Lo & Behold crafter, writer, life-liver

Behind on Life

I’m so behind.

Behind on crafting and making things I’ve set aside, collecting dust on my craft shelf.
Behind on redoing my super out of whack personal portfolio/business website which is the ugliest thing ever in the WORLD right now.
Behind on cleaning – always.
Behind on writing. I don’t do it, and when I do it’s really bad. Bad writing is still writing, but it is not getting done.
Behind on achieving my goals.
Behind on actually eating right and working out more.
Behind on seeing family that I should have seen ages ago.

I’m behind on just trying to figure out this whole ‘life’ thing. It’s evading me, still.

I know everyone is probably behind, and that the pressure I put on myself is unnecessary, and that I shouldn’t compare myself to the oodles of super successful/never a dull moment entrepreneurs, kick-ass business people, and ever-inspired artists that seem to be excelling far above the level I’m currently stuck at.

Nonetheless, I feel the pressure – my own pressure. What am I actually doing at all?! Am I wasting my time on this earth? Am I asking myself too many questions?

Time: it is a strange and weird and mystical thing. Paired with discontent, it can be a ravenous monster.

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A Cream Team Update

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and definitely quite a while since I updated you on the goings-on of all things Cream Team. A few fun facts:

There’s more, I’m sure. But, suffice it to say, we’ve been busy cooking and competing and prepping our way to (mostly) victory! We feel good about our curry win, are fairly sick of making meatballs, and are looking forward to Quesoff 2016.

Until then…. the CREAM TEAM LIVES ONNNNNN!!! Stay tuned via Brett’s Flickr page, Paul’s Twitter page, and our hashtag #teamcreamteam.

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A Tale of Two Matrices

There were two Matrices, singularly dubbed Matrix, who met one day. One, called Suckerpunch, was purple with a tinge of pretty blue bruise, and the other, Quicksilver, a perpetually dust-dirtied silver color. Their owners, initially unwitting of this similarity (and unknowingly there would be many more same-sies to follow), hooked proverbial hands and started to know one another.

The two Matrices lived separate but conjoined lives, one wide street over from one another, darting into similar driveways but experiencing separate, somehow linked together, go-kart-esque histories.

Quicksilver was nimble, jumpily starting and going via a handy black stick in her torso, a forced push to her destination wielded most often by a strong stalk-like arm, not too hairy nor too flabby. Suckerpunch acquiesced easily with a quick flick of her owner’s ginger fingers, keeping rally road noise at bay, whistling along the road, whether highway or country dirt or pot-holed hood alley.

Life was good, gentle. The rough hands of nearby shop-men mangled their insides from time to time, checking bits and bobs, holding a grease-o-scope to their chit-chittering hearts. They both remained steadfast and hardy, mechanical horses blazing frivolous trails (once a sand-covered beach road, once in a hairy-with-grass highway-side ravine).


On a day, sunny and fresh and brimming with future beams of light, Quicksilver threw on some Cream and pointed to the north, the scavenging of crafty materials and the touchy-feely of delectable fibers pre-possessing her spark plug non-brain. She felt free, stray leaves ripping and sliding over her hood, the tingling flow of winter air sucking into the roof and caressing the cavity under her hood.

The ramp and road she knew so well, perpetually crammed with smoke spewing trucks moving goods no one wants, and fancy pants low-slung cars va-rooming over the fly-over, sky bound, slowed to a syrupy sludgey crawl in an instant. Brakes were slammed and pulled in every direction they could, swerves happened, nerves snapped with the jostle of necks, and deathly-feeling crunch. A WHAM, then POW, and Quicksilver was gone.


I wasn’t there, but I know someone who was, the aforementioned sun-hued owner/handler of Suckerpunch. Rain-splattering and wet-willied, that Oltorf road is always a bumper tap blight. A lone disrespectful soul narrowly missed the gravel inlet at ABGB, and hard-pumped the brakes for a tight squealing turn-in. Suckerpunch tried with all her might, squealing and wheeling, but body-slammed into her much bigger and broader cousin. A supposed crunch and the slick, black noise of engulfment. Another errant decision, a dark-as-night blunder, caused the demise of that pretty girl, Suckerpunch.


Just like that, the matrices, Quicksilver and Suckerpunch, disjoint and float away, never to be linked again, making way for new shiny hunks of metal, more spaceship than automobile. More new than old. Something let go and lost, something gained.



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Necessary Debauchery

The ladies and I weekended in Vegas, and it was puh-retty great. We went, we drank, we gambled, we conquered all of the things.

Tracy is a newcomer to our lady group, by way of Ronald (storied friend and affable character). When Ron broke the news that he and Tracy were engaged , the ladies and I got to planning. A bachelorette party was the obvious answer to this new revelation!

And what better location than Vegas? A city whose slightly dusty, magical glimmer had been calling our names. We were looking for an excuse to dive into the desert, and this provided us the precise opportunity to round up the ladies for our first out-of-state ladies trip together.

Lots of planning gave way to the purchasing of sunscreen and trying on of swimsuits. Despite a few pre-airport arrival hiccups, we got to our plane on time, with the appropriate luggage in tow and excitement glinting in the corners of our eyes.

Note: we made it there safely, but a word to the wise… never fly Allegiant Airlines, no matter how cheap their tickets. The flight attendants were worn, a grimace-smile barely hanging on. The planes are small, the service is lacking and when you fly back home after an all-nighter you won’t want to be squashing thighs with the woman man-spreading next to you.

I wanted to spoil the ladies a little bit, especially Tracy, so I rented a nice Towncar to come pick us up at the airport. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of flagging down a cramped and dirty cab. He arrived at our luggage carousel, and politely helped us to the car, though that contented feeling didn’t last long. Our driver was many things, but mostly utterly offensive. The ride was nice, the driver was absolutely apalling.

RX Boiler Room dinner

RX Boiler Room dinner

Squid-E-Os at RX Boiler Room

Squid-E-Os at RX Boiler Room

See more of my photos here.

We had a special fancy dinner at Rick Moonen‘s restaurant RX Boiler Room (we even sent Brett some yolk porn), to kick off the night then attended a saucy, decidedly NSFW, show at the Erotic Museum. The performance had more than a few funny moments… especially when Tracy was called onstage to participate! Pictures and a video MAY or may not exist.

The Yucca at the Neon Museum

The Yucca at the Neon Museum

La Concha at the Neon Museum

La Concha at the Neon Museum

We ate lots of food (including at The Peppermill, which may be the weirdest place I’ve ever eatenCarson Kitchen and the Wicked Spoon)…

Tracy under the neon tree at our table at The Peppermill

Tracy under the neon tree at our table at The Peppermill

Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan

Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan

Drank some dranks at Atomic Liquors and Frankie’s Tiki Room (ultimately our delicious demise, as this was the beginning of our all-nighter), wandered Container Park, got bombarded by Fremont St. and got our casino on. Mightily.

Atomic Liquors with the ladies

Atomic Liquors with the ladies

Enthralled by slots

Enthralled by slots

See more of my photos here.

We gambled/slotted at… the Cosmopolitan, Bellagio, Mirage, Encore at the Wynn, El Cortez (best, old-time casino with the coolest neon sign), Caesar’s Palace, Circus Circus (most briefly, don’t go here… it will ruin you), Mandalay Bay and the Aria. I think. Some of that ‘ding-ding-ding’-ing, shiny flashing and the barrage of cocktails blurred my brain a bit.

Tracy winning at literally everything

Tracy winning at literally everything

There were mimosas in the morning, whiskey in the afternoon, lots of dirty jokes and real talk (post cocktails), and some general bonding. We got Tracy hammered and finally chipped away at that sweet hard shell of hers. Success! She’s a gem, this one. I guess we’ll keep her.

Ladies, sparkly lights

Ladies, sparkly lights

The only thing missing… what would have REALLY capped off our trip, given it a good kick in the ass, would have been to get a tattoo—a horseshoe perhaps, or trio of cherries a la slot machines. We didn’t, but perhaps that’s on the docket for our next go-round.

P.S. And in case you were curious, Vegas smells like chlorine, sewage and sunscreen.

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On Flying Time

It’s almost the middle of 2015, and as with most years, progressively faster as I get older, it kind of just snuck up on me. The good thing about being an adult is that you can have unlimited, unfettered fun. The bad thing about being an adult is that time absolutely flies when you’re busy and enjoying life.

Even when you aren’t enjoying life, and instead are experiencing lots of hard prickly parts, time just slips by, allowing you less space to fix whatever feels wrong or incomplete. It’s at those exact moments that I wish time would sweep out from under me and run fast into the future. I wish I could skip the bad parts, or speed them up: grab the minutes and hours when I feel completely lost and unsure and toss them deep into the ocean.

Sage advice-givers will correct me and say that these moments are what truly build the essence of us. They’re what create the fabric of our character and personhood… it’s always the struggles (internal or external) that make us who we are. And YES you are right. This is true, I bow to your wisdom.

But that advice will never assuage the really difficult times when I question who I am, what I’m doing, the decisions I’ve made and the future I’ve envisioned for myself. I struggle with relationships, my career, my personality (perceived and real)… in figuring out what I really want in life and in love.

As with every year, every month, every day, I’m working on improving myself and feeling better about who I am right at this very second. I’m working on treating people better, focusing on the really important things and going gung-ho after what I want.

It’s all trial and error. I guess LIFE is just trial and error. And if we’re lucky we have a person or two to mumble through all that with. It feels important to say there are a few people that love me for me, personality flaws and all. Those are the people I carry in my heart, and in my mind, when I’m psyching myself out about something or edging close to a mini-breakdown. So thanks, handful of people who likely won’t read this — you make my life a little more awesome, a little more solid-feeling and a lot more hopeful.

My mission for you today: find those rocksteady people in your life and be the person to them that YOU need.

Psych Fest 2015 - Brett and Shrie

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Today was rough. One of those days that kicks you in the pants.

My morning looked like this:

  • I slipped in wet cleaner on the floor (applied after our 16 year old surly ass cat decided to pee on the floor, next to a clean litter box and pheromone infuser, for the umpteenth time).
  • I bobbled, and ultimately dropped, several rubber dog treat toys on the way into the kitchen, spewing dog treat crumbs down the hall.
  • I realized my new ‘awesome’ jeans are definitely too long and just a tad too loose.
  • I hobbled around doing the dog-walk-shower-makeup-hair-getting-ready-before-work routine amidst a killer, and unfortunately not uncommon, stomach ache.

My mid-day and afternoon didn’t look much better; I struggled today. It was hormones, apathy, incredulity and a desire to be wearing a different outfit. It was too little headphones and too much office tele-confer-eavesdropping.

They are small struggles, I realize. Teeny in a sea of awesome. But communication is key—the goods and the bads and the in-betweens.

I did focus on Buddy Miles today, which I’m grateful for. A drummer and singer with soul to spare, a silken slice of vintage sound. Recommended listening: https://open.spotify.com/album/6Kr0V00FNt8Xn3Dk3opAVb.

Buddy Miles

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Cream Team at the WFC Part Two

This is part two of the post I took forever and a day to write; and this one didn’t come as quickly as I wanted it to either. C’est la vie..

(This is part two, the last part. So savor it… )

The Results

We could do nothing but wait. Wait and drink and wander the maniacal Fremont St. Experience. We packed up our stuff, loaded it into the rental car and set to wandering. Well, and drinking.

After cleaning up back at the duplex, we headed back to Fremont St. to await the awards presentation. Oodles of cooking teams, still decked out in their team gear and splattered with frosting, BBQ sauce or both, were milling about and huddling near the stage in the middle of the street. We joined the throngs, frozen mixed drinks in hand, tired and impatient. Elderly and middle-aged couples in khaki shorts and visors streamed past, bumping into us as they tilted their heads up to view the eagle screaming across the gigantic video screen.

Finally, the marketing director for Kenmore Elite (the brand of cooking equipment that graced the Kenmore Kitchen Coliseum) and the president of the World Food Championships took the stage, all glitzy smiles and coiffed hair.

I’ve known my fair share of less-than-easy-to-deal-with ladies, but this broad may take the cake. She strutted around onstage in her three inch heels, flipping her blond mane and gesticulating wildly with whatever hand didn’t happen to be holding the mic. But the kicker, was her voice—high, nasally, WAY too loud and saying nothing important or relative at all.

We were about ready to jet when she finally started announcing the categories and winners. One by one winning teams streamed by, and our category came and went. And we didn’t place, as you may have guessed. Because if we had, wouldn’t I have written this post sooner? Touted our win, gloated a bit, congratulated our backers? I would have, and rightfully.

Previously, after the judging of our first dish, we found out that we were in place #18 out of forty. Not exactly what we had hoped for, but we were positive about the ‘Chilly Con Queso’. Surely it’s inventiveness, delicious texture, super science-y technique and odd but awesome flavor combination would win ALL the judges over.

But they didn’t get it. They must not have appreciated our play on words, the ode to our town of Austin, TX–spicy and cool in it’s own right; the queso-like flavor of the smooth ice cream, the tart candied jalapeno bits, the slight but present sweetness that somehow paired perfectly with the spice.

The winning dish was a cordon bleu. Nothing inventive, boundary-pushing or even really that interesting apart from being a generally tasty dinner dish. But maybe it just tasted so good that the judges didn’t care about our story or our creativity. They just wanted to eat something that tasted good, that most Americans could cook and would want to eat, that they could put on a Food Network-like cooking show. That’s not us. That’s not the Brett and Paul combo that spawned some of these rad dishes.

We spent our last day going to the Hoover Dam, briefly checking out the neon museum, drinking on patios, slottin’ it up and gambling at seedy and unseedy casinos, eating fancy French dinner, shopping for gifts at the world’s largest gift shop and naughty store and generally checking out the view.

Hoover Dam

El Cortez Hotel in Las Vegas

drinking on patios in Vegas

See more photos of all this on Brett’s and my photo sets.

The Future

I guess we’re okay with the results now, though frankly it took a bit. It feels disappointing to ourselves and to our supporters (financial and otherwise). We know blah blah blah we did awesome blah blah Brett and Paul are really awesome cooks blah blah we get it. I think we all just REALLY wanted to place. We wanted to surpass our own lofty expectations and make everyone so proud they’d freak.

Paul in the thick of chili cooking

Months later, we’re looking on to other food competitions. We’ve done two local competitions this year, and were semi-successful at best. But it’s onward, and again we’re feeling positive and interested in trying some new things this year. So thank you, a heartfelt crazy thank you, to all of you who believed in us. The Cream Team lives on!!!

Follow us, Brett, me and Paul, to stay updated on when and where we’ll next delight you with our tasty noms and award-winning techniques!

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Cream Team at the WFC Part One

I’ve put off writing this post for a long time. Maybe because it was just such a big build-up to the event, or maybe it’s just because it was a harrowing experience and we weren’t ready yet. Or maybe it’s just because there is a lot of ground to cover, and the task seemed daunting. After staring at this item on my to do list for months, it’s got to go…

(This is part one. Part two will be posted soon, so stay tuned!)

The Deal

The Cream Team was invited to compete in the World Food Championships in Las Vegas this past November, in the Recipe category (a total of three possible dishes) with an emphasis on cheese as the featured ingredient. Last year’s Mac and Cheeze Takedown win qualified The Cream Team, Brett Spangler, Paul Czarkowski, and me as the juggler/project manager/nagger, for the event.

I contacted a couple of previous winners to get the lowdown, but I’m not sure much could have prepared us for what it was going to be like at our first big out-of-state food competition. We weren’t even sure we were going to go, as we had heard it was nothing but a stunt for the DIY network (fodder for their TV channel). But when presented the chance… why not take it?!


I crafted a compelling IndieGogo campaign page to help us raise a little dough to offset some of the traveling and food costs. We estimated we would need at least $3k to cover most main competition-related expenses. Our family, friends and supporters did not disappoint—we raised $2,670! Now I owe our generous supporters their due gifts (eek), which I am dutifully working on.

We planned planned PLANNED, made tons of lists, got tshirts printed (thanks Brian!), had many taste test sessions with a group of our friends (who all contributed very valuable feedback to the process) and tweaked our three competition recipes to the utmost point of tweakage. Our offerings would be: ‘Craft’ Mac and Cheese (our version of a fancy Kraft dinner), ‘Chilly’ Con Queso ice cream (our Quesoff 2014 winning-dish) and ‘Tater-yaki’ (our take on Japanese takoyaki).


The goal was to make dishes that were interesting yet approachable, using the specified ingredients in a major and recognizable way for our audience of judges. Turns out, it’s a little difficult to understand your audience and the expectations of the dishes you present to the judges. More on that later…

The Competition

We flew to Vegas with some select cooking equipment and specialty ingredients in tow, but had to purchase a lot while there. Paul and Brett ran around like crazy people for almost a whole day attempting to track down things like frozen green chiles, large mixing bowls and other small cooking equipment items and perishable foods. We stayed in a janky but pleasant little duplex in the shadow of the Stratosphere, so we were super close to the event space at the Fremont St. Experience, which was a very odd place: modern radio country music blared over the entire street area while patriotic videos meant to rouse our true American spirit (Paul is Australian) blasted across the street-long video screen above our heads. Casinos were selling liquor on the street and dazed tourists walked around sipping super fruity frozen drinks, wandering into glitzy casinos as they passed.


When we arrived at the competition space the morning of, we immediately started drinking. We were in VEGAS and it was GO TIME! Competitors with tshirts emblazoned with cutesy team names scurried around everywhere, some even sprinting to the judge’s table with their dishes, turning in just before their time was up. We got to our table and set up our station with our various containers of knives and ladles, chicharonnes, Hot Cheetos, mysterious science-y looking ingredients and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

I was the cleaner-up-er and the beer-ferryer during most of the cooking process: organizing, stirring, wiping up, finding ingredients, retrieving libations from casinos (two jumbo beers in hand, one gripped in my front teeth). The Cream Team must not go thirsty!


The first dish up was our ‘Craft’ Dinner Mac and Cheese, which, I have to honestly say, was the best mac and cheese they have made in all of their trials. The best mac and cheese I may have ever had, ever. Texas Hot Guts-style sausage was crumbled into creamy cheesy pasta shells and topped with chiffonade bacon, a chicharrones/Hot Cheeto dust and diced green onions. Paul and Brett plated it up, simply, in bowls on silver trays, and turned it in with plenty of time to spare. One dish down, one (or two if we SUPER-advanced) to go. High fives all around and more beer!


Now onto dish two: ‘Chilly’ Con Queso. There was a lot of mixing, and heating, and measuring of mysterious white powders. I must have been ferrying a lot of beer at this point, because I don’t remember much but stirring the milky mixture on the stove and the crazy smoke from the addition of dry ice to the mixer, turning that liquid gold into queso ice cream. We served the ‘Chilly’ Con Queso in a freeze-able shot glass, topped with a long red pepper and spiked with a thick fried corn tortilla strip. They looked delightful, everything went smoothly, the queso ice cream was on point and all we could do is clean up and hope for the best…


This story to be continued…

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A Writerly Resolution

I think last year I said I wanted to try something new every month, which was my non-resolution. That didn’t last SUPER long but I did get quite a bit of value out of that attitude and approach. I learned how to meditate and I tried out a writing class, among other things. I read thirteen books last year, per Goodreads, but I could have done better.

I keep saying I’m a writer, and I am. Being a writer feels like a slow process, one in which you’re not sure if you are who you say you are. So this year, DN DNN DUNNNNNNNN, I am going to write something on paper every single day. I fill my days with writing/editing how-tos, instructions and technical documents. Armed with more confidence and a lot less caring about what other people think, I’ll be continuing my dive into the illuminating waters of creative writing.

You heard right, my non-resolution this year – okay I guess this is a regular resolution – my RESOLUTION for this year is to write something, anything, down on paper every single day of the year.

For Christmas, among the cavalcade of other fantastic gifts my husband lavishly bestowed on me, I received a writing notebook that looks like a library card on the front. Writerly nerds unite! I will use this notebook to chronicle my everyday ramblings.

I’m on day two, and going strong. And who knows… maybe I’ll put a little of that here on the blog as well.


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On, but never up

She was slowly peeling off the Spongebob stickers. Ann was helping.

It was almost like Ann was sorry she had to fire Rachel. She was acting dour, yet chipper. Punctuating her short sentences with an uninspired ‘heh’ and a half-hearted apologetic grin. An ‘I just fired you but told you I was pressured into it by my boss so that makes it a little more okay, right’ approach.

‘You could put them in your kid’s bathroom’ I blurted out stupidly.

Rachel has just been fired, is sullenly collecting her things, and I’m here trying to give her advice about where she can re-home those garish cartoon wall clings that she insisted on getting for the wall next to her desk. ‘To make it seem more Ffuuunnn!’, she had exclaimed when I asked at the time, horrified by their presence peering over my shoulder.

Rachel seems resigned, maybe a little relieved. It’s tiring, job jockeying. She’ll walk out, with her box of belongings, and start a new life again. She’ll convince someone else to hire her, that her measly skills garnered over two decades of meaningless work in corporate sales is enough to guarantee her anything. She will move on, but never up, I bet.

Her heels, too tall and too red, clacking on the concrete floor like tinny gunshots. She scoots over for a polite but hearty side-hug, leaning in, looking me square in the eye.

I can tell I am definitely at least her second favorite ex co-worker.


ps – i said last time things were going to look a bit different around here. this is the beginning of the renovation. short stories. creative writing. strange blurbs. mind-dumping-on-page. and other kinds of words on paper. as i work to get comfortable maybe i will share more. or maybe this experiment won’t last. either way, at this second, i’m putting personal words down for anyone to see. and it doesn’t matter if anyone sees this or reads this, just that someone COULD.

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Fingers crossed

I let myself down all the time. I’ve been letting myself down since I knew about letting people down.

Case in point, I’m a writer and I have a blog that I don’t write in. A writer that doesn’t write.

Except sporadically, in bursts sufficiently snuffed by my crippling inability to write–and let be. The proverbial red pen comes out! I stop after each paragraph to read, edit and rewrite. I wonder, every single time, what the words I just typed on the page say about me. If I sound too trite, too much of a newb, if what they say is that I really can’t write very well after all.

I’m tired of caring. I really just want to do the things that I’ve learned allow me to scribble outside of the lines, or inside the lines if I please. Things that seal up the rough edges.

It may start to feel a little differently around here soon. My hope, xx fingers crossed xx, is that it will get downright weird.

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Queso Kings Forever

Last year’s Quesoff win was a surprise, but a hard-earned result for sure. There was much hemming and hawing over the approach… a roux-based queso? One with beer? What about getting all gastronomical with sodium citrate? Strong cheese or mild cheese? What KIND of cheese? It was all a little baffling at first, at least for me. But they persisted, and my stomach remained leaden with cheese for the previous few months while testing and trials commenced.

This year they knew they had to come up with a super creative idea to ‘one-up’ their entries from last year: a Baby’s On Fire spicy queso and a Cheezy Hot Gutz meaty queso. Something different, but tasty enough to actually win. And people were definitely skeptical when Brett told them they’d be making a queso ice cream (along with a Cajun Boudain sausage queso) that was real ice cream that you actually ate with a tortilla chip.

ice cream magic (with dry ice)

Myself, and our neighbors/friends Dollie and Alan, along with a smattering of other willing taste-testers, judged queso ice cream attempts for a couple of months. As delicious as it was, a little saucer full was more than plenty. It tasted JUST LIKE queso + ice cream. Brilliant! And the boudain queso was chock full of real deal homemade boudain sausage that Paul cranked out. We had many people coming back to nab another taste.

I’m not sure if anyone else has attempted this feat, but with a little internet searching we definitely found more than a few cheese ice creams. As far as we can tell, The Cream Team is a pioneer in the ice cream world with their queso (the Mexican kind you dip chips in and is usually spicy) ice cream concoction.

makin' that queso ice cream

SPOILER ALERT There were tons of people in line at all times, many asking us if we were the ones with the queso ice cream, and The Cream Team won Best in the Wildcard Category for that entry! And again, for the second year in a row, we win Fun Fun Fun Fest Tickets! Woooo!

See more photos in my Flickr set.




queso ice cream cup

via Brett Spangler https://www.flickr.com/photos/naz66/






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Better the Second Time Around

I have so much to write, so much to say here. Too many swirlies… to-do lists… projects to complete..

So, let me say a word about an album I enjoy.

This Themselves remix album, ‘The No Music of Aiff’s Remixed’ is still a favorite, 11 years after it’s release. I memorized every crunchy beat, all the fuzz-obscured lyrics, the picked-apart and reassembled (slowed down, messily speeded up) layers in college.

It’s such a weird album, I admit, and this remix is better than the original album by far – which is rare. I won’t bother describing it further. You can try it out, if you like. It’s keeping my eyes and typing fingers alive at work today.

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Writer’s Workshop Reading Update

Update! The writing workshop reading didn’t go nearly as bad as I had planned to expect. During the drive over to the library, where the writers meet, I just decided not to be nervous. It was as simple as that. I still stumbled over a few words here and there, and I still don’t particularly like the work I read. But after hearing everyone else read, even though my pieces were decidedly not the ‘best’, they were pretty darn good. Good enough no quell my fear of sucking it up big time.

I even came up with the name for our writing group. Perhaps, someday soon, I’ll even share the pieces that were published. You must PROMISE not to scoff, though. Or at least, do your intense scoffing privately.

E. Cesar Chavez Snack Society - Badgerdog Writing Workshop chapbook 2014

E. Cesar Chavez Snack Society – Badgerdog Writing Workshop chapbook 2014


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Writer Not-Writer

I’ve spent a lot of years writing. I’ve written about music, offbeat weddings and weirdo-culture, home decor and upscale appliances, fine art publishing, food and restaurants, crafting and DIY, and even web hosting. One form of writing that I’ve eschewed over the years, since my angsty and love-sick teen journaling days, has been creative writing.

I read novel after novel, check up on McSweeney’s regularly, and even dive into the New Yorker when I can. But when it comes to picking up the pen and throwing down some creative words of my own… nu uh. And now I write instructions for a living, so creativity is typically thrown out the window.


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No Resolutions

At the beginning of the year, I said I wouldn’t make any resolutions. No one really keeps their resolutions anyway, and I’m a perpetual self-guilter (and I’ve never even been Catholic). I did decide, as I do every year, to really push myself to try new things or to learn something that I’ve always wanted to. I decided to try something new, every month, and do it for each day of that month. I haven’t kept up with that either, but even the beginnings of this process have affected me positively.

In January I decided to try meditation. Now, I’m not a hippie and I’m not very spiritual. I don’t know much about Buddha, raw food diets, or transcendental meditation (and maybe those are all sweeping generalizations anyway). What I DID know is that I was letting stressy moments define my mood, and not just for a bit, but for the entire day.

If my morning started out rough or I got some particularly difficult-to-swallow criticism at work my day was blown. I was upset, exhausted, sensitive, and felt simultaneously bored and unable to do anything productive. It felt like I was having mini bouts of depression… and couldn’t do anything to dig myself out of the feelings I was having at the time. So, I started getting up in the morning, going to pee, and then sitting on the cool bathroom floor with my phone stopwatch running – and attempting to meditate.

sycamore tree in our yard

I am NOT good at meditating. And I don’t do it for very long… and really, I’ve dropped off in the last month in my practice. What I noticed was happening though, is that I was slowly feeling a bit better in the morning (traditionally the toughest time for me). And even though I don’t do it every day, I’m finding that there are instances where I can use my remedial meditation skills to help me manage a bit better.

Sometimes I can’t sleep for worrying. And I worry about EVERYTHING… my work day coming up, my Mom’s health, money (oh, money), staying in touch with family, being a good friend to people I hold dear, making the right decisions about my career and my free time etc. I stress, guilt myself, and constantly feel like I’m not good enough, or not doing enough, or not striving enough. When sleeplessness hits, sometimes spending a little time trying to meditate in bed has actually helped me nod off before 2am!

To me, meditation is a tool, or a ‘Tips and Tricks’ sort of revelation. As I grow into my 30s, I’m finding out more about myself, how I can feel more comfortable in my own skin, and how I can live life a little freer. I’m so far away from actually having a good handle on this stuff, but it feels awesome to take action on things I know I can make better, instead of trying to control things that I can’t make better. (This is a slow process, one that I’ll probably never master – and that’s okay.)

Try it out! Sit by yourself in silence, and take a few moments to focus on your breathing and breath, clearing your mind of all the muck. It won’t make you a new person, but it just might help get you a step closer to happy living.

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Cream Team Strikes Again

The Cream Team is on a roll! Fresh off the Chili Bowl win, Brett and his cohort Paul CZ entered the Mac and Cheeze Takedown at Shangri-la. Weeks of preparation helped Brett refine his ultimate cheesy recipe, and consequently made me utterly sick of it (a feat I never thought possible).

He found his secret ingredient, tested many kinds and ages of cheese, and concocted many different toppings before finally deciding on the right set of ratios and ingredients. A special thanks goes out to our friends Dollie and Alan for being the cheesiest of guinea pigs!

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And whaddya know it? The Cream Team won! They won the 1st place People’s Choice Award, with a haul of kitchen gear (including a 12 qt food processor) as the spoils.

“Cream Team won first place for a delectably smooth concoction entitled “Science B-tches.” The secret ingredient? Sodium citrate, which turned the six-cheese blend of vintage cheddars to a Velveeta-like consistency (the same duo just won the Quesoff this summer, too).” – Austin Culturemap


First, the Quesoff, then the Chili Bowl, and now this?! I’m a proud wifey and  the ultimate taste-tester.

Our friend Mary made a DELICIOUS mac and cheese ice cream sundae that knocked my socks off and she nabbed a pretty prize herself!

And just for all you cheesy lovers, here’s the recipe:

‘Science, Bitch’ Mac and Cheese by The Cream Team (Brett Spangler and Paul Czarkowski)

Makes enough to feed 6-­8 people.

530g (about 2 1/4 cups) whole milk
22g sodium citrate
350g Tillamook Extra Sharp Vintage Cheddar, shredded
280g extremely sharp Cheddar (1­2 year old), shredded
140g Gruyere, shredded
454g (about five 16oz boxes) dry pasta of your choice; shells or pasta with texture work great!
1 cup (two sticks) butter, melted
2 large sweet onions, diced into small/medium pieces
4 cups slightly stale sourdough breadcrumbs
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 lb bacon
Fresh cracked pepper
Jalapeno powder
Cayenne powder

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.


Cook pasta per directions on package until al dente. Drain the pasta and shock it in ice water, then toss with 1/2 cup (half the called-for amount) melted butter. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook over low heat until the onions are caramelized and gooey. Add salt to taste. Mix pasta into the onion mixture.


Add the milk, sodium citrate, jalapeno powder, cayenne powder and fresh cracked pepper to a three quart or similar sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add shredded cheeses to the milky mixture one handful at a time and whisk until melted. Once the cheese has been incorporated into the milk mixture blend it with an immersion blender (stick blender) for 30-45 seconds, or until the cheese/milk mixture is completely emulsified.

Bread crumb topping

We made our own bread, but you can use any high quality sourdough that is a day or two old. Mix the bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and salt/pepper to taste in an oven proof pan or baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly toasted, about 15 mins.

Bacon topping

Chiffonade, or slice into short little ribbons, the bacon. Deep fry in canola oil heated to about 325 degrees until crispy. Fold the cheese mixture into the pasta mixture until well coated. Salt to taste (ours didn’t need any at this point). Top each serving with breadcrumbs and bacon. Enjoy!

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