Monday, May 18, 2009

Back, sick, details later

Hey! I'm back from Cyprus and I had an amazing time. I'll write all about it later. Right now, I'm sick as a dog and totally pathetic.

And I miss the bartender I developed a total crush on.

but mostly, I'm really sick.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I know, I know

*sigh* I'm sorry. I really have been meaning to update regularly, but if you know anything about my life, you'll know it's absolutely insane and I'm stretched way too thin. My *hope* is that once I graduate I'll have at least a vaguely regular schedule and not have 50000 things to do when I get home like I do now at school. In the meantime, check this out from xkcd. I can relate.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Puppy Chow

So, unfortunately, I don't have pictures of this one, but this stuff is delicious and retardedly easy to make.

9 cup Chex
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Also - make sure you have really big plastic bags

Of course, we wanted to make the whole box of Chex, so we just sort of increased the recipe by however much here and there, rather than calculating how much we should really put in. It's us, are you surprised? I was joined this time by J and K. Hehehehe I like how those initials worked out.

So you melt the butter, the chocolate chips and the peanut butter in a pot, and then you throw the vanilla in. Then, in a large bowl, you pour the mixture over the Chex cereal, and mix it to make sure that ALL of the cereal is thoroughly coated with the mixture. This is somewhat tricky because you don't want to crush the cereal, which you tend to do too often when mixing it. J said that she likes to use her hands, and that's probably a good way to do it. We didn't because the mixture was still hot, but if you're patient enough to let it cool a bit, that's a good option.

Anyway, then you put the powdered sugar in a bag - we split it into 3 bags, and I think it was easier that way. We didn't bother to measure out the powdered sugar - it's just as easy to eyeball it - it's not a science like baking. So you but the powdered sugar in a bag, you put the coated-in-the-delicious-mixture-chex in the bag, you seal it up nice and tight - which is a VERY IMPORTANT STEP - and you shake it like a crazy person.

If you're us, you may or may not play catch with the bags. And you may or may not start trying to get fancy with your game of catch and drop it on the ground.

But, in no time at all, you have:
Great little snack.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A moment of joy

I am officially DONE with the rough draft of my thesis.

Sorry, that doesn't reflect how I'm feeling now. How about this:



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Jill Shalvis - Instant Attraction

Preface: I've had this review half finished for about a month. Sorry it took me so long to actually sit down and finish it. :-\

I really like Jill Shalvis. I love her sense of humor, I love her dialogue, I love her characters. So when you find me harping on one aspect that got to me, keep in mind that even with her flaws, she's totally worth a read.

I got introduced to her (as an author, I haven't personally met her) though the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website (which, if you're interested in romance at all you should totally check out) and, while I was really interested in reading her, I haven't been able to do so until really recently. I still haven't read all of the books I would like to, but, particularly over the past week, I've been able to catch a glimpse of her writing at different stages of her career and I have to say that, while she's always had talent, there are certain aspects in which she's really improved. The one in particular that always gets me is the "don't tell me, show me."

I've seen, as her books have progressed, instead of trying to tell the reader how they should feel or how the characters are feeling, her using more and more descriptions placing us there so we can see how they feel.

Anyway - I really liked her, and you'll see that because I'm going to take a minute to gush, so don't take my minor rant that the end of this all TOO seriously.

What do I love about Jill Shalvis? First and foremost, her sense of humor. She's fantastic at witty banter, which is one of my favorite things in the world to read. In Instant Attraction specifically, She created a fantastic, very flawed heroine who I can relate to, but you can also see why the hero loves them so much. And her male characters are YUM. (Did I just say that? Yes, I did)

I was also really impressed with her secondary characters. The other two brothers didn't have much in depth explanation, mostly I think because she's making their own books, but Nick, Annie and Serena were fabulously well developed. While I differ from my favorite people ever, the smart bitches, in that I absolutely loved Annie, we both agree on the fact that Annie was completely and totally real.

That's really why I loved her so much - She was upset and unhappy with her marriage for reasons she couldn't quantify, though she still loves Nick. She just wanted a REACTION from him. I could find myself identifying with her, or failing that, I could readily sympathize with her. (yes and that's just a secondary character)

It also has to be said for Serena that she managed to create an ex that has a bit of bitchy ex without being OMGEVIL. I found that very impressive and, really, a joy to read. I don't mean to spend more time on the secondary characters than the main ones. I love how she brought two people working on getting past some major scar tissue in two different ways, to form a believable bond.

Now, remember when I said that, from what I can tell, she's much better at the showing rather than telling bit? That's very true, however there was still one place in particular that drove me nuts. Bear with me for a sec.

One of my other favorite authors is Jennifer Crusie, and she wrote an excellent article (The Five Things I Learned About Writing Romance from TV) in her Lessons #2 and 4 are say it with action and mean what you don't say. The "long winded romantic declarations" are so much better put by a telling gesture. Just take a look at her examples.

Shalvis's hero (Cameron by the way, I just realized I haven't been using the main characters' names) really did not strike me as the type to make any sort of big romantic speech, even though he's realized that she's the love of his life, and yet that's exactly what he does. He already had the big gesture down, which was fabulous. He doesn't have to go into a speech after that - a few words will do nicely. Maybe it's just because I've read that article, maybe I wouldn't have noticed it before, but since I did, that one little scene drove me a little crazy.

I would reccomend this one, it's definitely a good read and I'm excited for the others in the series to come out. Sorry it took me so long to finish this review. Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On a related note

I love Jill Shalvis, and I've been interested enough in the others even before this contest to check them out, so this is exciting. WIN BIG WOO

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Save the Contemporary, Save the World

Hello, friends. I come to you tonight to talk about a dying breed: the contemporary romance. I know you get all sorts of causes thrown at you. Save endangered wildlife, save starving children, save out planet, blah blah. But this could very well be the most important thing you ever do.

Okay so it probably won't be the most important thing you ever do, but the lovely ladies over at Smart bitches, trashy books ( have created a campaign: Save the Contemporary, Save the World. Not romantic suspense, not paranormal romance (though I'm all in favor of those as well) but stories about two people meeting, growing and falling in love with no external forces pushing them together set in the modern day.

How can you help our cause? By buying contemporary romances. Not just any contemporary romances of course: GOOD ones. Find out more about this here. Books featured include Jill Shalvis' Instant Attraction - whose review I've had half done for a good 3 weeks (I'll finish that up for you, though if you're really curious about it, smart bitches did a review of it - just fish around their website a bit)

The most recent book to be spotlighted by this campaign? Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. I've read some of Lisa Kleypas's historicals and loved them - particularly her heroines and the circle of friends they have surrounding and supporting them. I have not read Smooth Talking Stranger yet, most likely because it's not actually out yet, but yet again our friends over at Smart Bitches help us out - if you're curious and want to read a review, come on over here to read theirs

And remember: you CAN make a difference. :-p Happy reading!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hey - I've had this review half written for like 3 weeks. Instead hereare a couple of amusing comics!

Hungry Eyes

1000 Times

Monday, March 2, 2009

Peanut Butter Balls

I love people's reaction to Romance as a genre. This came from author Jill Shalvis's blog. The question came to her from a stranger in the middle of a haircut.

“What is it you do again?”

“I write romances.”

“Really? The ones that have sex in them?”

“Uh, well, yeah. But—“

“How many have you written?”

“I don’t know, more than thirty.”

Her eyes widened. “More than thirty! Wow. How many guys have you slept with?”


And I still haven't been very good about posting in here. I haven't had any food adventures this week, but I could share a short little ditty on trying to make peanut butter balls.

I'd been craving chocolate peanut butter balls all week. Actually for several weeks. I had a whole jar of peanut butter, I had butter, I just needed powered sugar and chocolate chips, which I snatch up on my next WalMart trip. I then wait for my ideal moment. Actually I just wait until I can't deal with the craving anymore. Roomie was asleep for this one, Accomplice wasn't there. I was on my own.

I'd post the recipie on here, but I don't remember exactly where I got it - I just googled peanut butter ball recipe and modified one to fit me the best. One without wax or rice crispies just because I didn't have either ingredient.

Turns out a full jar of peanut butter wasn't quite enough. Now I could do the math and figure out proportionally exactly how much of the other ingreedients I needed, but then I wouldn't be me. I just cut a random little bit off the butter and poured in the powered sugar until I thought the consistency looked about right.

Don't judge, it worked!

Then came the chocolate dipping bit. I don't actually have a double boiler at school with me (what college student does?) so I jerry-rigged one by putting a random bowl with chocolate chips in boiling water.

Much to my surprise, this doesn't prove ideal for melting the chocolate. I can't get it to melt right, which is really pissing me off, let me tell you. Instead of a nice liquidy texture I'm getting a clay like texture. I try dipping them in anyway, but surprise surprise, silly puddy doesn't provide ideal conditions for dipping.

At this point I'm determined to beat the damn things. It's me against the peanut butter balls and I WILL win. So I take the bowl out of the pot of water, take a glop of chocolate in my hands and mold it around my peanut butter balls like clay.


Eventually the chocolate did melt, but not for a few batches in. The result was half of them looking like beautifully dipped chocolate concoctions and half of them looking like Franken-balls. I still maintain that the latter tasted better.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tongue in Chic, by Christina Dodd.

I have to say, neither the title of this one, nor the cover image really fit with the book. Not that that's Dodd's fault, but it seems like whoever wrote the title only read the last chapter of the book and the cover artist only wrote the title. That's neither here nor there, I suppose.

So the plot: Meadow breaks into this old house (that belonged to her grandmother's ex-husband) to steal a painting her grandmother had left for her. Of course, upon breaking in, she doesn't find the painting. Instead, she finds that the old owner had sold the house to the oh-so-gorgeous, yet grim and ruthless businessman Devlin Fitzwilliam. Well, in the process of him discovering her, she falls and bonks her head and goes out for a minute or so. When she comes to, she finds him demanding what she's doing in his house. She panics, thinking she's going to be sent to jail, and claims amnesia. Her memory is, in fact, perfectly fine, so imagine her surprise when he tells her that she's his wife.

To sort of hit fast forward through the rest of the book, it's about a mismatched pair, Meadow coming from hippies, Devlin being very ruthless focused, growing up on the wrong side of an affair in South Carolina, where it's apparently still the 1950's. Meanwhile there's a lot of intrigue over this painting. In the sense that people are willing to kill for it. I was a little skeptical about that too until the end; that part does actually make sense.

So there were some things I really liked about this one, and a few that didn't really work. Overall it was pretty good, but it's a "pick up in the library if you want" book rather than a "rush out and get it" book.

I loved her reaction when he told her she was his wife. It was such a turn around from some of the more traditional, cliche "amnesia" plot lines it was hilarious. The longer the farce went on, however, the more contrived it felt. He knew very well that she didn't have amnesia, she knew very well that she wasn't his wife. By about 2/3 of the book, it was such a stupid source of conflict it just didn't feel right. The fact that, by a certain point they're such a close couple, and she trusts him so much, and yet she won't trust him with such a stupid "secret" -especiall since she knows perfectly well she's not fooling him and never did - seemed to be at odds with her character.

I adored watching her take on the cast of characters, and I adored watching him watch her take on the other characters, especially the "old farts" And I really liked Devlin's relationship with "Four." I almost wish something more had been done with it though.

While I get that in the town these people are from, the tradition of the old days is still a big deal, I would like to note that this is not actually the 1950's, and I don't think Devlin's illegitimacy would have ostracized him quite as much as it did. One other bone of contention I had was that, while for the most part the characters were pretty well developed, there were a few moments that just didn't fit. I get that Meadow was a hippie, but the whole "dancing naked under the full moon" thing was way too much. Through the whole scene I was convinced that someone had slipped her some kind of drug. When I found out that that was just her way of being "free thinking," I had a major WTF moment.

It also bothered me that, despite the fact that she knows how much Devlin's illegitimacy has scarred him, (and Dodd specifically made this a major plot point) she still was so cavalier about having unprotected sex, even the second time after he has specifically mentioned condoms/unprotected sex.

Anyway, this story was so much about people, and not just the main characters, who are so different in so many ways falling in love and finding a life for each other. I'm usually very very skeptical about these sorts of things, but I feel that the characters worked very hard for their endings. Consequently, it's one of the few "we're polar opposites" stories whose Happy Ending I can find myself believing.

All in all, it was an entertaining, worthwhile book to read, but I don't think I would call it a must-have

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not a Real Person

I haven't been updating like I was planning to, but there's a very simple reason for that - my Senior Recital is on Saturday. I'm not going to be a real person until that's over. Roomie has been known to say that she can't wait to have her roommate back. (which is valid)

But I would love to say, as corny as it is, that I'm so lucky to have some of the most awesome people in the world surrounding me and supporting me. I always laugh at people who say "thank you for your support" but now I totally get it. It's not just my baby, it's my roommate's, my voice teacher's, my a cappella group's, etc...Particularly the first two.

Accomplice is going to come down and we're going to make lunch the day of the recital. Before my family gets here so they can't make fun of me. I'll start updating after this ordeal though!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Adventures in Bread Making

A week ago or so, I turned to my roommate and said "next weekend, we're making bread." She, in turn, looked at me like I told her we were going to hop on the next flight to Alaska, but, used to my insanity, said okay. Actually she said "...oookaaaay..." (no lie, you could hear the ellipses) I'm not sure why she thought it was so weird, but it might have something to do with the fact that I've struggled with frozen pizza before, so baking bread seemed a little out of my reach. Still, she humored me like a good sport.

Imagine her surprise when I didn't completely forget about it in a couple of days. A week later, resigned, and I like to think a little excited, she took me to WalMart to get all of our ingredients:

Flour (3C)
Water (1 cup, but we didn't actually buy that)
Salt (3/4 tsp - borrowed from someone in the dorm when we turned to each other and said "we're not buying salt")
Yeast (1 pkg) For the love of God, get rapid rise!
Olive Oil (2 tbsp)
(in case you're interested)

The first three ingredients taken care of, we wander the baking isle like lost puppies trying to find the last)

Me: "Where's the yeast?
Roomie: "You really think I'd know?"
Me: "Um... What does yeast even look like?"
Roomie: *you-are-so-full-of-fail-glare*
It was at this point that a lady who was also cruising the baking isle took pity on us. She showed us the yeast and then spent a good long time explaining to us the finer points of bread making.

It was at this point that she shared with her her trump card: "after the first rise, add butter, basil, garlic and Parmesan" Roomie and I look at each other with identical "Oh HELL yes" grins and rushed to the produce section with her to grab the additional supplies.

Apparently uninspired by our perpetual blank looks, the Expert eventually gave us her phone number before leaving, saying "You guys look like you'll need some more help. Call me when you have questions."

Bolstered by her confidence in us, we rush back with our booty to meet our Accomplice, who hadn't actually been informed that she would be making bread with us. Luckily, I'm surrounded by good sports and she perked right up and said "Okay!"

Accomplice and I run downstairs to get started (Roomie's a little slower, so we get no pictures of the first bit) So our directions: Combine water, Olive Oil, Salt and Yeast into lage mixing bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes

*I go to mix it*
Accomplice: Don't mix it!
Me: What? Why not?
Accomplice: It says combine, not mix, we're not supposed to mix it
Me: I think combine means mix.
Accomplice: No... I...


About 2 minutes into the 5 minute time frame, we split the difference by shaking it a little. In all honesty, I doubt it matters one way or the other.

Then we're supposed to slowly stir in "About" 3 cups of flour - use our discretion. Of course, we don't actually have any discretion because we have no idea what we're doing. We start with measuring cups, and somewhere along the way just decide to keep pouring in flour until it seems like a dough. Of course, we thought that it was "dough like" long before it actually was, and tried to start kneading it. At this point we learn the first and most important lesson in bread making. It's messy.

This is where, for the first time, Roomie contributes to the process.

That would be her pouring in the flour.

Look at her go!

Go, Roomie, go!

I'm so proud of her.

So after several rounds of pouring in flour, completely giving up on any form of measurement, just hoping for the best and waiting until it looks like it does in the movies, we finally get it right.

Well we also got tired of pouring, but it really seemed right, honest!

At this point we start actually kneading in earnest. We're beating up the dough, twisting it, in some cases we may or may not hav actually decided to play tug of war with our dough.

And I may or may not have looked demonic.


Eventually Accomplice develops a probably more legit way of kneading the dough by folding and squashing, but I like to think that it needed (ha, kneaded, get it?) to be roughed up a little first.

Of course then there's the "When do we stop?" question. The directions said to keep going until it looks smooth or something like that.
We have no idea what that means, but basically decided to stop when it looked like it does in the movies and felt like we thought movie bread would feel.

That was actually not how it looked; it looked a lot smoother than that, but that's the closes picture. Doesn't it look all small and harlmess? It's not, don't let it fool you.

So then the directions told us to cover it and let it rise until doubled in size. Well hell, we didn't have any saran wrap and nothing down there fit over the bowl.Oh wait. Our WalMart bag fit over the bowl. Well, better than nothing! So we wait. A few minutes later, magically, our dough was twice as big. Seirously. I knew it would happen, yet I was still surprised when it did. So it's time to spread it in the pan and add our mixture of deliciousness.

Looking around, I don't see a stirrer, but I do see a large butcher knife. Figuring that would work just as well as a spoon, I start mixing while Roomie snickers. "But it can double as a spatula to spread it around!" I say.

For some reason they're not impressed.

So, after the team is dissatisfied with my spreading capabilities, they spread the mixture and we roll it up and try to fold the ends down to seal it in. It's show time!

We stick it on our disposable pan, also known as glorified tin foil, and throw it into our unpreheated oven (that's actually part of the directions, its second rise happens while the oven is pre heating) we wait (375 for 30-40 min, or until it makes a hollow sound with you hit the drust with the blunt part of a knife)

Meanwhile we eat.
Hey, we hadn't had dinner! Anyway, some time later it comes out smelling delicious

And it was.
Unfortunately, the cleaning up part was a little daunting. Remember when I said that making bread was messy?

I didn't lie.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Queen of Babble gets Hitched, by Meg Cabot.

This started off as a review of that particular book but ended up as a tribute to Meg Cabot as a writer.

I like Meg Cabot. I don't think she gets nearly enough credit (or maybe she does and I just haven't been paying attention, which is probable) She doesn't necessarily write complex prose, but that's not why I read a book. I read a book to get sucked into the lives of characters I can feel a connection to.

Some of the problems I can see with her is that she does have a prototype for her characters - you could argue that, but for a few notable differences, many of her male characters are more or less the same. Fortunately, I really like that prototype, so I certainly don't mind. She also has a way of making me really relate to her characters no matter how different I may be from them.

Now, she does, even in her non-young adult books, still have a bit of a young adult voice. I can't say I would ever point to one of her books as some of the best the genre has to offer, or to win someone over to the genre. But her books have a sort of comfort to them, like sliding into a hot bath. I can see Cabot's name and be assured that I'm going to enjoy the book. I think anyone who reads one of Cabot's books could reasonably say the same thing. You don't know how comforting that is to someone who, like me, uses books as an escape mechanism (and that's not to go emo on anyone. It could just be from regular school related stress)

Now I say all of that, and it seems at odds with my next point, which is that I really admire how much she experiments with her books. While most of them are told in the same voice, Cabot really likes to mess around with how she tells a story or different constructs within a story. Of course you have your regularly-told stories. Then in the Princess Diaries series she worked with a diary format. Okay, not too out of the box there. But in "The Boy Next Door" and another one that escapes me, the entire story is told through e-mails. One of them is told through e-mails, receipts, and other things jotted down on spare scraps of paper. And she managed to make it into a really fun book that still sucked me in; it didn't read like an experiment.

Then in "Airhead" we have her completely departing from the usual with her heroine, yet at the same time remaining true to her typical heroine's voice. Sound strange? You'll have to read it to find out more, I'm only spoiling one book here.

Which brings me, finally, to my point here. Which is "Queen of Babel gets Hitched." It's the sequel to the "Queen of Babel," by the end of which she falls in love with Luke and it looks like they're well on their way to a happily ever after.


So what's brave about this one? It turns our Luke isn't quite the hero we thought he was. I've seen books take the the "it's been a few years, we've grown apart bur the falling apart takes place offstage" sequel approach. But making the hero from a previous book into... well certainly not the hero anymore, with that process unfolding in front of our eyes... that's not something I've ever seen. I admire Cabot for doing it, but I don't know how I feel about it. Because I read the first book a really long time ago, (it's been at least 2 years I think) I could find myself rooting for the real hero of this story. Had I read the first book more recently, I don't know that I would have taken kindly to this one.

On one hand, it's a great effect to mimic real life. In books, you can usually tell who the "right" guy is or who the "good" people are, even if the heroine doesn't know. The writers generally want to make sure we know. So being fooled right along with the heroine was a great parallel to real life relationships and a great concept. So the analytical side of me was enthralled. The casual romance reader in me is still a little confused.

Hell the romance reader was more angry at Luke than the heroine was! She's going "you know, it's okay, I don't care about him anymore" and I'm going "NO, IT'S NOT OKAY, YOU JERK!" but maybe that's just me.

That being said, I love Chaz, and I love the "my best friend is the one for me" plot line. I could believe their story. One of the coolest things about Chaz is how willing he is to take the backseat and let her shine.

In any event, I would recommend this book to any Cabot reader, and I would reccomend that anyone become a Cabot reader (though maybe you should start with the Boy Next Door or something) She was incredibly brave to show her readers the destruction of a relationship that she created, and, minor qualms aside, she did an excellent job with it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

New! How Thrilling!

Well hello! I'm Steph, your oh-so-fabulous host to the wonder that is/will be Real Women Eat Chocolate.

So what's this about? Well a little bit of everything, I suppose. To give you a little tour of what I plan for this, I hope to once a week post my (mis)adventures in cooking/baking (complete with pictures of the messes I make)

Then once a week (most likely on a weekend but I don't know - the cooking bit will definitely be weekend material though) I'll be posting romance novel reviews.

Once or twice a week, I'll be posting miscellaneous stuff. Sound interesting? I hope so! Check it out later when I have some actual content up :)