Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Motivate Me

I just finished an amazing book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I can't say I would unequivocally recommend it to just anyone. Its fantastic, but also pretty dark and vulgar (read: Patrick's mom, please don't read it.) It's one of those books that the less you know about it going in the better, but basically it is about a husband and wife and on their 5th wedding anniversary, the wife disappears mysteriously (and that happens in chapter 1 so lay off,  spoiler police!!)

The book is about a lot of things, but one of the big themes is the idea of what you really want out of life and what you are willing to do about it. This is something I struggle with a lot. I think we all do. It's that idea of making goals and then falling short.

Like I really would like to lose about 10 lbs and get more fit. But then when I have a day off and my wife is at the library and not there to be the voice or reason, I spend the afternoon making this:
What's that you say? Oh, it's just Chewy Caramel Apple Popcorn.  Which, I believe, is not really conducive to weight loss and healthy living (Because it contains, among other things, a stick of butter, 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 cups of brown sugar. But seriously, go make this stuff. It's unreal.) So as much as I try and tell myself that I am going to recommit to exercise and get healthy and finally look good without a shirt on (I am extraordinarily vain) I see a tweet about this amazing popcorn recipe and immediately make a beeline to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients.

I feel the same way about writing. I love blogging and I love getting all your comments and Facebook likes (seriously - I measure my self worth by the number of comments I get, so don't be shy.) And Part Time Authors has been a great way for me to write more regularly. And allegedly, in my spare time, I am working on a novel. A novel which I starter about 5 years ago and so far is 6 pages long. I tell myself I really want to finish this book, even if it never got published, just because its been a long time goal of mine. But then when I do have spare time I suddenly find myself watching Nashville or clicking on endless links on Buzzfeed. (You should click on that one - its a good one.) And over the years I have tried various goals - a certain amount of time a day, write every time my wife is at the gym, write on my lunch break at work. So far nothing has clicked. Today, November 1st marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month wherein aspiring authors try and write a novel during the month of November.) And even though I have done NaNoWriMo in the past (if by "done" you mean "signed up for and then spent every day of the month feeling guilty for not writing.") I'm giving it another go this year. Hoping that it sticks.

I think that is the key. You have to find the motivation that resonates with you. For years I have wanted to cut back on the amount of Diet Coke that I drink (which used to a lot.) I tried to think about the health reasons and the fact that I was basically ingesting large buckets of aspartame and chemicals every day, but that didn't motivate me. I tried restrictions and limits and nothing clicked. And then what finally did was thinking about the money. I was basically spending more than $1000 a year on Diet Coke. And once I decided I just couldn't afford it, I squelched the habit. I still have a can at lunch. And if we go out to eat, I may order one. But I don't have 25 a day anymore.

Why is it so hard to be the person that I know I want to be (a fit, healthy professional writer who runs marathons and looks good without a shirt on) when I know exactly what I need to do to get there? Maybe this year with NaNoWriMo something will click and my YA Novel empire will be born. And maybe I will put down this giant popcorn ball and Diet Coke and start doing some push ups. Then again, maybe not.

clark family costumes, 2012

Miles and Owen left at the crack of dawn for junior high and high school. Owen is Doctor Who, and apparently he touches his glasses a lot? I don't watch the show, but Owen did this in every photo I took. Miles is "the medic from Team Fortress 2," which is apparently some kind of video game. If you already knew who this character is I will pay you one million dollars. Anyway, when I was in junior high and high school I would have NEVER dressed up for Halloween; it was not cool at all. But I guess they all do now. Times have changed. It's fun for teens to be hipster and ironic and dress up like things you've never heard of.

This is Hugh and Phoebe dressed up like Mario and Luigi. There are many things that please me about this. First, I'm proud that they wanted to be something together. Secondly, I think it's awesome that Phoebe doesn't mind being a boy for Halloween - she doesn't need to be a princess or a pop star. Third, these dudes know how to work a pose. Seriously, this took no coaching. My babies can smize.

This is probably the best picture I've ever taken. This is my Diane Arbus contribution to the world of Instagram. For reals, Margaret! She posed like this only briefly, but it was just enough time to capture the genius. Look at that blob of a mouth! Where is her actual chin? What's happening with her left hand? Why the wide stance? Eyebrows? Everything just came together perfectly. I couldn't improve it. Margaret was dressed as a witch, incidentally.

Oh, that's just me dressed up like Bane. I always try to think of costumes that utilize a bald head, but this year I also wanted to work in my new C-PAP mask. So it was a no brainer! I'm sorry you can't see my knee pads or my burly boots, but Instagram only does square pictures and there is NO way around it. But you can imagine it. Those are belts around my chest - they were fun at 9 this morning, but not so fun at 2:30 when I'm sitting at my desk at work. I suffer for my art.

What did you dress up like? Was it awesome? Happy Halloween!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Big Red Van of Death!

So, once, a few friends of mine found ourselves loading up into my buddy's 15-passenger van. They called it "Big Red," either because they super love the gum or because it's a red 15-passenger van, I never clarified.  It was October and we wanted to do something real cool and real scary.  So we made our friend "Chris" tell us scary stories as we drove around Provo...Utah.  Well, things got real cool right off the bat, I mean, I was in the very very back seat with two girls, one my friend "Kacy"who was totally involved with my other friend "Christian" and the other was my wife; still, I was optimistic about my odds. "Chris" wanted everyone to quit messing around and get spooky.  He put in scary music, but it kinda got too loud at times, and then our friend "Josh" was complaining that Flight of the Valkyries was not that scary, but I thought that if Zombies were to organize and get uniformed up then Flight of the Valkyries would be wildly scary. Anyway, we killed the music halfway into the spooking.  So, I could tell right away that my wife was getting super scared cause she kept screaming and then snuggling me and we were giggling, all the while trying not to get caught by "Chris" who was telling us how one time, in that exact house, one of his students heard footsteps going up and down the stairs.  Or how from that hill, when Jesus comes, Ancient Native Americans will rise up and...well I'm not sure what they are gonna do, whatever Jesus wants, I guess, but still scary.  And we (the other eight of us) were sort of goofing off and saying that we should all get a booth at the pizza place across from "The Hill" so we could watch rising Indians and share a slice of Zah. Needless to say, if you think this showdown went down 20 years ago, you, mother, would be wrong.  It was two weeks ago. The average age packed into "Big Red" was 40.  My friend "Lisa" actually had to give one of her kids the brush off:

Kid: "Now, where are you guys going again?"

Lisa: "I'm just going out with my friends."

Kid: "But where?"

Lisa: "Ugh, we are just going to drive around!"

Kid: "You and your friends are going to just going to drive around?  Where?"

Lisa: "NOWHERE, GOSH!  We are just gonna drive around, gall, go to bed would ya."

So four and a half couples, all with more than one child--some with seven--driving around Provo's most haunted spots, which, after the giggles and wiggles begin to fade (we're all old and can only keep that crap up for a while) we find out that Provo is kinda least where ever "Chris" goes. I would hate to short hand his terrifying tales about old theaters and Polygamist houses in a stand off, but you should know you missed quite a night. And so on this All Hallows Eve, Part Time Autors invites you to dump the kids and call your old friends.  Climb into the biggest car your friend has and tell a few tales, remember the second house you lived in and the dreams that woke you there, download a ghost app, eat great food and read a fine book and enjoy these days, these days where we may be older than our kids but we are still much younger than our parents, those poor farts.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Trip to the Coroner

Years ago I was serving in my LDS ward as the president of the Young Men’s organization. As most of you are aware, this involves teaching lessons on Sundays, planning activities for Wednesdays, and having sixteen year-olds come by your house at any given moment without prior warning, whether your pregnant wife is wearing pants or not. (Have you BEEN in Las Vegas during the summer? Pants are superfluous.)

It was the witching month of October and we were planning some activities for the month. One of the young men suggested we visit the Clark County Coroner’s Office, under the guise of “studying different professions in the Las Vegas Valley,” but really so that we could all get properly freaked out.

I had never seen the young men get so excited about an activity. Except when they planned a Scouting “High Adventure” camp to California that included Six Flags Magic Mountain, a Dodger game, a trip to the beach, and a hamburger eating contest at Tommy’s. But I digress.

We all became quite giddy about this idea. Somewhere in my mind – the part of my mind where I am still a teenager – I imagined this whole thing to be, in a word, AWESOME. The next day I called the office to arrange a tour. I talked to Steve, the “Head Coroner,” and asked if it would be okay for us to take a tour. Unfazed, he agreed. I told him that we would like to come by around 7 p.m., and he explained that he wouldn’t be there, but he would let the “Night Coroner” know we were coming by.

We pulled up to the Coroner’s Office just as the sun was setting. The parking lot was deserted. The building looked decrepit. And this was not the wealthiest neighborhood in town. I imagine they set up the Coroner’s Office here so that they could be near business. The way ice cream trucks drive through young neighborhoods. I looked at this building and thought, “The dead people in that building are the lucky ones.”

We walked up to the front door and knocked. And knocked. And knocked. Nobody. I pulled out my cell phone and called the number I had. A gentleman answered. I assumed it was the Night Coroner that Steve had told me about.

“Hello?” he said.

“Yes, hello…John?”


“Hi, this is Ken Craig.”

“Yes.” (Clearly my name was not getting me in the door.)

“Uhm, did Steve tell you I would be by with some youth from my church?”

“No.” (Clearly this was the end of our discussion.)

“Oh. Well, we’re here.”


“Well, we are looking at different professions throughout the valley, and the youth were interested in seeing the County Coroner’s Office.”

“Why?” (Completely incredulous.)

“It’s just something different than anything they’ve studied, and they’re interested.”

(Long pause.) “Why?”

“Are you going to let us in?”

“Uhm…I’ll be there in a second.”

We waited. He finally opened the door and actually peeked out at us before opening the door all the way. Like HE should be afraid of US. Dude, you work with dead bodies for a living! He stepped out into the twilight, and you should have seen this guy. He looked like he needed a good chiropractor. His alignment was off, and one shoulder was higher than the other. Also, and I am not making this up, one of his eyes wandered…just a bit. If he had wrung his hands together and mumbled “Walk this way,” I would have wet myself right there in front of teenagers.

“Well, let’s enter through the back, where the gurneys are brought in.”

(Gulp) “Uh…okay.”

Once inside, we are standing in what is essentially a garage; where the ambulances and other vehicles back in to drop off the gurneys. The gurneys with dead bodies. The guy half-throws his arms in the air and says, “Well, what is it you’re interested in hearing about? The science of it? The forensics?” And just like that, our young men turn yellow. Suddenly they are mute, and they are looking at the ground, shuffling their feet, as if they were at a Stake Dance. Now I feel like some kind of sick-o. Like this guy’s suspicions of how weird we are, are suddenly validated. “So, you came to see the dead bodies, did you?! Well LOOK AT THEM! DID YOU GET A GOOD LOOK!? SICK-O!”

So I start making-up questions. And this guy holds nothing back. Launches into everything from which bodies come to the coroner’s office (homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths), who investigates them, weird deaths he’s seen, how the bodies are weighed, etc. And then…the moment you’ve all been waiting for…he takes us into The Cooler. There are about half a dozen dead bodies on gurneys, a wafer thin sheet covering them. I can still see some of them to this day. A female with long red hair that looked like it had been brushed up – so that her face was covered, but you saw all this red hair coming out the top. She had to have been in her thirties, I’m guessing. Long fingernails. Next to her was a man with bullet holes down the side of his body. And if the visuals weren’t bad enough…the smell. My gosh, the smell. It gave your gag reflexes a workout.

Behind the room we were in was another cooler room. The Cooler Part 2: This Time It’s Personal. This room was for bodies that had not yet been identified and had been there for quite some time.

“What’s the longest you’ve kept an unidentified body?” I asked.

“Well,” he started, “we got a new Head Coroner last year, and when he found out we had bodies in there for OVER 20 YEARS he ordered us to have them buried.”

“I see.” I answered. “Who’s ready for that hamburger eating contest?”

He showed us another room where the Coroners work on bodies that are unidentifiable when they are brought in. To the point where families are not allowed to get an up-close look-see. There is video equipment in the room, and the coroner works on the body while the family watches from another room, removed from the upsetting nature of being so close.

Afterwards he took us into the business office area of the building and gave us a good talking to. He explained to the boys that it takes a special kind of person to go into coroner work. (Very special, I’m sure.) And he discouraged them from doing it, talking about horrible things that he’d seen. He answered a few questions from us, and then got a phone call about a body coming in. How many total did that make for a Wednesday in October? Seventeen. Seventeen bodies in one day. And that was before the night was over. Take THAT CSI.

Our trip that year had become legendary among the young men. And the next year, of course, there was an entirely new crop of young men anxious to be equally freaked-out. So we called and made the appointment. You could feel the energy on the way down to the place. When we got there, they escorted us all into a large room, showed us a short video, told us about the profession, and that was it. No tour. No dead bodies. The best I could figure was that the previous year we had caught Night Coroner John off-guard that fateful night, and not really knowing what else to do, he gave us a tour that the public is not generally privy to.

When I went up to our speaker at the end of his presentation I said, “How come we didn’t get the tour? We were here last year with John, and he gave us a full tour.”

“Who?” he asked, his eyes growing big.

“John,” I answered. “John, the Night Coroner. He gave us a tour last year.”

“That’s impossible,” the man said. “We don’t have a Night Coroner.”

“Well, you did then. He had one shoulder higher than the other, wandering eye, mustache…”

The man’s face went pale and he sat down. “You’re talking ‘bout Ol’ John McNeil,” he whispered. He was a Night Coroner all right. He died…10 years ago!”

Okay, so I made up that last part about John being dead 10 years ago. But could you imagine if he were? That would be AWESOME! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Some "Scary" Homemade Videos by Yours Truly

I love scary stories, urban legends and slasher movies. Some years ago, my wife and I made a music video that is a tribute to all three.

Amelia and I were happy to work together to plan, shoot, make-out and stay up late to make this thing come together. Amelia came up with the song, concept and costumes, of course. We shot it by ourselves using available light and stacks of books, chairs, tool boxes and the hood of our car for a tripod. I then quickly had to learn how to use iMovie and edit it together. If the video doesn't play, you can watch it here.

Also, in 2006(?) we quickly tried to shoot enough footage to make a zombie movie out of some awesomeness from our toddler. You may or may not get the gist but she sure is adorably creepy when she whispers, "Join us!" and tickles me to death.

Happy Halloween, readers!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Haunted Tracks

About 100 years ago when I was a freshman in college, I decided I needed a really wicked mix tape to listen to during the Halloween Season. I wanted music that sounded spooky or had spooky themes, but that wasn't The Monster Mash (Because doesn't that song make you want to fill your ear canals with candy corns and then let small children eat your ears?) My friends and I loved to drive around at night aimlessly and tell each other scary stories. And thus the Halloween Mix was born. Many of the songs I already had in my collection (and remember, it was the 90s, so yes, there is some Squirrel Nut Zippers and some Cranberries all up in here.) But some I gleaned from that magical Jukebox in the sky, Napster. I spent an afternoon searching for terms like "ghost" or "werewolf" to see what would pop up.

Over the years it has become sort of a soundtrack of Halloween. I'll go over to friends houses and hear it playing in the background. People have added to it or taken away, but it is a good foundation of Halloween Themed Songs for your next 90s-Themed Halloween Party. Enjoy!

A few songs that are on the original but didn't make this list because they weren't available on Spotify:
Transylvania Concubine by Rasputina (which I believe came from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack)
Grim Grinning Ghosts by The Barenaked Ladies. Wow, it just gets more and more 90s. (I did replace this one with a different version.)
Scary by Bjork. I have no idea where this song came from.
Witching Hour by Squirrel Nut Zippers. Because what says 1998 more than three SNZ songs on your mix tape?

So - what did I miss? How can I update this so it doesn't sound like I should be wearing hiking boots and a flannel shirt when I listen to it? Share your suggestions in the comments and I will update the Spotify List so that everyone gets to hear them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

haunting how to's

I wrote last week about how I like to ghost hunt, even though it's kind of redneck and super sketchy. But I think it's something you and I could do together if, supposing, we wanted to hang out and be better friends. I always wish someone would text me and say "do u want 2 check out this ghost at my grandmas house" or something exciting like that. Instead people just want to go to Rumbi's island grill or stuff like that. Anyway, if you DO want to ghost hunt, hit me up. My schedule is not awesome but I'm always happy to meet after midnight and look at creepy things.

Wanting to do a little ghost hunting on your own? I give you my blessing. But there's a few things you gotta know!

1. You can't expect every old house to be haunted. Just most of them. There are some new houses that are haunted, but usually they are haunted by the ghosts of RC Willey. Mormons are particularly susceptible to those ghosts. Anyway. A good way to find out if an old house is haunted is to go in there when it's dark and cold and just sit around. Do you feel creepy chills? Does something appear to be moving? Do you hear the small, plaintive lullabies of children upstairs? Bingo! Be careful about sounds, however, sometimes it's just mice. Or rats. Or a murderer.

2. Don't bring a flashlight: you probably won't use it. That's so Scooby-Do. Nowadays everyone brings laser pointers. So bring one of those. Don't bring a knife to a gunfight, you know what I mean? Laser pointers are better because you can see things move through them (i.e. disturbances down a long hallway.) I know some dudes bring those spelunking helmets with flashlights on them, but I think those look so herky-jerky and awkward. Just bring a laser pointer! That's really the future of ghost hunting: lasers. And if you have a cell phone bring that, because you should have one of those apps that detect EVP's and radar. (I suggest this one)

3. Don't bring that big jerk who's going to smirk the whole time and act like he's not scared. Or claims that everything is "just the wind." That dude is no fun. DO bring people who get scared easily, however, because when people are frightened they send off a lot of energy, which ghosts feed off of to become visible. You've never heard this? Try watching Ghost Hunters on SYFY or maybe read the scriptures. It's there. It's fact. The more scared you get, the more you can see them. I'm a PhD, so you will have to trust me. Bringing Snarky McRollshiseyes will not produce visible ghosts, just irritation and an evening ruined. You want to see a ghost? Freak the crap out. Scream and jump up and down. They'll appear.

4. Don't split up. Ever. That doesn't end well. Ladies, don't wander around old houses in your underpants with just a flashlight. It's a no-brainer. Do, however, consider wandering around old houses in your underwear with a laser pointer.

5. If you see or sense a ghost, talk to it! Remember my story from the theatre in London? Ghosts can hear you. They will respond. Sometimes they will disappear, or become angry and storm out. And sometimes they may actually touch you - a lot of them can do that - but they are aware of you, generally. Don't try to joke around, though. They don't like it! They are very sad and lonely, and most of the time they want to murder you. So you have to walk a fine line between being confident and being too silly.

6. Record everything with a digital recorder. On Ghost Hunters they hear all kinds of secret EVP whisperings when they play them back. What's an EVP, you ask? Well if I were you I would not CHECK OUT THIS WEBSITE unless you like being scared (cue: ghost.)

7. You have to work instinctively: did you feel some drafty air? Do you feel like someone is behind you? Is there tension or a sense of anger in the room? Your body is trying to tell you something. IT IS NOT ALONE. It's probably a ghost. Don't run away. Fight the urge. Grab a net and try to catch it!

Good luck, everyone! Let me know if my tips were helpful.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"At The End of the Lane" A Spooky Tale by a Part Time Author

There are those whose breath aches for the crack of treaded leaves, the race of whipped wind 'round a broken tomb stone, the shallow gasp of black night as it settles on your chest.

She was one of them.

She sat waiting at her window. Watching for the first dead leaf to fall at the foot of the aching maple tree that covered the front face of her house. She could match the tangles of bark and branches of the tree with the iced lines of the ancient glass in the windows of her dying home. She loved to watch. Families would walk by unaware of her stare through yellowed lace curtains. They would give sweatered smiles and hold mitted hands and call for their young to keep clear of the street. She would smile too; though her skin bagged and pulled hard toward the floor making it impossible for her lips to turn up at the ends, she would smile. She would smile while she waited.

Once. Once, her face had been smooth and beautiful, the color of promise. Once, her eyes had been compared to unseen tropical seas, now they lie in wait, hollow and grey, the pupil set far in from the color, creating a space.


Once. She hated the word. The sharp hiss, following the slack jawed ‘Un’, clawed the roof of her mouth as it slid out. She no longer thought, ‘Once.’ She only ever thought, ‘Next’. 

Perhaps, if those boys had not come that first year. Perhaps if they would have just passed on to make their mischief at other, less foreboding, manors. But they hadn’t. They came here, and she knew why. She was old. The house terrifying. The season called for it and she had her role to play. So, she invited them in and locked the door. She spent time sifting through the boys, finding the worst among them, the biggest liar, the bravest fool. She separated him from the pack. She sent the other boys off without him knowing. And he was left. And she was right.
He fought hard at first and she was sure he would overtake her; after all, he was a growing boy and she a crooked old woman, but he did not believe it would happen, he couldn’t believe. She had that on her side, she believed. She could see the whole thing as it was happening, as if from above. The swirling, and pulling, and crying out. The candlestick.

It had been her mother’s. Deep black marble with swipes of grey. It was brought back from Venice when she was a girl. It stood, always, center of the mantle to receive its accolades. It was cold to the touch, but not that first night. That night it burned her hands as she held it. She had worried that the heavy of it would put her off her balance, but she was buoyed by the weightlessness of it as it lifted over her head.

She knew where to put the body. She had always known. The cellar had been bolted off long ago, after they had running water brought to the house. The only access now was an old dumb-waiter that would spill the mess into the dark beneath. The smell. What of the smell? The smell would be covered by the cats. She had known that when the first stray coiled its tail around her drooping stocking. The smell, like the blood rush would fade.

Some get away.

She knew that, too. There must be a broken board down there, and she may not have hit them hard enough, or in the right spot. She could hear them shuffling around down there, banging into things in the dark or breaking glass, then quiet. That’s why she chooses the liars. What could they say? In the end, it’s just a boy who missed his curfew and is now babbling some fantastic story about the old lady at the end of the street. Even if they were filthy and bloody, no one had ever questioned her. No one had ever walked past the maple tree and knocked at the door and asked where the town sons had gone. And as long as no one asked, she would continue… to wait.

For they would be back, a new batch, braver than the last, hopped up on wild tales told year after year about the house on the hill and the children who never come back.

And so she waited for the first dead leaf to fall.

The end.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Case of the Unresolved Footsteps

I am following Chris' theme from last week, regarding ominous and personal, unsettling tales. I am not the avid Ghost Hunter that Mr. Clark is; and truthfully, Chris is more confident about the social agendas of ghosts and their lounging about... I suppose I am undecided. However, that being said...

The year was 1995. Katie and I were married that August and we were living in Provo, Utah that fall, where we attended the BYU. To help Katie’s family, we had agreed to live in the basement apartment of Katie’s grandfather's house. It was a yellow, two-story house on 50 East, right behind the Brick Oven, where the pasta bar became all-you-can-eat-for-half-price after 9 p.m. Rather capacious for the location, and quite outdated in comparison to the new student apartments across the street, the house looked out of place.

Katie’s grandfather had experienced a number of strokes in his old age and was not the picture of health. He could barely move on his own and required others to help him bathe, eat, and change his clothing. He didn’t need any help going to the bathroom, however, because he did that wherever and whenever he pleased.

Though the bedrooms were on the second story, to help Grandpa get around, he and his sleeping arrangements had been moved to the main floor. The four bedrooms upstairs were spacious, along with a full bathroom and several sizeable closets that were used for either storage or just left empty. With nobody living up there, and no maids, the upstairs was always very still and dusty. It was like nobody had been up there since 1857, when the Saints built the first two-story house in Provo. (I didn't fact check any of that last sentence.)

The main floor featured the front room, where Grandpa spent most of his time watching television and spitting out his pills that we had given him about 5 minutes earlier, with a dining room and a kitchen behind the front room. Off to the side was a parlor that had been turned into Grandpa’s bedroom. Our basement apartment was directly under his bedroom. There was a set of stairs that went up from the back of our apartment into the kitchen on the main floor, and that was the path we usually traveled to go up and check on Grandpa and take care of him.

Once, in the middle of the night, Grandpa fell out of bed. Turned out he was coherent enough to recognize he had to go to the bathroom and wanted to try and make it on his own, bless him. Unfortunately, he got as far as sitting up in bed…then he sort of just fell out of it and onto the floor. The thud woke me up and I went upstairs, hoisted him up off the floor, checked his diaper, and put him back in bed. As I walked back down the stairs from the kitchen to the basement, it dawned on me how wise we were to live in the basement; strategically so, as we could hear Grandpa on such occasions. 

We had lived in the apartment just shy of two months when one of the most unsettling things took place one evening, ‘round midnight.

Katie and I were going to bed and had most likely just finished chatting about how nobody could possibly ever be in love as much as us, and even though we were newlyweds, we would totally act the same giddy way our whole lives, because we were awesome and we would always find each others’ belches endearing and everything we did would be cute forever and ever. We had been lying there in the dark, silently, for those few minutes before one drifts off to sleep, when abruptly, there were five distinct, deliberate, and pounding footsteps running across the floor above us. We both shot up in bed, looked at each other, and shouted “What was THAT?!”

I physically jumped out of bed. “Did you hear that?!”

“Was that right above us?!” asked my panicked wife.

“That couldn’t have been Grandpa,” I said. “I hoisted him off the floor the other night. He’s like an enormous sack of Hogi Yogi. That was something else. SOMEBODY IS IN THE HOUSE.”

Having almost drifted off for the night and then to be shocked into a state of panic, my adrenaline was really hummin’. I ran up the back stairs, through the kitchen, and into Grandpa’s room. He didn't budge. Still snoring, wrapped under his blankets, he was unaware of anything. I did a lap around the main floor – through the front room, the dining room, the kitchen – I saw no signs of anything. My nerves were on fire!
I grabbed the fireplace poker, and I took off up the stairs. I could almost hear the people yelling at my movie screen “Don’t go up the stairs!!!!! You’ll kill yourself!!!!”

I didn't turn on any lights, for fear of giving away my exact location to the intruder. I ran into every bedroom and closet, ripping the doors open, each time fully expecting to confront somebody.  When I tore open the final door to reveal absolutely nothing, I paused only for a second before the horrible thought came to me, “He’s run down the back stairs into my apartment and he has Katie!” Faster than I had run up the stairs, I ran back down, through the kitchen, down another flight of stairs and into my little apartment.

There was Katie, sitting up in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin.“Who is it? Who was there?”

“There’s nobody there. There is not one soul in this house except us and Grandpa.”

I went back up and took a more calculated and leisure trip through the house, paying more attention to detail and looking to see if there were any small signs of disturbance. I couldn't see a thing.

It was a few weeks after that, when we were relating this experience to some of Katie’s family. Her mom had sat silently through our story, but afterwards pulled us aside.  It was then she told us that her brother, Katie’s uncle, used to live in that very basement apartment, years before us. He had moved back home as an adult, due to some struggles with emotional and mental imbalances – some very real issues with depression. He had killed himself in that very apartment.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

On "How to Be Happier" from Inc Magazine

Earlier this month, Inc. magazine posted an article titled, "Be Happier: 10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now" and it really resonated with me. You see, I have a problem being happy. It's gotten a little worse each year to the point where I really have to make an effort to think more positive, be more fun to be around, and not say or write every snarky think I want to say or write.

So, my goal has been to try some of these and see if it helps. Interrupting and criticizing lead the list for me. Give it a read and let me know what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ghosts at the gielgud

Josh has been putting some pressure on me to write up a true scary story. I have many of them. I'm a ghost fanatic. I go looking for them, and that means I'm bound to find one or two. It also means I'm a super huge loser. I know ghost hunting is a little white trashy and most people pooh-pooh it, but I can't help but love it. It's like getting sodas from Maverick. You crave it, you do it late at night, and you hope nobody ever finds out. I firmly believe in things that go bump in the night, including the hollow thumping sounds of livers imploding from late night infusions of aspartame.

Anyway, when I'm in London every summer you can bet I'm running into ghosts around every corner. That city is full of ghosts. So it's no surprise I ran into one fairly recently.

I had taken my students to see a production of Lend Me a Tenor which was playing at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. The Gielgud is 106 years old this year, and it feels like it. It's creaky and drafty, with long wallpaper paneled hallways and an endless series of staircases and doors. It's a bit of a maze in there. Have I set the mood?

A spooky thing happened at intermission. Greg Larson, one of my students, and I were wandering the theatre looking for a famous painting of a cat named Beerbohm. He used to live in the theatre and he'd show up on stage all the time during plays and the actors had to improvise around it. Oh, Beerbohm! When he died they put up a portrait of him, and supposedly it's hanging somewhere in the theatre. We were trying to find it. Easier said than done. The Gielgud was basically designed by M. C. Escher.

We were walking down a long, dimly lit and completely empty hallway until we came to a wooden door with glass panels that cut the hall into two. As we approached, the door swung open on it's own, just feet away from us. Greg and I both jumped back. After we confirmed that we had both seen this happen, because you would be blind not to, we started to approach the door a little more gingerly. The air was suddenly very cool and felt somehow electric. I carefully closed the door. Since I faithfully watch Ghost Hunters I've learned to address whatever it was directly:

"Hello," I said. "I noticed you opened that door. Could you do it again?" Immediately, the door unlatched and cracked open.

"Great. Thank you. Could you do it again for me?" Immediately, another crack open.

We waited a bit and didn't say anything. Nothing happened. Then Greg said "I bet it won't happen again." And immediately it cracked open again. About four inches.

We left. It was too creepy. And it wasn't just that the door seemed to open on command, though that alone was really spooky. It was the sense in the air that we weren't alone, or that something or someone was watching us. It's a strange sixth sense. We scampered back down the hall until we came to a theatre bar, where we sat for a moment to process the mysteriously responsive door. But we couldn't stay away long. We were too curious and had to go back to make sure it wasn't just air pressure or coincidence.

Initially we kept our distance. The door was fully closed now, though we had left it ajar. We watched. We waited. Nothing happened. We approached it again. Nothing happened.

"Could you open that door for us?" I asked. The door cracked open. Just a hair.

"Are you a girl?" I asked. Nothing.

"Are you a boy?" I asked. The door opened about an inch.

"If you are a boy, could you do that again?" The door opened about six inches. I felt an electric shock up my spine.

And we freaked out. And ran. And kept running until we were back in our seats. And it was terrifying.

If you are skeptical, please know we checked the following:

1. This was not air pressure. There were no open windows, no other doors nearby, and not enough of a draft to open a heavy wooden door.

2. There was no one in that hallway. It was well lit enough to see someone, and certainly there was no place for a person to hide. That door was opening entirely on it's own.

3. There were two of us that experienced this. Greg will vouch for it. 

4. It was not a cat. That cat was dead. Anyway, cats don't speak English or follow commands.

5. Google says that a little boy was murdered in that hallway in 1912. Oh, Google! What will you come up with next! (You can't believe everything, you guys.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Delicious McCandy

If you and I are going to be friends, there is something you should know about me. I am, hands down, the biggest sucker for new things. This truthfully applies to a number of areas in my life, but today I am specifically referring to my interest in what’s trending in the candy department.

Many are the moments I am standing in line at the grocery store when I notice a new confection that almost causes me to have a hernia right there in the express lane. Have you noticed that during the holiday season (October through December) the candy-bar industry takes a very real interest in launching variations on their already existing delectables? Words fail me in expressing the joy that has entered my life from the delights of Milky Way Caramel Apple, White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms, and Cherry Chocolate Kisses.

And I am a helpless pawn in the candy-bar game, because I will fall for whatever they put in front of me that looks new. If I were standing in line at the store and I saw a new Hershey bar called “Chocorubbernougat: milk chocolate, creamy nougat, and burnt rubber tires” my eyes would bug out, I would snatch it up with great fervor, and I would think to myself “Wow! Nougat AND burnt rubber?! HOW has nobody thought of this BEFORE?! Sure, I wouldn't eat a car tire on its own, but with chocolate and nougat, it must be delicious!” And then I would buy two of them.

What will shock you even more is to hear that it was only a couple of years ago that I tried my first McRib. McDonald’s McRib sandwich, while not technically new, was a “food” that I’d had in my peripheral vision since I was a child, but had never tried. When I was young and impressionable I was convinced it had to be the ultimate food stuff. I mean…ribs! Ribs and French fries! C’mon!

But I grew up in southern California, where In-N-Out reigned supreme as the reason hamburgers were even invented, so there was never a reason to frequent McDonalds. And now, with my own family, we also patronized our local In-N-Out.

So I decided it was time to try the McRib. Katie’s feelings towards McDonalds became crystal clear when, after a commercial for the McRib, I mentioned I was thinking of getting one for lunch the next day. “What?! You might as well go to a strip club!” she said.

I assumed she was being facetious, so went anyway. (To McDonalds, not the strip club. Though I did notice the McLap Dances on the Dollar Menu. Oh, Las Vegas. Why?) I was almost giddy with the anticipation of eating my very special rib sandwich, a meal 25 years in the making. I went to lunch by myself that day, as it felt like something I should do alone. Like going to the bathroom or listening to Wham! I went through the drive-thru and placed my order.

“Medium Fries and a McRib, please.”

“Would you like to try an Eggnog shake today?”

A WHAT-nog? Could this be a new shake, available for a limited time only? Oh, sister, I pray you aren’t toying with me. It’s like she knew about my weakness. “WOULD I!” I answered. A McRib sandwich and an Eggnog shake! This was going to be the best lunch ever!

I found the nearest empty parking lot and pulled over, directly. I removed the goodness from the cardboard container and marveled at how messy it looked. I sunk my teeth into the McStuff and…and…I was pretty much underwhelmed. I mean…it was exactly how you would imagine it to taste. Maybe there was too much pressure for it to really measure up. Maybe I was expecting too much from McDonalds. Or maybe…just MAYBE... if you combined it with burnt rubber tire! Mmm…the McRubberRib. It has to be good!  

P.S. Please inform me of what other candy-liciousness I may need to be made aware of! I don’t want to miss anything!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Do You Want to Sleep Tonight?

I have a bit of a love/ hate relationship with scary movies. I love them in the sense that I LOVE THEM.  And I hate them in the sense that after I watch them I am terrified and can't sleep for the next six months. My wife hates scary movies, which means when I watch them, I am usually alone, or on a business trip, or up way too late when she has already gone to bed. Which makes me more freaked out.

So since it is the Halloween season, I present to you my top 7 (couldn't think of 10 and couldn't narrow it down to 5) movies that scared me and kept me up at night (in no particular order.)

1. Drag Me to Hell - This is kind of more campy scary, but oh so delightful. It is the story of a nice girl who works in a bank and one day, as she tries to be more assertive and tough to get a promotion, denies a loan to a nice old lady who turns out to be a messed up gypsy who curses her. It's gory and hokey and has lots of jump out of your skin type scares.

2. Wait Until Dark -  I guess this is more of a mystery than a horror movie. All I know is that I watched in in high school in the room above my friends garage and there were several moments where we screamed really loud. It's an oldy, but a classic. Audrey Hepburn is a blind woman who is terrorized by a criminal who thinks there is a doll stuffed with Heroin hidden in her house. The last 20 min are unreal.

3. The Ring - Even doing a Google Image search for that picture freaked me out. This movie is about a woman investigating a video tape (remember those?) that if you watch it, you die within seven days. This movie messed me up. I was scared of it for about the next 6 months. I remember seeing this with my wife (it must have been while we were still dating and she was trying to woo me) and at one point in the movie she turned to me and said "You need to calm down." This movie was full of creepy, twisted imagery that sticks with you. Spooktastic.

4. Night Of The Living Dead - This is the original zombie movie before zombie were cool and hip. I saw it in black and white one Halloween night after coming home from trick or treating. My older brother was watching it in the basement and I don't think my parents knew I was watching it with him (I was probably about 9.) I remember becoming physically ill I was so scared. That scene where the little girl comes to life and (spoiler alert) kills her mother with a garden spade. Too much.

5. Insidious - This movie came out a few years ago and I think was pretty overlooked but it was great. It is the story of a family who moves into a house which they quickly discover is haunted. So they move to another house, which is also haunted. Maybe it's not the house that's haunted! Did you ever think of that?? This is a great one if you are anti-gore, because it's not zombies-eating-your-flesh kind of horror. It's more who's-that-spooky-man-standing-outside-your-window kinda scary. I watched this with my sister while she was helping me pack my house to move from Portland back to Utah and at one point I remember turning to her and saying "This is a movie about a family in a house full of moving boxes and we are sitting IN A HOUSE FULL OF MOVING BOXES!" It's a blast.

6. The Others - Dang, I loved this movie. Moody and creepy and beautiful. It's about a woman who is looking for someone to take care of her kids who can't go out in the sun because of an allergy. Then spooky stuff happens. Then I wet my pants. This is definitely one I would watch with my kids when they are a little older.

7. Rosemary's Baby - If you haven't seen this classic, go watch it. A woman in a NYC apartment becomes pregnant and then starts to suspect her baby is the son of Satan. I know it sounds charming but it is creepy and unsettling and fantastic. Plus, Mia Farrow is a gift. And it has Ruth Gordon (You know, Maude from Harold and Maude! You love her!!)

So there you have it. I am sure I have left something out. Remind me in the comments what I missed, or tell me what your favorite scary movies are. I need a reason to stay up late (and then not be able to sleep after.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

an interview with: the phantom of the opera!

Back in the days when I was young and sprightly and had my own blog, I used to interview a Halloween character every October. You know, just to get to know them a little! Golly, I've met with Nosferatu, Jack the Ripper, a witch, and a bat. What a lot of weirdos! Anyway, I thought I would bring this feature to PTA where it will continue to puzzle and underwhelm our readers. Last night  I watched the 1925 silent classic The Phantom of the Opera with my kids and we were all horrified! My kids were horrified by the Phantom's face, and I was horrified by how fuzzy the whole thing was. But it was fun all the same, and I thought this might be the perfect time to sit down with the Phantom himself!

cc:   It's so great to meet you! Can I call you Erik?

Phantom:  What? Erik? No.

cc:   In the movie you reveal your real name to be Erik. Do you think that's a scary name? I kind of don't. Eric is not a scary name, but I guess switching the C to K helps a little.

Phantom:  Well, I was named after my mom's sister.

cc:   Your mom's sister was named Erik?

Phantom:  I'M FROM FRANCE!!!

cc:   That's right. So. How did you find all those cellars below the Paris Opera House?

Phantom:  Have you read the novel?

cc:   No. Should I? Seems long and boring.

Phantom:  Well, then, you won't want to hear the "long and boring" story about how I found the cellars.

cc:   My loss! So, how did your face get all messed up?

Phantom:  Have you read the novel?

cc:   No. Next question. Why do you like Christine when clearly she only likes you when you put her in a trance?

Phantom:  She's not in a trance! She's feeling mysterious and sexy when she hears my voice. Ladies do that.

cc:   I don't know many ladies who feel mysterious and sexy when I talk, and I do truck commercials.

Phantom:  When you talk, you need to add an echo effect. And you should wear a cape.

cc:   Hmmm....I will think about those things. What is your strange obsession with monkeys?

Phantom:  Do I have one?

cc:   Yes! There is a creepy monkey in the movie, and when I saw the fantastically boring Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom Sequel Love Never Dies in London you had a monkey for your bartender!

Phantom:  Guilty! I love monkeys!

cc:   I love monkeys too. Well, I'm just about out of questions. What are two things you would like our readers to know about you?

Phantom:  Number one, how did I find those cellars under the opera house? Number two, how did my face get all messed up?

cc:   I think we've all learned something today. The more you read, the more you know!

Phantom:  And I can also teach a lot of people how to sever chandeliers without being detected. See ya in box five, suckas!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Simple Truth Is...

I use to think adoption was super scary, now I know, it's just parenting that scary.  However, there are times in our lives that are just going to be different then most. We have an open adoption with both our Birth Mothers, which is really the way most adoptions work these days, it's better for the kids, it's better for the Birth Moms, and it's better for's just better.  My wife's motto is,  you don't talk about things you are ashamed of, and we are the opposite of ashamed about our adoptions...we are thrilled and proud and if you saw our kids you would understand...and also be a little disappointed in your own ability to procreate. One of the biggest things we want to avoid in our child's lives is "The Moment".  That "Moment" when they were told they were adopted.  So now it's just sort of built into our lives, as evident by the other day: 

The other day Daisy and I were picking up her toys, rather, I was picking up toys and she was telling me where to put them, which she would know, she got them out, and I came upon this little apron that belongs to this little rabbit.

As we were putting the apron back on the bunny I said to Daisy, "Did you know Daddy made this Bunny for you when you were in Gabby's (name change) belly?"

She said, "Yeah." then she left the room and came back in with the picture of Gabby we have framed in her room and said, "I came from Gabby's belly!"

And I said, "That's right, sweety."

She thought for a moment and then she asked, "Who belly you come from?"

I said, "I came from Hommy John's belly."  (Hommy is what we call Grandma's even though we can all say Grandma very well. Also, my mom, in a twist of patriarchal foolery, somehow adopted my dad's name into her's, making her Hommy John...which is just as well, as she had five boys and put John in all five names...she was the only "Non-John" in the house...until now.)

Daisy said, "Oh...Whose belly Mommy come from?"

I answered, "Mommy came from Hommy Da's belly."

She then asked, "Whose belly Milo come from?"

"Milo came from Olivia's belly."

Then she thought for a second then said, "Well, we all come from someones belly."

Simple. Thoughtful. Profound.  And she's only 2.

***Next week I am going to blog about how parents think their own kids are smarter, cleverer, and funnier then everyone else's kids...which can't be true...'cause I have Daisy.

See you then!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Get to Know Me

It has occurred to me that with five of us writing on this here Part Time Authors blog, that many of you may not know much about us, individually. Perhaps you are friends with Chris, or used to date Josh, or bought clothes from Patrick, or were in a play with Brett, or stole money from me at an ATM, and so you heard about PTA, but don’t know the rest of us, personally.

So I thought I would officially introduce myself and help you learn a bit more about me. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to share, though, so I just borrowed one of those questionnaires that are so prevalent on the Facebook. I’m pretty sure we’ll know each other super well after this speed-friendship type of introduction.


1. First Name: What do you want it to be? (OK, it’s Ken)              
2. Were you named after anyone?  My pops.
3. Do you wish on stars?  Well, if by “star” you mean celebrity, then yes I have. I once wished Jennifer Lopez would stop making movies.
4. When did you last cry? When I filled up the gas tank on our 12-passenger van.
5. Do you like your handwriting?  Meh. Not really.
6. What is your favorite lunchmeat?  Pizza.
7. What is your birth date?  March 17.
8. What is your most embarrassing CD?  Well, I do own Neil Diamond’s “The Jazz Singer.” But I will go on record that I am in fact NOT embarrassed about it. I am slightly embarrassed about my TV Theme Songs CD. That is, until the Golden Girls theme song comes on, because really, if you did in fact throw a party and invited everyone you knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me. (And the card attached would say “Thank you for being a friend.”)
9. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you?  Yeah, I think I would. But mostly so that I could hang around my wife, Katie.
10. Are you a daredevil? Oh, heavens yes. This one time I ate ice cream AFTER 10 p.m.! Oh, that went right to the thighs. I just threw caution to the wind on that one. But I’m crazy like that.
11. Have you ever told a secret you swore not to tell?  No, my friend.  Your secret is still safe with me. (Wink, wink.)
12. Do looks matter?  Well, mine do.
13. How do you release anger?  I make out my “People to Whack” list and hand it over to my mob friends. 
14. Where is your second home?   The car.
15. Do you trust others easily?  Why? What are you getting at? What is this for? Who else knows about this? 
16. What was your favorite toy as a child? Star Wars figures.
17. What class in high school do you think was totally useless? Yes.
18. Do you have a journal?  I do, but I never use it, as I can’t read or write. I don’t even know how I’m completing this questionnaire.
19. Do you use sarcasm a lot?  I use sarcasm exclusively.
20. What are your nicknames?   Craigles, Kenfusion, Keneroni, KC, Kenji, Kentacular. (Most of these I just made up. But I didn’t want to look un-cool by not having nicknames.)
21. Would you bungee jump?  When I was younger, I did bungee jump. I also skydived, para-sailed  and occasionally would break dance. Because before you have children, you are immortal and pretty sure nothing bad will ever happen to you. I have since learned NOT to publicly break dance.
22. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?  Shoes?
23. Do you think that you are strong? I can open peanut butter jars for Katie when the lid is on tight – whassup?!
24. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Just put it in front of me.
25. Shoe Size? Again with the shoes?
26. Red or pink? Red or pink what?
27. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?  Hmmm, let’s see. Uhm…gee, I dunno. Well, there’s my…no, that’s not it. Oh, I know – nah, that’s not a good one. Well, there’s always…nope. Hmm. Oh, now I remember – my indecisiveness.
28. Who do you miss most? Sunday afternoon naps.
29. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Black shoes, no pants. (Scottish kilt.)
30. What are you listening to right now? My tummy. It’s saying “more ice cream.”
31. Last thing you ate? Well, I’m trying to eat healthier. So I had a bowl of steamed vegetables. With ice cream.  
32. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? An oak. Oh, wait, that’s if I were a tree.
33. What is the weather like right now?  Dark.
34. Last person you talked to on the phone?  Heidy. (You know Heidy, right? Sure you do. She's super fantastic and very popular.  That's her!) Well, she’s very excited about the mission age thing!
35. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? That they are more attractive than men.
36. Favorite Drink? Strawberry lemonade. WHAT? It is TOO a manly drink!
37. Favorite Sport? Trying to find the car keys. I guess it isn't my favorite, really, but it’s the one I end up playing more than any other sport. 
38. Hair Color?  I’m a natural brown. I was a natural brown. I’m more salt than pepper now.
39. Eye Color? Brown
40. Do you wear contacts?  Nope.
41. Favorite Food?  Yes, it is.
42. Last Movie You Watched? Clue. (Getting in the holiday spirit.)
43. Scary Movies Or Happy Endings?  Can’t we all just get along?
44. Summer Or Winter? May through December is where it’s at, for me.
45. Hugs OR Kisses?  Now slow down there, sweetheart.
46. What Is Your Favorite Dessert? Why don’t you just ask me to choose my favorite child while you’re at it?
47. Living Arrangements? I make Katie happy, and I get to live with her.
48. What Books Are You Reading?  Entertainment Weekly. It’s FASCINATING!
49. What's On Your Mouse Pad?  Uhmmm…looks like ketchup stains.
50. What Did You Watch Last night on TV? Nothing.
51. Favorite Smells? The beach. Clean laundry.  
52. Favorite Sounds?  Laughter. Wait. The sound of somebody falling down. Followed by laughter.
53. Rolling Stones or Beatles?  U2
54. Do you believe in Evolution or Creation? Does anyone really believe in evolution? I mean…REALLY? Do they also believe in goblins, the boogeyman, and taxes?
55. What's the furthest you've been from home? China.
56. What is your pet-peeve? People asking me what I like most about myself.
57. What do you like the most about yourself?  Oh, you are KILLING ME!
58. If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?  I would change it so that I could FLY! 
59. Who is your make-believe hero and living hero? Well, I believe that the children are our future and that the greatest love of all is learning to love yourself.
60. If you could teach one thing to the world, what would it be? I'd like to teach the world to send me money so that I wouldn't have to work for a living, but rather spend my days becoming a world-traveler and famous writer. And work on my tan.

Now, is there something I should know about you?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Links: Stop it!

have sexy dreams while sleeping on your stomachHello, everyone, and welcome to Friday Links. I have traversed the Internet this week and found links to entertain and educate. Today we have happiness, fat-blasting, and sexy dreams. Enjoy!

Stop it! Be Happier: 10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now
Save your peepers. Keep Computer and Smartphone Screens from Destroying Your Eyes
It's too fast to hurt, right? The 8 Minute, Fat-Blasting CrossFit Workout
Naughty night. Have Sexy Dreams by Sleeping on Your Stomach

What interesting things did you come across this week?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Want To Smash My Face Into This

Image and recipe originally from

Once it becomes Autumn, don't you want to only eat pumpkin flavored things? And then build a house out of pumpkin flavored things and then eat your house? I love pumpkin and this is one of my favorite pumpkin desserts. We originally discovered it in one of those Kraft Magazines they send you to get you to buy more craft products. It's quick, easy and amazingly delicious. I admit, it looks kinda lame, and when you read the recipe, it seems even lamer but trust me it is delicious. When you eat it it seems much more decadent and complex. 

What you Need:
  • 1 package yellow cake mix
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tub cool whip
  • 1/4 cup caramel topping
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
How you do it:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans. Mix the cake mix with 1 cup of the pumpkin, milk, oil, eggs and 1 tsp of the pumpkin pie spice. Pour into pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes until it passes the toothpick test. 
Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pans. Allow to cool completely.
Beat cream cheese in a small bowl with electric mixer. Add powdered sugar, remaining pumpkin and remaining pumpkin pie spice. Stir in cool whip.
Cut cakes horizontally. Stack on a serving plat spreading the cream cheese mixture between the layers. Don't frost the top layer. Drizzle with the caramel topping and pecans. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

book it!

Last weekend when I was in Portland I was able to visit Powell's Bookstore, which is a really famous bricks and mortar bookstore right downtown in the famous Pearl District. I had never heard of Powell's before, but that's not a surprise. I worked for Barnes & Noble for five years and now I have a traumatic mental block about bookselling. I'm like the Manchurian Candidate. Say the words "bestseller" "sticker" or "chai latte" and I zone out and try to murder someone.

Anyway. Powells has millions or books, or at least it feels like millions. You wander through all of these different levels; up staircases, down ramps, through wardrobes, it just keeps going and going. It's the perfect place to hang out on a rainy day. The clientele runs the full gamut from hippy to hipster. Everyone is lurking in dark corners reading books, growing beards, and looking a little suspicious and disaffected. Lots of flannel and tattoos. But that's just Portland. (Lisa and I had breakfast at the famous Pine State Biscuit Diner, and everybody there was really nice but we just felt conspicuously clean and super Mormon. Even with my too-tight cardigan and three-day growth. Portland has a vibe.)

But back to Powell's. While I was browsing the shelves I found some titles that I really want to share with you. Because, well, they are amazing.

So, this one. What do you think? I feel like I could have written it. My answer is YES, because I would do anything to reverse my baldness but I can't. But maybe I'm confusing "necessary" with "inevitable." My students, you know, are always showing off about their hair. But it's coming. Those hairlines are creeping back. They know it, I know it, and we all see the writing on the wall. I wish baldness wasn't necessary, but nobody has figured out a way to stop it! Except this book I read once that advocated peeing on a ball cap and wearing it to bed. Somehow urine was supposed to regenerate hair growth. But who has time for that?

I like the idea of this book. Who doesn't love puppets going to church? I feel like the authors missed the mark, somehow, with their cover page. Yikes! That puppet girl has really terrifying eyebrows and she's taking dead aim on that poor little chapel. Can you imagine anything more terrifying than sitting in church when a giant felt lady with a Navajo blouse comes pawing through the rafters? I'll admit, I've daydreamed such a scenario to get out of a boring Sunday School class. But I would never want the real thing! Especially if the puppet lady has hair ribbons the size of gallows and a greedy, crater of a mouth cranking open to take in our fancy bell tower! Try again, Wilma Powers Perry! This cover does not say what I think you want it to say. But then again, I haven't read your book.


Pop Quiz! You know Suzanne Somers from:

1. Being really dumb and jiggly on Three's Company
2. Selling you thigh masters and making you feel bad about your body
3. Complimenting your earrings while waiting in a line (that happened to my mom)
4. Writing poetry. Poetry where she encourages you to touch her.
I'll let you answer that. Geezy! Those poems must be horrific. Don't quit your day job, Suzanne! Wait. What was your day job again?

Anyway, that's my report. Keep reading, you guys! You can learn so much from it.

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