Archive | Humor

Food issues

I don’t think of myself as high maintenance, but rather mildly OCD. I like straight corners and tidy piles. And I like to know where my next meal is coming from.

I have often wondered where my obsession over future meals originated. I have pinpointed two reasons for this. First, I have two older brothers and growing up, we were always racing to the bottom…of the bowl. If I didn’t grab that extra slice of pizza, it would end up in John’s belly, not on my plate. When we had popsicles in the house, I would squirrel away one or two in the downstairs freezer, the one where Mom put up all her veggies for the winter in airtight plastic containers. I thought the white-sheathed popsicles would fade into the whiteness of the freezer but damn if my brothers didn’t ferret them out without comment.

When my parents split up when I was 12, groceries duties fell by the wayside and the cupboards became bare, except for an errant tube of barley soup starter that Dad liked to use.

But that was decades ago and I still eat my food too fast and while swallowing the last bite of my lunch, I’m already forecasting a dinner plan. As a privileged American, this is not usually a problem. Food is abundant, from stocked supermarkets to tasty takeout to fine dining.

The Cook Islands are another story. Located in the South Pacific (look at a globe, find Hawaii, and then trace a line south past the equator), it’s a popular vacation spot for New Zealanders. My partner Carl and I are on our second vacation on Aitutaki, the most beautiful of the islands, due to the large jaw-dropping lagoon that encircles it. For each trip, we have checked a bag full of food staples: microwavable rice packets, oatmeal, peanut butter, crackers, chocolate, olive oil, mayonnaise, tea and coffee, non-dairy creamer, gin, spices… This seems excessive but the “grocery stores” here are more like corner bodegas with erratic and limited supplies of fresh produce. One day you’ll nab a head of lettuce and that’s it: there’s nothing else to put in your salad. On our first trip, I bought a snack pack of nuts at the store, chopped them up, and sprinkled them on top of the greens. I thought I was a culinary wizard.

Initially, this scarcity of produce caused me agita. But I have learned to embrace the challenge of putting together a meal with limited ingredients, rather than dining at one of the few restaurants on the island. It’s basically a daily Top Chef challenge. Carl has gone deep-sea fishing a couple of times, bringing home a plastic bag of fresh tuna. We’ve grilled it simply, we marinated it in teriyaki sauce, and in the height of indulgence, Carl grilled the rest up and made the best tuna salad ever.

I scored some tomatoes and basil from Tauono’s, a garden market and café on the island owned by Sonja, an Austrian woman. There’s little to no dairy on Aitutaki because all the foodstuffs come over on container ships and dairy wouldn’t fare well. There are a few goats tied to palm trees but otherwise the only livestock on the island are pigs and free-range chickens who roam the beaches and cockadoodledoo all hours of the day and night. Anyway, I sliced those tomatoes, chopped some basil, drizzled olive oil and balsamic over the plate, sprinkled Italian seasoning, and had the healthiest “Caprese” salad in a 2,000-mile radius. Who needs fresh mozzarella?

Black Jack, the captain who takes Carl fishing, gave him a haunch of pork, hoof still attached. We popped it in the oven and roasted it low and slow, hoof poking out of the roasting pan. When that was done, Carl shredded it and made pulled pork. I took an eggplant I found at Sonja’s, diced it in large chunks and roasted it in a bit of the pork drippings. I diced a starfruit, added lime, red onion, and salt to make an island salsa. There was a milestone birthday celebration going on down the beach but the real party that night was in my mouth.

I feel like a French woman, letting the day’s offerings (as limited as they may be here) dictate the meal. But actually, maybe I’m just becoming an islander. I’m off to the store to see if I can get a red pepper (called capsicum here) before they run out. Maybe I can roast that with another eggplant tonight. I’m already thinking about dinner and it’s not even lunchtime yet. But at least I’m not panicked about it.

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Dispatches from an unwilling wild woman: Going feral under protest

I forgot my tweezers.

This sounds like a minor to non-existent problem. But if you know me at all, you’ll get why this is causing me no small measure of agita.

Originally used to pluck a stray eyebrow, my Tweezermans have become a trusted partner in my fight against whiskers, nose hair, and middle age. As I march toward 50, my body is starting to betray me. It’s particularly painful because it’s been so good to me for decades—only a few gray hairs poke out through my brunette dye job. My skin, thanks to hats, sunscreen, meticulous skincare, and some strange deal with the devil I’m unaware of, takes a decade off my appearance. My body is pretty much the same shape, give or take 15 pounds, that it’s been since my 20s.

But I’ve been waging a daily war against facial hair in all forms for quite some time. I’ll be washing my face in the shower when I feel the beginnings of a stiff chin whisker. In front of a steamy mirror, I hunt and peck until I gain purchase with the slanted point of my tweezers. Muttering to myself like Jack to Rose as he freezes in the mid-Atlantic, “never let go, never let go.” If I lose my hold on the whisker nubbin or break it off, it will take another day or two to pinpoint it between my tweezers.

I don’t have crazy nose hair but over time, tiny black strands have started to creep out like sentient beings looking for escape from my dim nasal cave. Those are a bitch to pluck, but at least I can see them.

The biggest problem these days, however, is my mustache. I’ve never really had to bleach or wax my lip because the hair was light and sparse. Not so much any more. Darker hairs have sprouted among the light fur that is coming in fast and making me furious. I do a daily check, tweezers in hand, to ferret out the biggest offenders. About once a week, I try to take out a lot of the lighter peach fuzz so I don’t look like a 13-year-old boy trying to grow his first ’stache. I stopped waxing a while back because I got a red rash and little white bumps all along my upper lip after the hair was ripped off my face. With my tweezers, I can control my pain and the aftermath.

This brings us to now. I’m on a four-week workcation with my bushy eyebrowed partner (another reason for the tweezers) on a remote island in the South Pacific. A week in, a screw came out, dislodging one of the temples on my prescription sunglasses. After panicking for a day, I put a paper clip through the tiny holes and temporarily fixed the problem. But I haven’t been able to find a lifehack for the tweezers.

I’ve thought around the problem, trying to Macgyver something. My partner pulls at his stray eyebrows like someone afflicted with trichotillomania. Nothing found in nature will dislodge my hair, however. None of the kitchen utensils are delicate enough to do the job. I wondered if the clip on my pen could clamp down on the biggest offenders but the angles are all wrong. Maybe nail clippers could mow down my mustache.

We joke that we’re going feral, but secretly I don’t find it that funny. I find it slightly mortifying. I embrace the wild woman within me, but don’t want to look like a savage on the surface. I planned on letting my hair go on the trip, knowing a color and cut would get trashed by the sun and watersports, and scheduled an appointment for the week I return home. I stopped wearing makeup here except for a little CC cream with SPF on my cheeks because everything just slides off in the humidity. But the hoary hairy signposts on my face suggest not acceptance of aging, but of a surrender. Vacation is a time for relaxing so I guess that means relaxing my beauty standards and giving myself over to the experience. But I’m not ready to wave the white flag just yet.

I’m a columnist for The Seattle Times!

mastheadI’m super excited, y’all. I just started writing a jobs column for The Seattle Times! I’ll be writing about how to navigate the gig economy, workplace trends and culture, that sort of thing. And while I may have to do some research to stay current, I do know a thing or two. I’ve been a freelancer for a loonnnnggg time, which is remarkable for several reasons.

But the main reason is that I’m a wuss. Running your own business is not for the faint of heart. I’m risk-adverse so quitting a full-time position as a publishing executive was not exactly an easy decision. On the side, I had co-authored a New York Times best-seller, even winding up on the Today Show. I should have been as cocky as a Kardashian. But I was trembling in my high-heeled boots. Working in publishing, I had a deep Rolodex (yep, I just dated myself right there) and lined up four gigs writing work-for-hire (i.e., non-royalty) manuscripts for various book publishers and packagers. I figured that money would sustain me for a while and if not, I could find another FTE job in publishing.

That was fifteen years ago.

I somehow made it work. Since then, I’ve had some lean times and some shit jobs. I’ve written thousands of product descriptions, I’ve given lectures at colleges around the country to sometimes-empty auditoriums, I went without a car for years and health insurance for months. I’ve put in my 10,000 hours writing, often at a regressive hourly rate. Living the dream sometimes means getting creative, staying hungry, and remaining humble. I may be a New York Times-bestselling author, but I still have to figure out how to make rent.

But on the flip side, I became nimble. I figured out my personal brand and built a solid author platform. I’ve developed a network both broad and deep (which is how I nabbed The Seattle Times gig). And I’m bringing all that juicy experience to the table to talk about thriving in the current economy.

My first column covers the often pesky but always absurd issue of bizspeak. Because I want to help, I share my tips for how to get granular on your industry’s vernacular and skill up in no time. You can read the column here.

A little knife music

I’m a phoney foodie, a phoodie if you will. I’ve swooned over a perfect sticky spicy bite of charred octopus at Pomerol, I’ve wanted to take a long walk off a short pier if it meant I could dive into a bowl of Momofuku ramen. I might even pee a little when I get a chance to tuck into a slice of Whidbey’s marionberry pie. Yes, marionberry is not just a former coke-snorting mayor.

Get it? I love food. Food that’s so perfectly what it was destined to be, whether that’s slow-cooked pulled pork or the most delicate Grand Marnier soufflé with hot caramel sauce that I ate earlier this evening at Violin d’Ingres. I’ve learned a lot by watching Top Chef. I’ve cut my teeth on amazing restaurants and out of the way treasures.

But let’s be honest. I can’t cook. I can follow a few recipes over and over, so much so that I have some signature dishes. But they aren’t fancy. My lasagna’s secret ingredient is cottage cheese—and requires no creativity or skill on my part.

I have zero knife skills. I don’t own a Vitamix and I don’t care that my counter isn’t chockablock with colorful Kitchenaid appliances. I actually want to punch pretentious foodies in the face when they want to fancy-pants up my mac and cheese.

But I do love to eat, so I’m going to the belly of la bête and taking a weeklong cooking class in Normandy starting on Monday. Chef and author Susan Herrmann Loomis runs On Rue Tatin out of a converted convent in the village of Louviers (that’s her in the photo). The focus is on apples, and we’ll drink cavaldos, learn to navigate the farmers market in nearby Rouen under the shadow of its famous cathedral, drink wine, eat cheese, cook.

While I suspect my knife skills will only marginally improve, my understanding of food and cooking will deepen. I’m also pretty sure I’ll hit my kitchen and local farmers market, infused with a new curiosity and passion for more. More instruction, more cooking, more bites out of what is a most delicious life.

Bon appetit!

 

 

An obsessive-compulsive goes abroad

My friend Kathy asked me today what I need to feel safe and secure while traveling. I didn’t even have to think twice.

“I have to keep things organized. I have to stick to my rituals.” As an example, I don’t let anything stray more than a couple of feet from my suitcase (shoes get lined up next to the suitcase, toiletries are corralled into a tight formation on the bathroom counter). I just heard an interview with David Sedaris, who said he does the exact same thing when traveling to avoid leaving anything behind. I found this incredibly comforting.

My OCD starts way before I buckle into my cramped seat in coach. I think about this shit ALL the time as I prepare for a trip. My mind, when it sees an opening, beelines toward obsession. As you can imagine, a two-week trip to France with multiple stops is catnip for my OCD.

First come the lists.
My packing list, my “things to do before I go” list, my “things to do and see and eat when I am en France” list, my “people to buy souvenirs for and send postcards to” list. You get the idea.

I like everything about lists. I like to check and cross items off them. I like to revise and rewrite lists, creating various subheads and columns. The whole process calms and reassures.

Then comes the packing.
The shoes take precedence. Sadly, as I’ve marched on wobbly heels into the plantar fasciitis and brittle bones of middle age, I have to rethink my take on shoes that show off my figure and opt instead for sensible brogues that will suffer the cobblestones of Paris. #firstworldproblem, je sais.

I’ve added a new wrinkle to my packing plan. At this moment, I’m wearing three pieces that I plan on taking with me. As I dressed in this outfit of cargo pants, sweater, and drapey jacket, I had a sad epiphany. “Over the next week, I’ll try wearing all the items I plan on packing to see if they really work with each other and are worthy of claiming a spot in the rolly bag!” At this point, I realized I had ascended to a new level in my compulsive planning, much like Tom Cruise becoming an Operating Thetan Level 8.

In a word, crazytown.

But I own my choices, both in life and my wardrobe. So after I’ve roadtested outfits, I’ll turn my attention to actually packing the suitcase.

With the help of aforementioned friend Kathy, a world-traveler with impeccable taste and an enviable jewelry collection, I’ll lay things out on my bed to optimize garments’ and accessories’ mix and matchability. We will edit things down mercilessly, until we have the most versatile and practical garments, scarves, hats, and jewelry.

Once something makes the cut, it will get rolled up tightly and without wrinkles and put in the carry-on bag, starting with heavy items like jeans and shoes (stuffed with socks or small wrapped gifts) on the bottom and working up through t-shirts and unmentionables. I leave careful ruts for my makeup bag and stuff extra Ziploc bags in the suitcase flap. Over this glorious mess, I lay my empty duffle, deflated but full of the promise of Parisian purchases.

I close the top of the suitcase and then pray that I can shut the fucker. It’s expandable, but I only want to use those extra inches on the way back, when I plan on loading it up with French skincare and body products and perfume and checking the bag. At that point, the poor Samsonite will resemble my favorite pair of teenage Guess jeans, with all my stuff straining against the seams as I struggle to zip it closed. But in this instance, laying on the floor isn’t going to do much good.

Then comes the checking and rechecking.
Do I really have my boarding pass, passport, and all the other things that I find necessary to travel with these days without incurring massive anxiety? Did I really set my phone alarm properly? I always sleep horribly before every early morning flight, kept awake by the possibility of an iPhonefail, where my alarm—the one that I checked at least three times before I turned off the light—didn’t for once go off. Laying there in the dark, eyes wide open, I figure I can avoid caffeine and just sleep on the flight. Then I turn the light back on and check that I packed Ambien in my carry-on bag.

In addition to normal stuff like snacks and Ibuprofin, for this trip I’m also packing:

  • Febreze
  • Band-Aids
  • My vintage Pucci scarf (to pull the eyes up from those flat-heeled wingtips)
  • Empty nylon Sportsac duffle (for bringing back all my loot)
  • Some cash to convert (in the rare instance my ATM card doesn’t work at Charles de Gaulle)
  • Small guidebook and map
  • Digestive enzymes, Prilosec, Tums and green powder (acid reflux + wine + cheese = heaven on a plate, hell in the gut)
  • Stevia packets for all those cafés au lait
  • Lock for my suitcase (in case I store my bags at a hotel before check in)
  • Una’s wrist warmers (so my hands are warm while fingers can hunt and gather)

For the plane:

  • Antihistamines (after one stealth sinus infection mid-flight, I’m taking no chances)
  • Knitting project (small shawl pattern that fits in a quart Ziploc)
  • 1-2 books
  • Heavy clothing (While traveling, I wear my bulkiest items, like overcoat and knee-high boots, to free up room in the suitcase)
  • Shawl (doubles as a blanket or pillow)
  • iPhone (loaded with podcasts and the Learn French app to practice phrases and pronounciation when I have WIFI)
  • laptop & hard copy of my memoir in progress (in case muse strikes)

I’m obsessive, compulsive, and neurotic, but I’ve learned to use it for good over evil. Do you overthink your travel? What makes you feel safe and secure while traveling?

MSN Popware: My new gig

After a lot of cyber-paperwork, a challenge when Mercury is in retrograde, I’m now officially a blogger for MSN entertainment tech blog, Popware. I’ll be reporting on new gadgets, apps, and do-dads, but I’m also interested in exploring how we interact with technology. To wit, my first post deals with the question of spoilers. These days, awards show results trend on twitter and friends start conversations about the latest random tragedy on Downton Abbey before you may have had a chance to watch your DVR’d episode. There may not be any rules but I submit that there should be.

For my adventures in technology, check out the Popware blog.

Create Your Own PITF Haiku Deck & Win a Copy of TIWTPITF!

Things I Want to Punch in the Face and Haiku Deck are like peanut butter and chocolate. In other words, the perfect combination. A new app for iPad, Haiku Deck allows you to create powerful presentations, using royalty-free images and bold graphics (check out the original PITF Haiku Deck here; it’s hilar). I love a good contest so in conjunction with Haiku Deck, we are asking you to create your own personal Things I Want to Punch in the Face Haiku Deck for a chance to win a copy of Things I Want to Punch in the Face.


Here’s how it works: 

  1. Download the Haiku Deck iPad app here.
  2. Between now and December 21, think of at least five things you are itching to punch in the face this holiday season. Hate your mother-in-law, your neighbor’s outdoor Christmas decorations, crappy regifts? Detail it all through words and images. Using your iPad, type in what you want to punch and then access Haiku Deck’s image database to find a good fit for your fury.
  3. Once you’ve completed your deck, send me the link at jen@jenniferworick.com (include your name and e-mail) and I’ll post the deck on the blog, using your first name only.
  4. After December 21, I’ll select a winner and announce it on the blog. You’ll win a free copy of Things I Want to Punch in the Face, just in time for Christmas!

What goes up…

This has been a week of ups and downs, I’m not gonna lie. Mostly ups, I’m happy to report. My SoCal Punch Parties were a rollicking good time, with honest-to-God stand-up comedians gracing the stage. I was just happy to be their warm-up act. College friend and perpetual genius Tom Franck (seen punching me at right), super-nice and IMDB-as-long-as-my-arm Steve Skrovan and The Dylan Brody (who wears the hell out of a vest) got punchy last night at The York while Knock Knock founder Jen Bilik, stand-up Kevin Garbee, and author Judy Rothman of The Neurotic Parent’s Guide to College Admissions were among those who took the mic on Saturday night at Vidiots Annex and made it their, well, you know. The magical thing about these parties is that when people get up and air their grievance(s), others want to join in. It jogs their memory or lights their ire.

This is a book that brings people together.

Having thrown four Punch Parties now, I’ve seen this happen over and over. People get up and share or they come up to me and let it rip. It’s fantastic. This has happened at trade shows as well. I’ve been to three bookseller conferences—Book Expo America, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association—and booksellers and librarians want to join the party as well. From amazon to seedless watermelons, everyone has something they want to punch in the face.

Again, this is a book that brings people together.

And I’m hoping it brings Seattlites together this Friday, as we gather at Queen Anne Books for a final Seattle Punch Party and a  goodbye to Queen Anne Books, which is closing its charming doors on October 31. It somehow seems fitting that one of the final events in the store (which hopefully will find a new owner) will focus on airing your grievances. I certainly want to punch the current climate in the face that leads to small business owners having to shutter their bookstores. Online competition, e-books, the shopping habits of the average America, the economy—all these things have been monumental challenges for the local bookshop. When Things I Want to Punch in the Face hit the market, I sought out all the independent bookstores in town and worked to make each event as personal and community-based as a barn-raising or a quilting bee.

But unlike Ma and Pa Ingalls, there are myriad options for a Friday night and just as many avenues for purchasing the book. So it comes down inviting you to a good-old-fashioned barn-burner of an event, one where you can connect over commonalities, laugh, and build community.

Remember, this is a book that brings people together. It’s bringing people together this Friday, October. 26 at 6:30 at Queen Anne Books, right at the top of Queen Anne Hill. Come out and soak the punch-drunk love.

We want YOU…as a punch recruit

It’s been a, ahem, full few weeks promoting TIWTPITF. And we’re far from done! In Seattle, we’ve hosted two amazing Punch Parties with loads of talented people showing up to read their own rants and play a saucy game of “Punch in the Face or Make Out With.” Last night, as part of Seattle’s Lit Crawl, I was on a Funny Ladies panel reading a Seattle-specific Punch in the Face rant. Needless to say, it was high-larious (as were all of the other talented women on the panel).

But wait, there’s more!

I’m now in Southern California for a weekend of punch-drunk love. Bring a rant to tomorrow’s Punch Party at Vidiots Annex or Sunday’s Punch Party at The York in Highland Park. Things get under way at both venues at 6pm. Bring a friend, bring a diatribe, bring yourself! If you’re interested in coming out and punching something, here’s the deal:

  • I’ll introduce you briefly (let me know if there’s anything I should mention; I’m all for promoting your stuff too!)
  • You’ll read your own PITF (loudly, with feeling and hopefully with wild gesticulations)
  • Your PITF should be a couple of paragraphs or about 200 words, so we can make sure everyone who wants to share has time (if you really need to get something off your chest and take 10 minutes, so be it; I won’t bring out the hook)
  • I don’t need to see your PITF in advance
  • It will be fun!

And if you’re in Seattle or Portland, never fear. Punch Parties are coming your way on October 26 (Queen Anne Books in Seattle) and November 9 (Powells at Cedar Hills Crossing, Beaverton).

With the holidays breathing down our necks, now is the time to ease the pain by picking up signed copies of TIWTPITF for your stocking stuffers, hostess gifts and Secret Santa presents. It really does have something for everyone.

Check out all my upcoming events here.

(photos: My publisher Colleen Dunn Bates and I checking out the book at the Pasadena Urban Outfitters)

Punch Party: Secret Garden Books

The Punch Party train pulled into Secret Garden Books last Friday and a great time was had by all. Who knew punching could be so much fun?

Me.

Yep, just as the blog struck a chord when I started it, so too has the book found its audience. I read a few of  my favorite posts from the book and then invited friends to share their own prepared or impromptu rants. Michaela talked about Seattle’s perpetual “let’s get together”, Janice bitched out the mood lighting in restaurant bathrooms, Kerry punched the whole “body after baby” tabloid stories (“that asshole Giselle” is still making me giggle), and Kathy went off on the invasive insects in Africa who raid her panty drawer. See, the things to punch in the face are as deep and wide as ever.

We then picked three contestants to play a fun round of “Punch in the Face or Make Out With,” with Laurel taking home the prize.

It really was a magical evening and because I like pushing my luck, I’m doing it again and again. You can join the Punch Party this Thursday night at 7pm at U Bookstore and on Oct. 26 at 6:30 at Queen Anne Books. I hope to see you there!