Category Archives: Uncategorized

SNL’s Version of Downton Abbey and Four Other Things I Love


  1. African American women with natural hair.
  2. Campbell’s Soup’s promise to make their cans BPA free.
  3. Christina Rosalie’s A Field Guide to Now is available for pre-order. Yes, please!
  4. Pam Houston’s ability to articulate the difference and similarity between fiction and non-fiction in writing “So rather than say my intent is to blur the lines, I would say that those lines are not useful to me as an artist. They don’t help me to get the story written.”
  5. Fancy Entourage – What’s better than Downton Abbey? The Saturday Night Live version of Downton Abbey. I can only find the video there. I can’t embed it but you can scroll down to the second image to watch. It’s worth it. TRUST ME!

What five things do you love right now?

My Life at Stack ‘n Stuff

I’m in this weird place right now. I’m kind of on maternity leave, I’m kind of a stay-at-home mom, but I also have this book thing. The official launch date of Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition was October 11th and every day that goes by, my prime book promotion window closes a tiny bit, and every day that goes by, my kids get one day older. There’s a lot I’d like to do on the book promotion front, but it all requires travel or time at my desk, which my 15-month-old will not allow. It’s an age-old parenting story. Like many parents, I want to be all things at all times. I want to be out promoting the book, but I want to be here with the kids. What’s a frustrated, driven, over-achieving mother to do?

Well, here’s one thing I do have plenty of…. Time with a toddler. I have lots of that. What can one do with a toddler? Well, one can organize her junk drawer. Then perhaps she’ll feel so satisfied she can design and install her daughter’s closet with the help of her toddler wobbling around with hammer in hand. Then she can move the spice drawer and re-organize her kitchen utensil drawer. Well, then, there’s only two more drawers in the kitchen that need help and, well, maybe she can do those the next day because it’s supposed to rain and she has this coupon and they’ll go to story time in the morning, but after nap they’ll need something to do, and there’s a playground nearby and it’s covered so the slide will be dry and so that would be just perfect. It’s just the thing!

This happens to be our routine. Morning, play around the house, naptime where I spend a few minutes at my desk, trying to get some shit done. Then afternoon snack and we head to the mall. We go to the playground first so K can blow off steam, and then to Storables so that I can. He has his fun then I have mine. The result: I’m in that store pretty much every day. I should wear a sign that says “Hi, I’m an over-achiever mother who should not be staying at home but is staying at home. Please excuse me (get out of my way before I run you down) K THX BYE! J” But, then I think, why would I need a sign? Is this not self-evident?

At the store, they greet K and me with a friendly smile and a wave. They notice and comment on his cute haircut. I load up on containers and baskets; then I go home and start getting dinner ready. When Paul opens a drawer in the kitchen, he raises his eyebrows and asks how everyone is doing at “stack ‘n stuff” today. We both know that he knows it’s called Storables but I correct him anyway. Everyone at Storables is fine, I say. Thanks for asking.

Then while Josie stands in her cape on the armrest of the couch and jumps to the floor, while K reaches up to the counter to grab whatever breakable or sharp item he can find, I reach into my supremely-organized utensil drawer and let out a contented exhale as I retrieve the forks and knives for the table, because while I may not be able to control my superhero, my counter-reaching monster, or the trajectory of book sales, I can most definitely, control the contents of my kitchen drawers.

Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition Events

The Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition official launch date is October 11th but I hear rumors that it is shipping now. Early!

The launch par-tay is this weekend! Come! And bring friends!

Here’s how the rest of the schedule is shaping up.

  • Bellingham WA – Village Books Reading and Signing
  • Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm
  • Village Books Website
  • Seattle WA – In Living Pink
  • Young Survival Coalition Fundraiser
  • Friday, October 21, 2011 8:00 pm
  • Young Survival Coalition
  • Vashon Island WA – Books By the Way Reading and Signing
  • Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm
  • Books By the Way Website

I’ll be speaking for just a few minutes at the Young Survival Fundraiser. This is the support group that got me though my treatment. It’s a really great cause and a fun party. If you’re in Seattle, come!

We’re also still hoping to set up a reading in Portland. Stay tuned!

Check out the website if you haven’t already That’s where you can find this video and other interesting stuff, like the reading schedule and blurbs for the book.

Like the Facebook page here!

Only nineteen days until the official release of Who in This Room: The Realities of Cancer, Fish, and Demolition!

Flying Ponies

Guest post by Barbara Matousek.

On our way in to town this morning, Sammy and I were talking about the clouds.  We were winding along highway 35 between the Nathan Wolfe Memorial Wildlife area where Sam recently told me “things that suck your blood live” and the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge where Sam says “that funny duck with the big head swims.”  A half dozen white egrets stretched their necks to fish near the wild celery, and a few others sat in the crooks of a dead tree that reflected on the water.  As our Subaru slowed to let a train clear the tracks in front of us and the bright sunlight behind us created dramatic whites and grays on the clouds hanging over the bluffs, Sam told me you can’t move clouds with your mouth like you can the fuzzy tips of dandelions.

“Clouds are heavy,” he said.

“They are?  How do you know that?” I asked.


“I think they’re really easy to move.  You just have to get close enough,” I said.

The last car of the train bumped across the road and the red lights stopped blinking and the large semi in front of us slowly started moving.

“Go fast, Mommy.”

“I can’t.  The truck in front of us is going slow and it takes a lot of energy for him to get started.  Remember how hard it was for you to get your bike started when we were going up the hill last night?” I reminded him.

“Yah.  That was hard.”

“It’s the same.  Once he gets started we’ll get moving fast, but right now he’s got to work really hard to get going.”

He thought a while.

“Mommy, we need to get a flying pony so we can go up into the sky and blow the clouds away,” he said.  “If we flew really super fast it would not be so hard to get them started.”

This guest post, brought to you by my good friend, Barbara Matousek. She is a single mother by choice of a toddler boy and a baby girl. She writes regularly on her blog about

Stewy Chicken

It’s been ages since I posted a recipe. My friend, Tami, sent me this. I made it over Memorial Day weekend and I was a hero, they practically threw me a ticker-tape parade after dinner. I added a bunch of grated zucchini at the end. It was awesome.

Recipe: Stewy Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken or 8 skinless boneless thighs
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 teasp dried oregano
  • 1 teasp minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 teasp lime zest
  • 1/4 c lime juice


  1. Throw the whole deal in a pot and let it cook for a long time on low heat — two + hours. Serve with rice or in tacos or on salad.


Not Everyone

Have you ever had everything come together at once? A book deal (I just can’t use those words enough), completion of a big work project, a well-behaved (mostly) child, a memory full of holiday merriment, and a wedding to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. You’re filled with happy clichés. Everything is on the up and up. The sky is blue and the world is smiling with you.

Sure, you’re celebrating, but you’re hesitant about getting too comfortable in this happy place. You know enough to know that things will come around again. Not that everything will end in tragedy, but that there will be a natural, maybe even gradual, swing back to boredom, melancholy and/or irritability.

Then you get a call – a message on your voicemail from someone who shouldn’t be calling you, someone who, if she is calling, cannot possibly have good news. Just like that, the sky is not so blue. You’re reminded that things are not on the up and up for everyone. The world isn’t smiling with you.

Then you’re back in that familiar place of wishing you could do more to help and hoping that she knows she’s loved.

Awash in Squash

Garden Update: first it was the broccoli, then the greens, now we’re awash in spaghetti squash. The vine took over the 4’x10’ bed then tried to crawl across the aisle and up the bean trellis. A few weeks ago I noticed that the vine had withered and died and I decided that even though they were still a little under-ripe it was time to bring them inside. I had 8 of them lined up along our kitchen counter.

I think we may hand a few out at Halloween. Here kid, have a giant under-ripe squash. Boo!

Or maybe we’ll hand out kale. The kale I planted in the spring never bolted, it’s still growing and producing. A few weeks ago, I thinned out a few plants but I still have three. They’re taller than I am. I tied their stalks loosely to stakes so they won’t blow over. I expect them to walk into the house and curl up next to the fire any day now.

Hey kid, would you like a Reese’s peanut butter cup or… a stalk of kale?

Anyway, what are you awash in this fall? Are you planning to grow anything over the winter?

Here’s one of my favorite spaghetti squash recipes. It’s kind of like lasagna only without noodles and with squash so really nothing like lasagna. Forget I said that. Of course, it’s gluten-free. I made a Josie a special dairy-free section without the cheese.

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Tomato Sauce


  • 1 2 lb spaghetti squash
  • 1 lb ground buffalo (or beef)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 28oz cans whole tomatoes drained and chopped
  • 3 oregano sprigs
  • 3 thyme springs
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 15oz carton ricotta


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Pierce squash with a fork and place it on a baking sheet. Bake for at least an hour or until tender. Cool. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Throw away the seeds and use a fork to remove spaghetti-like strands to measure 4 cups.
  3. Brown ground buffalo (or beef) in a frying pan.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, crushed red pepper, tomatoes, oregano and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Discard oregano and thyme sprigs. Mix in browned buffalo, Parmesan, and remaining salt, pepper, oregano and thyme.
  5. Layer squash, tomato and buffalo mixture, and ricotta cheese in a 9×13 baking dish. Bake at 400 for 50 minutes.

Book Exchange

It seems like it’s about time to make myself useful, that I should impart some great knowledge or research findings. There’s just one problem. This book. I’m trapped and I can’t get out. Not only is David Sedaris on CD occupying my limited free brain space in the car, but at home it’s all about the book. I dream of the end of the day when I can go to bed and read it. That’s all I want.

I love a good epic, multi-generational tale, one that starts with the narrator’s grandparents immigrating to foreign lands usually, but not always, in times of war or disaster, on cargo ships surviving illnesses like tuberculosis and scurvy. I love almost any story that involves scurvy, except those that involve Ernest Shackleton and the eating of pets. I love present narrators – narrators as characters – who talk to me and tell me their stories. I love stories that end lifetimes later with the realization and loss of love, not always the romantic kind. This book fills all of these requirements. It might just make the list of my top 3 favorite books of all time.

The list:

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

And now: Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

What are your top 3? Don’t cheat. Only 3. They don’t have to be literary or lofty; they only have to make you happy. Tell me.

Tiny Cases to Hold Things

It was my birthday on Saturday. My hero, Polly, came to watch Josie while Paul and I jumped a train to Portland for two days and two nights. It was a dream come true. Here are some of the highlights.

We stayed in a trendy hotel.

I bought little cases to hold things. They make me enormously happy.

I tried to take some blogger self-portraits. It’s surprisingly difficult.

I wore a skirt.

I spent hours at the world’s largest bookstore. We bought books. I considered sharing a picture that didn’t show the titles but this says so much about our lives right now. You can’t see the children’s books on the bottom – Olivia, Curious George and Corduroy. It’s kind of a little poem.

I turned 37.