Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ten Ways to Be a Good Holiday Shopper

Ten Ways to Be a Good Shopper During the Holidays

The December holidays are nearly upon us, and even though Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice are still a good six weeks away, many of my friends are gleefully rubbing their hands together in anticipation of Black Friday shopping. Everyone claims they think Black Friday is an awful concept, but y’all are still going to do it, and by about noon, at least one of you will have made some poor retail employee hate you. Why? Because while there are plenty of tips on how to get the best deals, there are rarely any suggestions on how to shop without being an asshole.

Thus, gentle reader, as someone who will be at work at 7:30 Friday morning to greet the squeeing masses, I have an early Christmas present for you. Here are some tips on how to be a good shopper - the kind of shopper that makes me think, “Wow, the last ten people were dicks, but this guy was just SO NICE.”  Follow these guidelines, and it’s quite possible that you - and the people who are getting paid just slightly more than minimum wage to put up with your shenanigans - will have a much better experience.

Feel free to use these the rest of the year too.

1. Be Patient.
    Yeah, I know you’ve been out there in your sleeping bag since 5 am so you could get the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever. So have the other nine hundred people. Guess what. You’re gonna have to wait your turn. Employees will help you when they can. Don’t be a dick, and understand that YOU'RE SHOPPING ON BLACK FRIDAY. No matter how many employees are working, it’s not going to be enough, so suck it up and play Angry Birds on your phone for a few minutes.

2. Read the Fine Print.
    If the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever is on sale for a special price, and the ad says down at the bottom “While Supplies Last,” then guess what? After the store runs out, they no longer will be able to give you that special price. If that happens, accept that you didn’t get there in time. Move on, instead of throwing a tantrum.

3. Use Some Common Sense.
    Ethel the Employee is helping a customer, she’s also answering the phone, and she’s trying to look up something on a computer while four other people are waiting for her assistance. Walking up behind her and saying “Scuse me I just got a quick question!” is not cool. Use your brain, and get in line like everyone else. There are no quick questions, other than “Where’s the bathroom?”
    And it’s along the back wall under the blue Catch-22 sign.

4. Common Sense Part 2
    You see an employee wearing a name tag, but also carrying her car keys, a cup of coffee, and her purse. What do you do?

a. Ask her to help you locate that special color Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever that you can’t find because someone just took the last one but you’re sure there’s some in the back even though you've already been told they're all gone.
b. Recognize that she’s probably off the clock and leave her the hell alone.

Choose wisely, young Jedi.

5. Don’t Argue.
    Yes, we know the online price for the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever is cheaper than it is in the store. That’s because it’s online, and you have to wait for shipping. You can argue all you want, but that’s not going to make me sell you the Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever at the online price. If it makes you feel better, think of the extra cost as your Instant Gratification Tax.
    Also, don’t yell at me because I won’t price match, just because you know Best Buy and Target will do it. Best Buy is selling $2500 flat screens, so there’s a bit of wiggle room. You’re buying a six dollar paperback with a 10% Membership Discount and a coupon. How much more of a discount do you think I can give you? Spend the extra $1.03 and move on.

6. Shit Happens.
    Sometimes people make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes will inconvenience you. If a cashier accidentally gives you the wrong change, or the guy at Customer Service points you in the wrong direction, it’s okay. It’s not done out of maliciousness or even incompetence, it’s done because it’s Black Friday and we have nine hundred people in our face screaming because we just ran out of the latest Bill O’Reilly book and there’s not enough coffee in the world to alleviate the hell that we are in. Be patient, wait your turn, and let whoever made the mistake fix it, without you making their day even more miserable.

7. Know What You Want.
    My favorite customers, all kidding aside, are the ones who come in with a list. They know exactly what they want, they just need me to show them where it is. Good for you, people - buy your stuff, and continue being awesome. My second favorite customers are the ones who aren’t sure what they want, but they are happy to take suggestions. Need a book for a ten year old boy who reads at an eighth grade level and likes monsters and magic? I’ve got a good dozen ideas for you, here they are, and you can pick which one works best for your little gift recipient.

8. Gift Cards Are Good.
    You have to pick out a present for that cousin you haven’t seen in eight years and you have no idea what he likes because you don’t talk to him anyway, but now he’s showing up for Christmas dinner. Great! Seriously, it’s perfectly okay to get him a gift card. Most people love them, because it allows them to go select their very own present at a later date. If you feel weird about it, remember that gift cards help the economy too - we get a sale when you buy the card, and we get a sale when someone comes in to redeem it.

9. Be Prepared.
    You’ve done it! You got your Super Ossum Special Deluxe Edition Whatever and now you’re waiting in line at the cash register. While you’re waiting, it’s a good time to do things like dig out all those coupons and your discount membership card, as well as write out the date and retailer’s name on your check that you’re still using even though everyone except your grandma is using debit cards today. Don’t wait til the last minute to count out your spare change, and don’t ask the cashier to wait while you run and get that damn Elf on the Shelf that you promised to by for little Skippy but you forgot to pick up. Also, if you need gift receipts, tell the cashier BEFORE they start ringing things up, not after you’ve paid and they’re waving the next customer down to the register.

10. Don’t Be an Asshole.
    Nothing says Happy Birthday Baby Jesus like making some minimum wage cashier cry. I tell all the new seasonal people at work that they don’t get paid to be abused, and if someone is being mean to them, let a manager (or someone who’s got thicker skin and gives no shits) know about it.
    I guarantee you, if you come into my store, and you make an employee cry (especially our poor little Noobs who are on their very first job ever), there is a special place in hell reserved just for you. Try to remember that the whole point of the holidays is to celebrate the love you have for your family and whatever faith it is you follow. Celebrate it by not being an asshole to people who don’t deserve it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer's Ashes, PLUS a Coupon!

OK, it's finally happened! Summer's Ashes, my middle-grade novel is now available in a digital format! The long version: my publisher went out of business in December 2010 and donated all the remaining print copies to literacy organizations without telling me, so you can't get the book anymore. Short version: Now you can get it.

And yes, that's a different cover than the one on the print version that was released in 2007 - that's because while the text of the book still belongs to me, the cover art belongs to the illustrator who created it. Hence, new cover, all bright and shiny waiting for you to read it!

Description: Fourteen-year-old Kieran Ash is tired of moving to new cities while her widowed mom struggles to find work. When she and her brother discover their late father's magical grimoire, they set into motion a remarkable chain of events. Kieran ends up on Rowan Tree Island, the home of a family she's never met - and a place where the battle between good and evil has been raging for centuries.

Ok, so if you read this far, I have something special for you!

The download is normally $3.99 - but my birthday is coming up, and I want to celebrate by giving you a treat. Download Summer's Ashes between now and the end of the day on Sept. 26, and you can use coupon code KD47X to get it for just $2.99. That's 25% off, just because I like you!

To download Summer's Ashes and take advantage of coupony goodness on my birthday, click here: Summer's Ashes!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Am Fucking Tired

One of my most notable memories of my childhood is that of walking in a parade with my mom and the local branch of the League of Women Voters. This was back in the 1970s, when the Equal Rights Amendment was a big issue, and I’m pretty sure that at age ten or so, I had a shirt that read “A Woman’s Place is in the House… and in the Senate.”

So for me, someone raised by parents who were feminists back before it became some kind of dirty word (thanks, Rush Limbaugh, you douchenozzle!), it never even crossed my mind that there might be things I wasn’t allowed to do simply because I don’t have a penis. This is why, after the past few years of watching the ongoing and ever-increasing war on women by the Republican party, I can honestly say I AM FUCKING TIRED.

I don’t even bother trying to counter the arguments anymore, because people that I normally consider intelligent, logical people buy into the lies and the hate and the misogyny and the rhetoric. Seriously, if I was a woman who identified as Republican, I’d be looking at the people representing my party and saying WTF, YO?

As it is, I’m a woman who votes Democratic nearly all the time, because there’s no way on dog’s green earth that I could, in good conscience, vote for a party whose platform includes not only restricting my rights but REMOVING the existing ones.

Because I AM FUCKING TIRED.

I am fucking tired of the rape apologists who spout off a bunch of bullshit, medically incorrect statements as a justification for why they don’t think anyone ever ever EVER should be allowed near an abortion. The worst part of Todd Akin’s whole “legitimate rape  doesn’t result in pregnancy” clusterfuck? It implies that if you get pregnant, YOU WEREN’T REALLY RAPED.

I am fucking tired of legislators who are trying to shove their religious beliefs all up into my ladybits, because an iron fist holding a Bible is still an iron fucking fist. Your religion says life begins at conception? No problem. Mine says that the life of a mother is as sacred as the life of an unborn foetus. Deal with it.

I am fucking tired of women being labeled as sluts and whores because they want their insurance to pay for contraception and reproductive health care. This slut fucking votes, you asshats, and I pay my insurance premiums just like you do.

I am fucking tired of people who assume that just because I have a vagina I’m going to support a candidate who ALSO has a vagina. Give us some credit. Women are not stupid. We’re not going to vote for you just because you’re female and have kids and live in the burbs. We’re also not going to vote for your husband because he’s handsome or because he coached Little League. Jesus Christ, people - do you really think we’re idiots? Because if we ARE that moronic and shallow, then we maybe deserve to have our rights stripped away from us, just for being too fucking dumb to fight back.

I am fucking tired of women who are too lazy to get to the polls and vote at all. Of female Americans over the age of eighteen - in other words, old enough to participate in an election - only 66% are registered voters. That’s two thirds of you. As if that’s not horrible enough, only 45% of women bothered to show up and vote at all. Less than half. If you haven’t voted, fucking shame on you.

I am fucking tired of fighting the endless bullshit of people I consider friends who post lies and misinformation perpetuated by the conservative right, all in an effort to discredit those who tell the fucking truth.

I AM FUCKING TIRED.

I shouldn’t have to repeatedly defend my uterus and reproductive organs and rights against people who would, given the opportunity, turn the country I love into the Republic of Fucking Gilead. Not sure what the hell that means? Read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

But you know what? I keep on defending myself and my rights and uterus and the rights of my daughters and everything else that holds value to me, because, as much as the Republican party would like people like me to sit down and shut the fuck up, I can’t do it. I wasn’t raised that way. Because I’m not just fucking tired.

I AM FUCKING ANGRY.

And if you’re not, then you’re part of the problem.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bacony Goodness!

Read my latest, Everything's Better With Bacon, over at An Army of Ermas:

I’m pretty sure that in a previous lifetime, I was a dude. Unlike so many of my organic-grass-fed-free-range friends, I am of the philosophy that bacon makes everything better. And if one slice of bacon makes it good, Gentle Reader, then TWO slices turns it into a little bit of pork-flavored heaven. Read Full Article

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Calling Out Racist Bullshit

I normally don't link from here to my About.com page, because I'm pretty prolific over there - I've been known to post eleventy-five-zillion updates a week, and I don't want to clutter up Outside the Lines with my APW stuff.

However, every once in a while I write something over there that I feel like I need to share over here. Today was one of those days.

Calling Out Racist Bullshit: Reader Says Leave Wicca to the White Folks

Want to pull racism into religion? GTFO.

Nuff said.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Erotica That's Way Better than 50 Shades of Boring

OK, so all the hullaballoo over 50 Shades of Grey has been driving me insane over at the Big Chain Bookstore, because the fact is, it’s just plain awful. It originally started as Twilight fanfic (yeah, I hated that too) only there’s no vampires and more bondage. However, it’s tedious, repetitive and boring - and yet I’m selling a zillion copies a day, because it’s publicly-approved erotica. Matt Lauer says it’s okay for you to read it, ladies! Here’s the problem. It’s erotica for people who have never READ erotica before. It’s lame. Anastasia and Christian Grey are so boring that I don't care if they ever get laid or not. There’s SO much stuff out there that’s written at a higher caliber.

Obviously, everyone has a different list of stuff that arouses them or that they find appealing. And of course, everyone has things they find just plain UNappealing. This list is by no means a comprehensive one, but it’s a good starting point if you’d like to read some erotica that has a plot other than just “Golly! I’m submissive!”

That's right, my friends, I'm reading smut so you don't have to.

Authors to check out:

Maya Banks: Her KGI series is a lot of fun - it’s about a group of four brothers who run a paramilitary consulting agency. The guys are hot, the heroines are smart and sassy and generally don’t sit around waiting to be rescued, and the sex scenes are smokin’ hot. Banks also writes a series with titles like Sweet Innocence and Sweet Submission, and they focus on relationships that have a dom/sub angle. WAY better stuff than 50 Shades.

Opal Carew: Writes some pretty hot, pretty graphic erotica. A number of her books focus on “unconventional” stuff, particularly menage (M/F/M) and swinging. Well written and believable.

Jaci Burton: Writes straight up F/M erotica with Happy Ever After endings. Reasonably good plot lines, strong female characters, and generally men who are not obnoxious. Pretty hot sex scenes.

Dominique Adair: Spicy erotica, typically F/M with occasional variations, some light BDSM, a bit of paranormal (vampires, etc). Pretty good stuff, and she lives around Columbus, too, so you can support a local author if you buy her books.

Lora Leigh: Lighter-weight erotica with Happy Ever After endings, but well written and strong characters.

Ann Herendeen: Writes historical erotica with a number of variations: F/M, F/F, M/M, and menage included. Entertaining, lots of humor tucked in among the naughtiness. Her Pride/Prejudice puts a whole new spin on the relationships between the Darcys and others.





Friday, April 27, 2012

Gluten Free Redhead

I'm finally caving to peer pressure, and starting a separate blog for gluten-free stuff. I've found that a lot of people seem to think those of us who eat a GF diet are living off rice cakes and celery sticks, and I can assure you, that's just not the case. I eat a lot of good stuff - look at me, and it's clear I'm not starving. I like to cook, I like to eat, and I like yummy things. Food should be an adventure, a celebration, a cause for joy and rapture -- not a chore that makes you feel sad and pathetic. So stop in over at Gluten Free Redhead, to see what I'm doing over there. I promise not to flash my boobs at you.

Although those, too, are gluten-free.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Horrify Your College Student

Text her with inappropriate comments about the good-looking guy at physical therapy.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: The Keeper Cup

Warning: this post talks about things like periods and vaginas. If you're squicked out by either of those, you might want to just back up to the last post because it has a picture of my puppy looking cute in front of a bowl of popcorn, and no vaginas to be found.

Okay, so here we go. I'm writing this in case any of my friends are thinking about trying this sort of product but feel funny asking about it. You know you're wondering.

Anyway, about a month ago I read an absolutely horrifying story about a woman who had found bread mold in her Kotex tampon (prior to insertion, thankfully). And it got me thinking about things like brand loyalty, personal safety, and stuff like that. I'm a Playtex girl, myself, and for the past coupla decades, those pink boxes have sat happily in my bathroom cabinet every month. But the bottom line is, unless you peer inside the applicator each time you use a tampon, you really have NO idea what you're sticking up into your ladybits. Combine that with my increasingly-minimalist approach to living and spending, and I decided I'd look into using a menstrual cup instead of buying disposable products each month.

There are several different brands available out there - and apparently an entire community of Yay I Love My Cup! folks - so I did some research and decided that I'd experiment with the Keeper Cup brand. At $35, it would cost me about the same as a year's supply of tampons - but if all goes well, I should get about ten years of use from it. I ordered it online, and a few days later a plain yellow envelope showed up in my mailbox, postmarked Cincinnati. Inside was a pretty little floral cloth bag (hand stitched by retired seamstresses!) containing my Keeper Cup, which looks a bit like the business end of a plunger for Barbie's Dream House.

First thing you need to know: menstrual cups seem to be sold in two different sizes - one for before childbirth (or if you've only had a C-section), and one for after childbirth. Now, I've had one c-section, and it's been nigh on twenty years since a giant baby came shooting out of my vagina, but I went ahead and ordered the Party Size one anyway. Yes, it's bigger in diameter than a tampon, but much smaller than some other things that normally end up in a vagina. Don't be intimidated by it.
 
Second thing you need to know: insertion may take multiple attempts until you get accustomed to it and develop a technique that works for you. The instructions tell you to fold the cup in half, and then in half again - it looks a bit like a taco, no kidding - and then relax and insert it. Well... yeah. If you let go too soon, there's a weird slurping sound as the cup forms a vacuum inside your vagina, and your cup will sit too low, which will feel weird. Make sure you hold on to it as you position it inside - once you let go, the latex pops out into place, the tiny holes form suction, and bang, you've got a cup in your vagina, all ready to catch whatever sort of things might be headed out of you. The first time I did it, took me three shots. And it's definitely easier if you hike a foot up on the side of the tub, like you did the first eleventy-four times you tried to use a tampon.

Once it's in place, it's pretty comfortable. Certainly no less noticeable than those tampons I've been using all those years. For removal, there's a little stem at the base of the cup, which sits right up inside, but honestly, I didn't even notice it. If the stem moves around, don't worry, you'll still be able to catch it later when you need to remove your cup, it's not going to end up in your appendix or anything. And if you're squeamish about sticking your fingers in there anyway, for the love of Pete, we learned in kindergarten to wash our hands after using the restroom, right?

To remove the cup, I found that if I grabbed the stem with my fingertips and then pushed the base of the cup towards the center, it releases the vacuum with a little popping sound, and then you can slide the cup out and simply dump the contents into the toilet. Have a piece of toilet paper handy so you can wipe off the rim (and your fingers) while you move it to the sink for a quick rinse. Then re-insert.

Upsides of using a cup? Well, it's environmentally sound, it's cost effective, and OMG NO LEAKAGE. That's huge, as anyone who's ever had to borrow an emergency tampon from a stranger knows. Also, it's comfortable as hell once you get used to it.

Downsides? Well, I can see how it could be a little messy, depending on the volume of contents in the cup. If I thought I was going to have to empty it in a public restroom I might consider using a tampon for the afternoon instead. Then again, you don't have to empty a cup nearly as often as you'd have to change a tampon, so it's a pretty good trade off.

The Keeper brand also offers the Moon Cup, which is built the same way but out of medical-grade silicone, for those of you who might have a latex allergy. Other brands include Diva, Lunette, Softcup and Miacup -- I'm sure all of them work essentially the same way, it's just a matter of finding the one you like. And nearly all of them come with a money-back guarantee, so if you really hate it -- or you just can't use it -- send it back.

Anyway, this is one of those rare products that makes me stop and say OMG WHY DIDN'T I DO THIS SOONER? Super easy, super comfy, inexpensive, and just toss it in some hot soapy water when I'm done with it. I want to buy one for all my friends, but that might be seen as creepy.

Totally giving this one five stars. Or BeaDazzled vaginas, because they're sparklier.



Microwave Popcorn

So recently I’ve been reading about all the bad things in microwave popcorn. I’m a huge fan of the stuff, and I snack on it three or four times a week. It’s by far my favorite snack food, and keeps me away from cookies and potato chips. It’s also laden with, as reports are showing, all kinds of really bad shit that causes really bad things to happen if you consume it in mass quantities - which, one could say, four times a week might be.

And it’s not just that delicious buttery topping that’s bad - it’s the linings of the bags themselves. Apparently the stuff used to keep the oil from seeping through the paper releases, when microwaved, deadly toxic fumes that then SEEP INTO YOUR POPCORN.

Yikes.

Recently an article about this very topic was posted in one of the Facebook groups I belong to, and another poster commented that she and her family made popcorn in paper bags just to eliminate all the non-organic icky crap that’s in the bags. I was immediately intrigued - partly because of the healthy aspect of it, and partly because I spend a small fortune on Orville Redenbacher’s stuff. So, when I hobbled off to the grocery store this morning (first time driving in three weeks, thanksverymuch), with my faithful assistant, Breanna the Wonderful (who’s sitting right here reading over my shoulder as I type this), I thought HEY! I CAN HAZ POPCORN TOO!

I bought a $2 one-pound bag of popcorn kernels, and a 50-count pack of paper lunch sacks - blessedly chemical-free paper sacks, I should point out. I was already saving money, because a 10-count box of Orville would have set me back $5.79. And that was the “on sale” price.

So here's how to make your own:

1/2 C popcorn kernels
1 tsp olive oil (you can probably use canola, but I prefer the taste of olive oil)

Blend these together in a bowl, and put them in a brown paper lunch sack. Fold the top over a couple of times so it's closed, set the bag on its flat bottom on a plate (so you don't have to clean oil out of your microwave later), and nuke for about five minutes. Watch your times - my microwave sucks, so I needed five minutes, but you should stop whenever the pops are a couple of seconds apart.

Remove from bag, top with your favorite popcorn topping, and taunt the dog.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Remoulade Sauce

So after the previous post on how to make mayonnaise, I figured I'd better share the Remoulade sauce recipe too. There are a lot of different ways to make Remoulade, and it depends, apparently, on what kind of Louisiana-style flavors you like, but this is the one I make because it's amazeballs.

Basic Remoulade Sauce

1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp horseradish
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp Cajun seasoning (I like Zatarain's)
2tsp dill pickle juice
1 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp lemon juice

Blend it all together in a bowl, and serve with shrimp or whatever else you're eating. I'll definitely say the flavors meld together even more nicely if you let it sit for a few hours before serving.

Make Your Own Mayonnaise

So any time I make a comment about making my own mayonnaise, inevitably I get 87 emails from friends along the lines of OMG YOU MAKE YOUR OWN MAYO NOM NOM NOM, so rather than sending out the same response over and over, I figured I'd just post the recipe here.

I should preface this by saying it's a recipe my mom has been using for as long as I can remember, and I have NO idea where she found it (I'm sure she'll tell me), but it's a pretty standard mayo recipe. I like to jazz it up sometimes with things like curry powder, dill, and other good stuff, and I use it as a base for an amazing Remoulade sauce.

Oh, and as to WHY you should try making your own mayo? Have you ever read the list of ingredients on a jar of store-bought mayonnaise? This tastes a thousand times better and has stuff in it you recognize.

Basic Mayonnaise

1/4 C. Eggbeaters
1/4 C. Olive oil
1/2 tsp. mustard (powder)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. lemon juice

Add all of these to the bowl of your food processor, and blend together. Then slowly pour in 1 C. canola oil.

That's it. That's mayonnaise. This gives you about a cup and a half of delicious creamy mayonnaisey goodness, and it'll last you about two weeks in a tightly sealed container in your fridge. Try it. It kicks ass.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And THIS is the Face I Made...

... when the physical therapist prodded my right hip.



Yes, I let her live. For now.