.
I was obsessed with beef stroganoff. Any time I could put mushrooms on anything, I did. And when I went out to restaurants, if there was something on the menu with mushroom anything, I was all over that shit. I've had mushrooms on pizza, mushrooms on burgers, in my spaghetti and stuffed in chicken... I keep a little Styrofoam box of mushrooms in the fridge for snacking.
Image Source: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. See Also: my brain.
The problem with this mushroom love is that I've only ever had a great deal of experience with your typical, white cap button mushrooms (see? they even have adorable names. what's not to love?), but I knew there was a whole wide world of edible fungi out there somewhere, waiting for me to gnash away on it.
Enter Chronicle Books and A Cook's Initiation to the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms.

Don't call it a cookbook. 

Yes. There are recipes in this book. However, there is so much more, and the recipes are SO not the point. Calling it a cookbook would be doing this title a serious disservice. First, there's sciencey stuff. The biology of a mushroom has a lot to do with a lack of chlorophyll. In fact, mushrooms are somewhat like icebergs in that the cap is simply the fruit of a much larger living organism underground. 
Whatever you call them, mushrooms of all shapes and sizes are fascinating to look at, to study, and to 
test out in new cooking styles (so long as they aren't toxic, obviously).
Somewhat on that note, the authors are careful to warn amateur mushroom hunters against...being amateur mushroom hunters and to instead leave the finding and the harvesting to the professionals. Everyone will be significantly less dead that way.
From Amazon, A selection of the mushroom porn found within.
The concept behind the book is to chronicle the world of mushrooms, both raw and cooked, in a collection of photographs. While there are 100 recipes included in this book, there are also tons of photos, as well as cooking tips in general, and photos of tools and cleaning techniques recommended. The next section of the book is a visual index of the mushrooms primarily used in the recipes. Not only is this a beautiful collection of photographs, but it will also ostensibly come in handy while picking out specimen for the recipes themselves.
Once you've picked out your mushrooms (at the market, or the store. NOT the forest.), it's time to get cooking, and the recipes walk you through how to Choose, Cook, and Clean the mushrooms before you begin the dish proper.

These Guys Just Don't Know When to Stop...and I Love Them For It.

If this is a cookbook, then I want to see more cookbooks like it. After the recipes that have been separated by the type of mushroom found within, there are two additional sections, titled "Outdoor spores" and "Street-Style" food. The book continues on into the history of mushroom cultivation, as well as how to dry mushrooms, make preserves out of them, how to properly use truffles, and on and on and on. Somehow, even when I got to the end of this 280 page tome, instead of feeling like a newborn expert, I feel as though my training has just begun. I suppose, then, the book holds up to its titular promise of "initiation" rather than "complete lexicon". 
The included bibliography is doubly appropriate, as it serves to show where some of the research came from, and as a launching pad for my continuing trek through the "Gorgeous World of Mushrooms".

Chronicle Books' Gorgeous World of Mushrooms


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tell Me More, Tell Me More!, or "100 Ghosts": A Review

There are a lot of "gift" books out there, mostly filled with nice sayings about sisters or Jesus or the meaning of life. Some are filled with lovely photographs of the ocean or historical information you never wanted to know. 100 Ghosts is the kind of gift book that is filled with jokes, but unfortunately I think author Doogie Horner misses the mark he sets out to make.
100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts is, to be fair, exactly what the title promises; a pocket-sized encyclopedia of 100 examples of ghosts that are probably more scared of us than we are of them. Each one is a variation on the classic sheet over your head--perhaps the simplest of Halloween costumes ever to exist. Some are ironic or clever, some are just pop culture icons in sheets. So far, so good.
The prologue, however, promises something that it never achieves, namely that the book will prove ghosts are just like us and wouldn't it be funny if they roamed around the world trying to open jars and stuff? It's not to say that the jokes aren't funny, but I think this is a concept that would have or still could be better executed online, perhaps in a webcomic format. I read this book with my sister, with two of my best friends, with my boyfriend--and we all came to the same conclusion. This is the kind of thing we would find hilarious shared on facebook, or on a website where each ghost came with a daily post explaining its quirky life story. Horner achieves this with the graphs and charts on his webpage, where he posts the image and a small paragraph explaining the inspiration or idea behind it. Certainly, the Harry Potter ghost doesn't need much explaining, but why not do a whole series--further breaking the variations into collections. In fact, Horner has since done this three seperate times for EW magazine, creating Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Orange is the New Black collections for the online version of the publication.
The prologue talks about pregnant possums posing a larger threat to you than ghosts in your kitchen...I would love to see Horner take that a step further and tell us what happened when he met each ghost. Perhaps, to keep things simple, he could pose their life stories in interview format.
Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but having flipped through the book several times, I keep coming to the same conclusion. That was fun, but I wish there'd been more.

Check out 100 Ghosts for yourself at Quirk Books' official site.
For more on author Doogie Horner, check out his site, too!
Follow my posts at IHOGeek for more reviews

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This "Little Fish" May Not Be as Different as She Thinks

Almost a month ago, I rode with my mom to drop off my little sister at college for her freshmen year. My sister is seven years younger than me, and while we have a lot in common, there is one major difference between the two of us: while I have always jumped at an opportunity to travel and live somewhere new, she never even liked going on sleepovers.
That's why I was delighted to see Ramsey Beyer's Little Fish on my review pile. In fact, Caitlin (the sister headed off to her freshmen year) was also super excited to see in on my desk, too.

While Ramsey grew up in the Mid-west, our hometown is decidedly city-based. Ramsey had no familiar faces on campus, but Caitlin chose a school where she knew some of her friends would also be attending, and her boyfriend is just fifteen minutes away at a different college. Ramsey headed off to an arts school in Baltimore (fun fact--also where I went to college!), and Caitlin is enrolled in a five year program for early childhood education.

For all their differences, I had to put the book down more than once due to an uncomfortable feeling that I was reading Caitlin's journal rather than a published auto-biography by someone I'd never met. And after a few moments of reflection, I realized the simple truth: we all go through the same shit. While Little Fish's tagline is "A memoir from a different kind of year", it could easily be a memoir from my freshmen year, or Caitlin's, or any of my friends and/or other sisters, too. The details would be different, and I definitely wouldn't have thought of the format, but the meat of the story would be the same. Rather than disappointing, there was something warmly comforting about that fact.

It would seem that it doesn't matter when we go to school, or how much technology there is connecting us with our family and friends. College will always be a tough adjustment. In today's world full of tragic endings, bullys at all levels of school, and feelings of disassociation for a variety of reasons, it's nice to read a coming-of-age tale with a happy ending.