Thursday, July 8, 2010

Top Ten Foods(?) I Probably Shouldn't Admit that I Like/Love

I am kind of hijacking REFLECTION OF A SHALLOW POND's blog--okay, STEALING HIS IDEA--It's okay; I can do that--I'm a professional, aka, his sister. I have a long, practiced history of stealing/harming him and generally bossing him around. My brother, Tim, definitely rivals David Letterman in his Top Ten list skills. He has issued a challenge on his Facebook page for his blog readers to come up with their own top ten lists. My list was actually inspired by another of his blog entries--the competitive eating one from a couple days ago. So my list will be:

The Top Ten Foods(?) I Probably Shouldn't Admit that I Like/Love:

10) Hostess Ding-Dongs

9) Hostess Ho-Hos

8) Hostess Twinkies--okay, pretty much ANY Hostess product. Someone put a box of Shrek Twinkies in the staff room at work--the cream filling was GREEN, so I couldn't bring myself to publicly/casually take one--way too many witnesses at lunch time. I think I even pointed at them and said, "Ew, gross," for all to hear; sadly, when I secretly went back to get one later, they were all gone. (It's a well-known fact that you can leave back-of-the-refrigerator food in a teacher's room in the morning, and it will be consumed by 2:00 p.m.)

7) Funions--not sure if I spelled that right--it rhymes with bunions, which is pretty disgusting, in itself.

6) Hamburger Helper--ESPECIALLY the cheeseburger macaroni kind.

5) The fake cheese that they put on cheese fries and those 15 dollar nachos that you can buy at ball games--on occasion, I have considered paying double for extra fake cheese. It would be worth the thirty dollars of cheesy wonderfulness.

4) Street cart meat in New York--gyros, etc.--a few days ago, I saw a vendor flipping the "meat" on his grill, his cigarette dangling over his spatula, and I quickly put that in the things-I'll-pretend-I-never-saw category. (As my friend, Brian, always says, "Denial--it ain't just a river in Egypt...")

3) Swanson's fried chicken TV dinners. I do, however tend to skip over the mixed peas and carrots, unless enough cherry cobbler goo has flowed over into that compartment to sufficiently mask the carroty taste.

2) Pixie stix--but only if you pour the whole thing on your tongue at once--otherwise, it's just not the same effect.

1) A hot fudge sundae, with no ice cream--think about it--it's the ultimate in chocolatey delight.

**I reserve the right to change the order of preference, depending on hour and availability. Substitutions are allowed, but not recommended.

So...let's see more top tens. You can post them on my brother's blog, or, since I've got seventeen months more life experience than can post them right here in my comment section.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto

If that title doesn't grab you, you will be completely hooked by the first page of Eric Luper's newest novel, just released by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.

Rachel Cohn, the bestselling author of NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, think so, too. She says, "Delightful, funny, and true, Seth and his manifesto will win your heart."

Eric's story tugged at my heart strings and brought back memories of my own teen years that made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I rooted for his main character, Seth, from the moment he was getting dumped by his girlfriend at Applebees. That was only the beginning of life's complications for Seth. He had me wanting to run right out and find him a new girlfriend. The story, told from a delightfully fresh boy's perspective, had me shirking my own writing obligations so I could follow Seth through to the end.

I knew people would want to know more about the man behind the book, so Eric Luper has so graciously agreed to answer a few questions on The Backstory...

ANN: You have recently delved into rules for writing fiction on your blog. What is your favorite writing rule to break?

ERIC: I break them all when they need to be broken. I look at writing rules less as laws and more as suggestions to nudge you in the right direction. I think it's important to know the rules, though, so you can make an informed decision when it comes time to break them.

ANN: If you could collaborate on a novel with anyone, dead or living, who would it be?

ERIC: Hands down Kurt Vonnegut. That guy was funny and smart and wrote awesome books. Need I explain this?
ANN: You have had some interesting and unusual jobs in your non-writing life. If you could go back to one of those jobs for just one week, which one would it be and why?

ERIC: Interesting question. I would love to go back and work at the Raptor's Trust, a facility in northern New Jersey that rescued and rehabilitated birds of prey. Those birds were so awesome...except for the turkey vultures that would throw up this disgusting, stinky, vomit-slime.

ANN: I know I'll never get you to admit to the Clark Kent thing, but I do know you are a chiropractor in all of that free time that you have. Tell us a little about your work as a Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteer and what led up to it.

ERIC: After the attacks of 9/11, I felt a compelling need to get to New York City and do what I could. There wasn't a huge call for children's writers down there, but I could help out in my capacity as a chiropractor. So, I called the Red Cross, got my credentials, and went to the Red Cross Respite Center at St. John's University. I treated rescue workers as long as I could, morning, noon, and night. Closed my office here and everything. It was a moving experience, but I was doing nothing compared to those rescue workers. Those guys were awe-inspiring.

ANN: I absolutely loved SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO. If Seth were to appear on Oprah, what would his top break-up advice be?

ERIC: What...? Huh...? What was the question? I was paying attention to that first part of your question. Oh, break-up advice... Okay... If Seth was on Oprah, he'd likely tell people not to listen to clichés. Things like, "there are other fish in the sea", and "She was never the one for you" do no good. It's okay to be sad.

ANN: Is there a medical thriller in your future?

ERIC: Never. I like to write about things I'm learning about as I write. That way, I can put what is fascinating to me about the subject in my story, assuming it will be fascinating to others. If I were to write a medical thriller, I would include things so esoteric that they would be boring to laypeople. Does that make sense?

ANN: I know the St. Anne Institute is near and dear to your heart. (I am convinced that you don't sleep--wait... are you a ---???) Sorry. I got distracted... can you tell us a little about your latest project involving piles of books?

ERIC: Recently, I was asked to sit on the advisory board for St. Anne Institute, a not-for-profit residential/therapeutic school for at-risk teen girls. Of course, the first thing I wanted to see was the library and I was saddened to see that recent budget cuts led to a very small and very dated teen library. There were huge gaps in the selection, particularly urban fiction, fantasy and sci-fi... and that was exactly what the girls of St. Anne want to read! This was not acceptable to me, so I reached out to author-friends, editors and agents and within weeks, I had boxes of books on my doorstep read for St. Anne's. But's it's not nearly enough.

You can check the news story out at:

And if you are interested in donating a book, feel free to contact me via my website ( or to phone in a donation call The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza (, an independent book store here in Albany. They have a wish list from the girls and are offering a discount on books. Their number is (518) 489-4761.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flaming Piccolo Petes

We woke up in the morning of July 4, looking for things to do, biding our time until it got dark. We'd be eyeing the box of Sparklers well before noon. What my brother, Tim, and I usually resorted to in the daylight hours was caps--those rolls of paper strips meant for a cap gun, but way more fun to pound out on the curb. We'd sit in front of the house, the caps stretched out on the curb between us. Then we'd search out a perfectly-shaped rock and pound on the little bumps of gun powder, hoping for a bang, or at least a small spark, usually smashing a finger or two in the process.

This quite often brought our older brother, Tom, out. He'd scoff at us, not even bothering to hide his disgust with our small-time explosives. He'd inevitably coerce us into giving up our entire supply so he could rig up something loud and dangerous.

I remember that feeling when they were gone. The acrid smell of gun powder was in the air and all we were left with was a mess in the gutter.

Sometimes we'd hop on our Stingrays and ride up to Piggly Wiggly where our mom was working in the PTA fireworks stand and beg for some money to buy more. Usually, if we were annoying enough, she'd send us home with a couple of smoke bombs or something small and we'd hop back on our banana seats and ride home.

Then after what seemed like an eternity after sunset, we'd gather on opposite curbs of sixteenth street with all the neighbors. The dads clustered in the middle of the road with the boxes of Red Devil fireworks emptied and lined up in order of spectacular danger. The small fountains were usually first. The bargains boxes were full of these, and when they lost their luster for the crowd, a couple of the dads would start grouping them together for more special effects.

And of course there was the Piccolo Pete. It was usually saved for last, because our big brother would pinch it with pliers to give it more whistle and bang.

But my absolute favorites were the sparklers. My mom would hold the burning punk to continuously light our sparklers. I still like to trace my name in the night air. Luckily, I had a short name and could sky write the whole thing before the sparkler burned my hand. My brother would try to get me to write other things, like the inevitable f-dash-dash-t word. There was nothing like a little fart in smoking sparkles to get the festivities going.

It was a little sad on the morning of July 5, as we went outside, pushing up our kickstands and gripping our high handlebars down the driveway. We pedaled past the last night's detritus, knowing we had to wait an entire year for it all to happen again.

But there were always unpounded caps to be found. And if we did a thorough search of Tom's bedroom, we might be back in business...

A safe and sparkling Fourth to everyone.