How To Describe An Orgasm

An orgasm is like getting your head cut off, but the chainsaw is covered in Molly.

As the French call it, “the little lunch.”

An orgasm is like a squat cartoon woman yelling “bippity-boppity-boo” at your genitals and then they feel like a glittery pumpkin.

Like a rattlesnake dancing inside your nether bits.

An orgasm is like getting your head cut off, but the chainsaw is covered in Molly.

As the French call it, “the little lunch.”

That thing where your leg sorta starts twitching for no reason and you’re scared but also it tickles and you can’t really stand on it? Like that.

Champagne Jello?

A secret.

Like when you turn your head too fast and a shooting pain goes up the side of your skull but you have to keep sitting still because the lady blowing out your hair isn’t done yet, but good.

Maybe like peeing.

Light as a feather, stiff as a board.

That dream where you’re a mermaid and can do somersaults underwater.

Like a bath, but also like a breeze? Sure.

A wave of, something, surely, cresting around your…umm, hmm.

Okay definitely like peeing but you’ve been drinking pure gold and holding it in for four days.

Sleeping but awake.


Getting your hair washed at the salon.

In Defense of Ariadne Oliver

Ariadne Oliver never actually gets to be the detective. She’s the sidekick, the foil, the mouthpiece for Agatha Christie’s own mistakes and second thoughts. She may have intuitions and they may be correct, but she’s never the hero, the real detective.

Meet the detective: she heaves herself out of the car, scattering apple cores and hairpins, chattering volubly about the plausibility of a plot point she just worked out. She’s a bestselling writer and she has the key detail written down—it’s just in an address book from eleven years ago.

Alas, Agatha Christie’s indelible character Ariadne Oliver never actually gets to be the detective. She’s the sidekick, the foil, the mouthpiece for Christie’s own mistakes and second thoughts. She may have intuitions and they may be correct, but she’s never the hero, the real detective. The real detective is rational. The real detective doesn’t let their imagination take control.

In creating Mrs. Oliver as a comic figure, and in giving her very little to do, Christie did an injustice to her own achievement. (It’s easy to see injustices when rereading Christie novels, with the occasional racist aside reminding us that the books were written from the heart of Empire.) Mrs. Oliver is a barely disguised version of Christie herself (scatty, excessively creative, exasperated by the products of her own imagination), and this is proof of her potential greatness as a detective — because, of course, Mrs. Oliver’s model and creator is the bestselling mystery writer of all time.

Ariadne Oliver appeared in only eight books, mostly paired with Hercule Poirot, whose obsessive neatness and tidy mind only exaggerate Ariadne’s lack of those same qualities. In her first appearance in a novel, Cards on the Table (1936), she is an absolute caricature of a woman and of a detective novelist, comically referencing her infallible intuition and tendentiously declaring that things would be different if a woman ran Scotland Yard. She intuits the murderer’s identity at the beginning of the book and, though she doubts her gut and changes her mind several times, her initial instinct is absolutely correct.

Throughout the books, Ariadne is often portrayed as stereotypically feminine and unreliable. In fact, her one feminine vanity is played for laughs: She has piles of wild grey hair that she can’t help but arrange and rearrange according to her whims. The elaborately architected hairstyles that don’t suit her always come down with an avalanche of hairpins. Her house is similarly ridiculous: Her parlor is wallpapered with gigantic tropical birds that make Poirot shudder but give Ariadne ideas. Later, she replaces the birds with huge cherries, which nobody thinks is a good change.

Despite this, she is never portrayed as brainless, just rather muddled. “Mrs Oliver was a singularly muddle-headed woman,” says Poirot, “and how she managed somehow or other to turn out coherent detective stories was beyond him, and yet, for all her muddle-headedness she often surprised him by her sudden perception of truth.” Mrs. Oliver understands that people are moved by emotions, hunches, things they can’t quite articulate. Her own hunches about people are rarely wrong. It’s when she tries to justify and rationalize her hunches that she gets in trouble.

Mrs. Oliver is also a convenient mouthpiece for Christie’s expressions of frustration over her own creative process and success. In Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (1953), Mrs. Oliver’s second appearance, she looks through a rack of her own books at a shop:

The Affair of the Second Goldfish,’ she mused, ‘That’s quite a good one. The Cat It Was Who Died—that’s where I made a blowpipe a foot long and it’s really six feet. Ridiculous that a blowpipe should be that size, but someone wrote from a Museum to tell me so. Sometimes I think there are people who only read books in hopes of finding mistakes in them.’

This is one of Christie’s own famous mistakes, from Death in the Air (1935). Ariadne goes on:

‘What’s the other one of them? Oh! Death of a Debutante—that’s frightful tripe! I made sulphonal soluble in water and it isn’t, and the whole thing is wildly impossible from start to finish. At least eight people die before Sven Hjerson gets his brainwave.’

Besides the implausibility of some of her plots and the ways her readers have responded, Ariadne also complains about another product of her imagination, her detective. Like Poirot, Sven Hjerson is a foreign detective with stereotyped mannerisms that she now must continue because of her readers:

‘How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got? These things just happen. You try something—and people seem to like it, and then you go on—and before you know it, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond? If I ever met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.’

Toward the end of her career, this was indeed Christie’s feeling toward Poirot. “Hercule Poirot, my Belgian invention,” said Christie in her autobiography, “was hanging round my neck, firmly attached as the old man of the sea…I ought to have abandoned him after the first three or four books”.

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie

But all this is less revealing than Ariadne’s discussions of her own unruly, fecund imagination. “’It is never difficult to think of things,’ said Mrs Oliver. ‘The trouble is you think of too many, and then it all becomes too complicated, so you have to relinquish some of them, and that is rather agony.’”

Christie was also irrepressibly creative. “Plots come to me at such odd moments,” she confessed in her autobiography, “when I am walking along a street, or examining a hat shop with particular interest, suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head, ‘Now that would be a neat way of covering up the crime so that nobody would see the point.’” She famously wrote her ideas in piles of mixed-up notebooks:

I jot down my splendid idea in an exercise book. So far so good–but what I invariably do is lose the exercise book….[W]hen looking vaguely through a pile of old notebooks, [I] find something scribbled down as: Possible plot–do it yourself–Girl and not really sister–August--with a kind of sketch of a plot. What it’s all about I can’t remember now: but it often stimulates me, if not to write that identical plot at least to write something else.

Similarly, words and ideas pour out of Ariadne. On one drive, she can develop ten new plots. When the plots go wrong Ariadne is devastated — as in Dead Man’s Folly (1956), in which she develops a “murder hunt” for a party that ends up with a dead guest. (The incomprehensible plot of the murder hunt resonates with the overstuffed plot of the novel.)

At least once, intuition was a site of betrayal for Mrs. Oliver. In Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, she sits in the car while a murder is committed in the house nearby. “’I am afraid,” said Poirot, ‘that your women’s intuition was taking a day off…’” In the rest of her appearances, however, Mrs. Oliver either intuits the solution correctly, leads Poirot or the protagonist to the correct solution, or is simply not given a chance to speculate on the solution, as in Halloween Party (1969).

It’s not all deathly serious.  Christie has a sense of humor about herself, and so does Mrs. Oliver. She knows she is ridiculous and she appreciates that it makes her lots of money.“My books bring me in quite enough money,” says Ariadne in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, “— that is to say the bloodsuckers take most of it, and if I made more, they’d take more, so I don’t overstrain myself.”

For Ariadne, it’s very comfortable to have a lot of money–it keeps her in apples and hairstyles and interior decorations–but the point is the writing. In general, Ariadne says she’s lucky:

She was not unduly modest. She thought the detective stories she wrote were quite good of their kind….But there was no reason, far as she could see, to make anyone think she was a noble woman. She was a lucky woman who had established a happy knack of writing what quite a lot of people wanted to read. Wonderful luck that was, Mrs. Oliver said to herself.

Luck is like intuition: acknowledging that you have it sometimes requires you to dismiss your own work. And this is the major problem with Ariadne as a character: creativity, sensitivity to others’ emotions, an abundance of ideas, different ways of knowing things—these are all undervalued qualities, and it is likely Christie did not fully value them in herself. No kind of knowledge is essentially gendered, of course, but that is how intuition and this particular type of fertile creativity was constructed in the context of many Christie novels  (“’Men are so slow,” said Mrs Oliver disparagingly. ‘I’ll tell you who did it….Give me a day or two to look round, and I’ll spot the murderer. A woman’s intuition, that’s what you need’”). This unintended, internalized misogyny is why Mrs. Oliver is a comic figure in the novels, not an example of a successful businesswoman.

In my hypothetical Agatha Christie opera, Poirot, Miss Marple, and Ariadne Oliver would band together to solve the infamous mystery of what exactly happened to Agatha when she disappeared for eleven days in 1926 and was found at the Swan Hotel in Harrogate under an assumed name. Poirot would marshal the facts (Aria: The Little Grey Cells), Marple would remember a fishmonger in the village who did a somewhat similar thing (duet with the police detective, a baritone), but Mrs. Oliver would know, deeply know, immediately and intuitively, what happened. (Aria: Intuition). Would anyone believe her?

How To Make Blondies My Way

Being known for a recipe is a pleasant marker of adulthood. I’m not talking about “adulting” in that “lol omg I paid a bill” way but in the sense of having lived long enough, and done something enough times and with increasing confidence, that others can rely on you for it. It can be something elaborate and impressive, or just something you happen to be good at making. For every birthday party I have a friend who makes incredible, fondant-decorated cakes, and another who makes onion dip from those Lipton soup packets, and both are as respected and adored for their contributions.

What I’m saying is that if you’re of potlucking age, it’s good to have some standbys. It’s even better to hit that sweet spot of making a crowdpleaser that’s not the most common thing you could bring. Mine is blondies.

This recipe was passed down to me from my mom and the back of a Hershey’s bag of mini chips, and became a favorite of high school musical rehearsals and sleepovers. For a long time any invitation to a party at my place would be met with “but will there be blondies?,” and holidays are celebrated with a pan of them sitting on the counter as little squares keep mysteriously being cut out of it all day until it’s gone.

For those of you unfamiliar, blondies are sort of like chocolate chip cookies if you baked them into brownie form. This recipe has been tinkered with some from the original package instructions, mainly in the sugar ratios. You can mess with any combination of white and brown sugar you want, but I’d recommend not going with all white sugar, as you’ll miss out on some of those caramel and molasses notes that make these so good. I have been known to substitute maple syrup for vanilla when I’ve run out of the latter to great success.

Some recipes call for nuts, which I suppose you can add if you’re the type of person who likes to ruin things.


2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

3/4 cups butter (1 1/2 sticks), ideally at room temperature but sometimes you need to bake emergency blondies and don’t have time for that

1 cup dark brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 Tbsp milk

1 generous tsp vanilla

2 cups (12 oz. package) chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for mini-chips, but I’ve found that regular semi-sweet chips make them all the gooier)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch pan (glass/pyrex pans work best).

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla to the butter mixture and beat well. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones about 1/3 of the bowl at a time, until everything is thoroughly combined. Stir in the chips.

Spread the batter as evenly as you can across the pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean and the edges are a nice golden brown. You should probably wait a little bit before cutting into them so the chips set up a bit.

Arrive to a party with great acclaim.

If Mary-Louise Parker Were Your Girlfriend

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, you’d laze in bed together on Sunday mornings, with just thin, jersey-cotton sheets as the only barrier between your bodies and the air, and she would read Wallace Stevens aloud to you. You’d debate the pros and cons of austerity in poetry until she said, “Honey, we’re saying the same thing,” and then kissed you through a smile.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, she would normally keep her Southern accent hidden, using her “TV accent” with most everyone else. But around you, especially when you’re winding around each other in the kitchen, hands trailing along waists, she’d dip into an exaggerated drawl, sweet and slow and light as an overburdened bumblebee.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, your pets would include a very smart raven whose feathers matched her exact shade of brunette, and you wouldn’t ever be quite sure whether that bird wasn’t her familiar.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, even though you’d know she had moved beyond this, she’d laugh and laugh with you about what a fool Billy Crudup is, and you’d call him “Crapdown,” which she would find clever instead of reaching. You’d both acknowledge in private, though, perhaps when you’re about to fall asleep and her face is turned toward yours, that if he’d never left her, your paths might not have crossed.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, all her friends would take to you immediately. No one else makes her blush like that, they’d think, and no one else but you makes her smile her real smile. They know when she’s acting, and she isn’t when she’s with you, they’d tell you. (They don’t judge you when you start weeping.)

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, she’d ask if you were busy next Friday and if not, would you be interested in being her date to an awards show? Then she’d patiently listen to you freak out about how you look, and when you’d said it all, she would hold your hand and then tell you she feels the most beautiful when you’re at her side, because you find the grace in every piece of her, not just her body. (She doesn’t judge you when you start weeping.)

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, your inability to keep plants alive would melt away like a snowball in a hot tub, and you’d be especially adept at growing her favorite flowers.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, you’d find out her smile can placate even the wildest of beasts; thus all zoos would become petting zoos for you.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, everywhere you went people would recognize her as her character from “Weeds,” leading many a stranger to divulge their own drug histories and/or offerings. She would politely decline proffered marijuana, and when you pout, she’d say, “It’s cool, Claire Danes and I are now great friends, and she has the best bud; it keeps her sane while shooting ‘Homeland.’ Let’s text her!”

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, she would have no problem visiting your hometown during the holidays, putting on a gorgeous dress, and walking hand-in-hand with you through the busiest bars, where you would just happen to run into the people who were the meanest to you growing up. As soon as they were staring at her – you’re used to people gawking at her by now – she would smile at you, kiss you full on the mouth, then stare at them back, dead in the eye, her face like thunder, until they came up and apologized for everything they ever did to you.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, she would have no trouble outpacing your goddamn dirty mouth, spewing forth creative profanity with such ease that you could do nothing but try to remember it for the next traffic jam.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, you’d suddenly find pocket squares on your bedroom bureau, and you’d notice that they match her favorite dresses. When you asked her about them, she’d tell you about the suit fitting she set up for you, and how that tailor is known for making your shoulders look strong and your ass look perfect.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, any debate or fight you had would wind up in the same place: so turned on by each other’s brains and passion that you just end up in the bedroom, where everyone wins.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, you’d let it slip that Fried Green Tomatoes was a formative experience for you as a young gay kid, and you’ve always thought she was one of the most gorgeous and interesting women in the world ever since seeing it, and this wouldn’t creep her out. Instead, she would take you New Orleans where she set up a dinner with Mary Stuart Masterson and Kathy Bates, and the four of you would laugh until you cried over a vegan Cajun meal (and you would all definitely agree that they should have kept the real story of Ruth and Idgie’s love in the movie adaptation). That night, she would turn out her reading light, wrap herself around you tightly, and whisper into the back of your neck when she thinks you’re asleep, “You’re my bee charmer.”

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, all of your flights would depart from and land at gates next to at least one restaurant with vegetarian options and friendly servers, one coffee shop, and one free-wifi-free-wine shop.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, upon meeting her, your mother would pull you aside and plead with you, demanding that you tell her this is not a phase.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, you would automatically attain all the rights and privileges of a sea captain but none of the responsibilities.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, the two of you would host a monthly dinner party with Ellen and Portia, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, Barack and Michelle, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, Viola Davis and whoever she chooses to bring (it’s usually Helen Mirren, but she surprises you sometimes), and Abbi and Ilana. No one ever misses a month and everyone always loves your salads.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, people would start referring to casual, relaxed, possibly ostentatious movements as You-ing, instead of swanning.

If Mary-Louise Parker were your girlfriend, you’d suddenly find all your self-conscious anxieties disappeared when she kissed you, and your brain would be free to use that energy for creative pursuits, earning you the Nobel Prize in Great Ideas How Have We Never Thought of That? (But that doesn’t exist? It does for Mary-Louise Parker’s significant other.)

Link Roundup!

Sansa is very big. Sansa is still insisting that I cannot shower without her coming in and watching me and then licking water off my feet.

Sansa is very big. Sansa is still insisting that I cannot shower without her coming in and watching me to make sure I do not slip and then licking water off my feet. Also, she has bat ears now.


The story of how Target Canada crashed and burned (it sure did!):

Fisher, 38 years old at the time, was regarded as a wunderkind who had quickly risen through the ranks at Target’s American command post in Minneapolis, from a lowly business analyst to leader of a team of 400 people across multiple divisions. Launching the Target brand in a new country was his biggest task to date. The news he received from his group that February afternoon should have been worrying, but if he was unnerved, Fisher didn’t let on. He listened patiently as two people in the room strongly expressed reticence about opening stores on the existing timetable. Their concern was that with severe supply chain problems and stores facing the prospect of patchy or empty shelves, Target would blow its first date with Canadian consumers. Still, neither one outright advocated that the company push back its plans. “Nobody wanted to be the one to say, ‘This is a disaster,’” says a former employee. But by highlighting the risks of opening now, the senior employees’ hope was that Fisher would tell his boss back in Minneapolis, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, that they needed more time.


Jaya wrote this amazing thing about why cartoon bombs look the way they do:

In 1920, the popular newspaper comic strip Jerry on the Job was adapted by Bray Studios into a few animated films. In “The Bomb Idea,” Jerry and another character read that “Bolsheviki” are on the loose throughout the country, and that all citizens should be on alert. Shortly after, a man arrives carrying a heavy, black sphere. Jerry and his friend panic, assuming the item is a bomb, when eventually it is revealed to just be a bowling ball. But it’s clear that by 1920, everyone knew what a bomb looked like.




This is the best thing:

After college and graduate school — Rafi has a master’s degree in crisis and trauma studies from Tel Aviv University — he settled in Denver. Rafi began working as a community organizer, then a regional manager, for the Jewish LGBT advocacy group Keshet. In 2014, he took a job at Ramah Outdoor Adventure, a Jewish camp affiliated with the Conservative movement; he is now the director of camper care.

“We welcomed Rafi as a Jewish leader, and one that pushed us to live our value of being open and accepting,” said the camp’s executive director, Rabbi Eliav Bock.

Summer session 2015 at Ramah Outdoor Adventure, which serves children in grades 3–12, coincided with the third trimester of Rafi’s pregnancy. Rafi was met with a round of applause when he told the camp staff his news. But he asked his colleagues not to discuss his pregnancy with campers, who, Rafi said, “just thought I was a fat dude.” By the end of the summer, with Bock’s blessing, Rafi disclosed to the high school-age campers that he was pregnant.


dying right now:

As mentioned here numerous times before, Serena Williams’s entire career has been a prolonged troll for White Tears. From the moment the Williams sisters emerged from Compton and disrupted the tennis world’s effete and bourgeois establishment, White Tears have trailed her the way breadcrumbs trailed Hansel and Gretel. They’re shed when she wins, when she receives awards, when she expresses happiness, when she expresses anger, when she just exists. It’s almost as if she’s a Medela Swing Breastpump for White Tears, her very presence helping them drip and squirt, distilled and delicious, into BPA-free bottles.


This water-tasting piece is surprisingly entertaining:

Tasting Notes: “This is not black. It is distinctly brown, like root beer or a good Belgian quadrupel that’s been left open too long. Objectively, if you get past the color, it’s pretty neutral and tastes like water. This is the most structured water we’ve tasted: It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I would never drink something that looks like this. I don’t dislike it, and if for some reason I needed to drink it, I could survive.”

Would Pair Best With: “Something hearty and rich, like beef wellington or this rabbit pot pie we do at The Dutch. This is not an aperitif.”



Everyman has proven more accessible to aspiring polysleepers. Staver estimates that of people who start out trying Uberman, three-quarters end up on some version of Everyman. The online Polyphasic Society describes more than a dozen sleep schedules with varying numbers and lengths of naps, their details laid out in daily pie charts. In the diagrams for Uberman and “Dymaxion” (another schedule modeled after Buckminster Fuller’s), sleep appears as vanishingly small slivers in the nearly pristine pastry of the day.

No one gets there easily, though. The Polyphasic Society’s website warns of side effects people may experience while they’re adapting. There’s “metabolic panic,” meaning either constant hunger or a total loss of appetite. There may be chills, moodiness, constipation, and eye strain from keeping your eyes open all the time. The ominous-sounding “zombie mode” is also a concern.


Hey, guys, thank you so much for your support last week when we lost Doug. I felt very loved.

“I have always relied on the kindness of [internet] strangers.” – Nicole Cliffe


Toast Points for the Week of January 22nd

Did you know that as of Wednesday evening there was not a single damn sled you could order with your Amazon Prime subscription that would actually arrive BEFORE the storm, even if you were willing to pay extra for “same-day shipping”?

Hi Toasts, how are you all feeling today? If you live on the eastern seaboard, please feel free to commiserate with me about the incoming Nor’easter. Is it already snowing where you live? Do you have all the essential supplies?? Do you understand why we LIVE here??? Relatedly, did you know that as of Wednesday evening there was not a single damn sled you could order with your Amazon Prime subscription that would actually arrive before the storm, even if you were willing to pay extra for “same-day shipping”?

This week Jaya and Matt gave us the January Dad Mag, PLUS our first look at the COVER of DAD MAGAZINE: THE BOOK (available for pre-order now!).

Katie Klabusich wrote so honestly and beautifully about her relationship with her mother in light of recent revelations that shook her faith in the adoption story she’d always been told.

The Toast’s Middle-earth correspondent Austin Gilkeson teamed up with artist J. Longo to bring you “The Illegitimacy of Aragorn’s Claim to the Throne,” a piece so shocking I could only respond with “WOW — CONTROVERSIAL” when it was first sent to me. I do not necessarily agree with everything we publish here, I just present it and allow you to form your own opinions, because that is (I’m told) how journalism works.


ZEUS: where is it
HERA: I don’t understand the question
ZEUS: where is the baby
HERA: idk
i threw it off the mountain
so i guess whatever at the bottom of the mountain is

As all Toasties already know, Mo Moulton is so great, and so is her “Watching Downton Abbey with an Historian” column, now in its final season. Gather her insightful historical asides while ye may! Just don’t be this commenter:


Anna Cabe wrote about her love of kdramas and what the shows mean to her in terms of representation, and It Was Good:

Before I found Korean dramas at eighteen, I had lived in a culture where the pictured ideal was white — or at least as white as it could possibly be. … If Asian girls were present, particularly in a romantic scenario, they were usually a) in a relationship with a white man, and b) romanced on. They were the object of pursuit, often an accented, exotic, passive lotus blossom from the East — nothing like the American-born, mouthy Asian girls of my own extraction. Think Suzie Wong without her delightful, defiant tall tales. Think Liat from South Pacific, who barely speaks at all. These depictions of Asian women in romantic relationships were all created by white men and tinged, uncomfortably, with “yellow fever,” even if some were intended to critique the stigma against interracial relationships.

I sometimes wonder if that — plus the Catholic guilt and my conservative Filipino upbringing — is why I was so discomfited by overt displays of sexuality and bald yearning, especially in romantic films. That somehow, that expression of sexuality, of emotion, of pursuit was clearly not meant for me. I could never be the actor, I could never be the pursuer, I could never be the one falling head over heels.

I have the perfect job, and still always greedily devour Dear Businesslady’s excellent column and learn so much from it. I find it highly motivating every month. I demand a performance review.

“Don’t forget that it’s me who’s the Queen of the Goddamned May around here.”

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I hope you all have a great weekend, and that those of you in the path of Storm Whatever Its Name Is Since We Started Naming Winter Storms stay safe and snug and warm! They’re forecasting 18 to 36 inches where I live, which is an upsetting and also PRETTY WIDE RANGE, so, Weather Science, I think you could try a bit harder next time. I am staring down this four-day snow weekend with small children, and am thus about to discover precisely how many times you have to watch Big Hero 6 before the super-sad parts just bounce harmlessly off your cold, dry husk of a heart like so many tiny nerf balls. We could do with some more chocolate-covered pretzels here, honestly, but other than that I think we are prepared.

The Boy Comes Out Today

His name is BRAHMS. He is an EVIL DOLL. What time are you all coming over? We can drive to the theater together if you’re worried about parking.

His name is BRAHMS. He is an EVIL DOLL. What time are you all coming over? We can drive to the theater together if you’re worried about parking.

From IMDB: “Originally titled “The Inhabitant” but was changed due to scenes cut out for the PG-13 rating to a better fitting title.”

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Cocktail Hour: Open Thread

Toasties! Friends who make you beautiful meals are the best.

Toasties! Friends who make you beautiful meals are the best. Also making something lovely for oneself or someone else is grand. So is going out to eat. The Bartender doesn’t believe the blizzard is happening and so has made Plans. Wish us all luck. For all sorts of reasons. Open thread!

A Gilded Bargain Bin

Let’s all stockpile these for hostess gifts. They cost less than a bottle of wine with disgusting bare feet printed on the label and will be at least as impressive.


Brass Swan Bottle Opener, $6 with code “XTRA40” (was $16) Let’s all stockpile these for hostess gifts. They cost less than a bottle of wine with disgusting bare feet printed on the label and will be at least as impressive. And speaking of brass…

karina-beauty-storage-oKarina Beauty Storage, $39.99-$59.99 (were just a tiny bit more than that, so this sale isn’t so great) Does anyone know anyone who would or could actually use these beautiful things? Tell us more.


Lost In Light Skirt, $99.95 (was $168) From the reviews: “This skirt is absolutely gorgeous. It dose look more silver in regular light but in the sun its gold.” Yum.

49176873Paperchase Good Morning Gorgeous Coffee Mug, $6 Just bought this for myself. No, YOU are sad and lonely.

56010.1.zoomSuperga Whutta Croc Leather Sneaker, $36 (were $120) The kids wear these, right?

s1516285-main-zoomCiate Very Colorfoil Manicure, $12.50 (was $25) Here are two good Instagram accounts for foil nail inspiration.

image3xxlSequin Dress, $25.50 (was $118) Ten years ago we thought these gold sequined minis would soon go out of style, but here we are, and thank goodness.

65265_EF65652016 J. Crew Date Book, $12.49 with code “GETSHOPPING” (was $28) We’re only three weeks into the year so there are still 49 chapters left in this book. Anything could happen.

503537359_7_necklacemodelMaiyet Hinged Collar Necklace, $979 (was $2,450) Look… I meeean… *sigh*

Link Roundup!

Sansa is sulking because we don’t let her eat the baby’s socks.

Sansa is sulking because we don’t let her eat the baby’s socks.


Not only is this THE MOST INTERESTING THING (DESERT MOTHERS!), check out the dope illos by our own Matt Lubchansky:

It is in this environment that Christian women began to use the vow of chastity as both an act of devotion and an excellent legal loophole. Virginity became a movement, the ultimate hack. As a consecrated virgin, a woman suddenly became free of many of the empire’s gender laws, free to preach and to lead in their community, free to model themselves after the apostles. The majority of the virgins were women in the cities who formed their own network of house churches. They flaunted their independence from men, refusing to hide away or to veil themselves, rubbing their ethical superiority in married couples’ faces. They dressed to make a statement, sometimes adopting men’s clothing and hairstyles (some sheared their heads entirely), and preached in the streets in drag. Women of all social strata, in a move that evokes the late-1960s hippie exodus from the American suburbs, were abandoning their parents and husbands and homes to follow Christian prophets who claimed to offer a starker, truer interpretation of the gospel, and a chaste life as equals alongside equally devout men. Together, they would transcend the mundane world.

This life outside of social convention would not last. Toward the end of the third century, the emperor Diocletian ordered widespread attacks on chaste Christian women. All partner-less women who refused to marry were to be raped or prostituted. 1,000 widows were martyred in Antioch; 2,000 virgins were martyred in Ancyra.


Kate Winslet on Alan Rickman


Ari Ne’eman on two new books about autism (one of which is Steve Silberman’s excellent NeuroTribes, which was really important to me this year, and the other being In a Different Key, which is very parent-focused and has a lot of issues):

A decade ago, when the autistic self-advocacy movement was just beginning to enter the realm of politics, many of the early autistic activists and bloggers organized around the sense that parent leaders were writing us out of our own stories.

At the time, autism parent advocacy was particularly brutal. In 2003, the head of the Autism Society of Canada testified to the Canadian Senate, “Autism is worse than cancer in many ways, because the person with autism has a normal lifespan. The problem is with you for a lifetime.”

THE PROBLEM. Good grief. Steve Silberman also has a good piece on NPR about Asperger and the Nazis.


GOOD GRIEF do not take this to HR:

Dear Prudence,
Three months ago I got a new boss. She thinks highly of my work, but she has a habit that drives me up the wall: She will use a relatively common word and then immediately supply the definition. The annoying part is that they are words that any high school senior would know. For example: “I don’t mind a little frivolity in meetings,” followed by “That means I don’t care if everyone gets a little silly.” At first I ignored it, then gave cold replies (“I see …”), then tried sarcasm. Nothing seems to work. I have spoken with co-workers and the reply is generally something like “Oh yeah, that’s just X being X.” If I bring this up with HR I’m worried I will sound petty (that means my complaint won’t seem very important. See how annoying this is?). Help!


Check out her timeline stat:


A man and his bedbugs (NOPE NOPE NOPE):

Dogs claim to be “man’s best friend,” but tell that to James Behan, a New Yorker who’s seemingly so attached to his bedbugs that he refused the services of an exterminator and let the infestation in his apartment persist to the point that his landlord filed a lawsuit.


This piece in GUTS on a decision to watch only movies by women on Netflix reminded me I have only ever walked out of one movie, and it happened to be the first Sin City, because of this same thing:

The summer of 2014 saw me attend Sin City 2 in theatres with my partner. When the movie ended, I walked out of the building to sit down on the curb and sob for twenty minutes at having seen so many dead naked women, naked women rendered precarious by men posturing at each other, asserting dominance in the face of threats to their masculinity. Women who die because they are uncooperative or don’t otherwise fit into a patriarchal entity or institution’s plans.


This AHP piece on Robert De Niro is very good, but the COMMENTS by his STANS are AMAZING:

That’s a common theme to De Niro’s missteps. All the right ingredients, a solid recipe, and bland or inedible results. A director you’ve admired, someone you’ve wanted to work with, a killer script: films that sound amazing. It’s there in all of De Niro’s most recent flops:What Just Happened (2008), for example, has Barry Levinson directing; Sean Penn, Robin Wright, Catherine Keener, and Stanley Tucci co-starring; in a script adapted from a successful memoir from a Hollywood producer.

It grossed $6.7 million.


I feel like we’ll be linking to something terrible about the situation in Flint every day for a long time:

The lead exposure persisted for 17 months, despite repeated complaints from residents of this majority-black city. It is in no small part thanks to Walters, a no-nonsense stay-at-home mom with a husband in the Navy, that the Flint situation is now a full-blown national scandal complete with a class-action lawsuit, a federal investigation, National Guard troops, and many—including Bernie Sanders—calling for the resignation of Gov. Rick Snyder. “Without [Walters] we would be nowhere,” Mona Hanna-Attisha, the head of pediatrics at Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, told me. “She’s the crux of all of this.”


Kate Aurthur went to the set of The Magicians and returned with all the info:

Nevertheless, London, Gamble, and McNamara decided to talk with Syfy. One executive at the meeting told them that the channel was determined to set history right, and get to where Syfy should have gone after its Battlestar Galactica run from 2004 to 2009, when the critically adored, geek-worshiped drama had brought the channel both respect and business success. “We should have done The Walking Dead; we should have done Game of Thrones,” McNamara recalled the executive saying. “We were the leader in genre. We won the Peabody Award for a cable science fiction show. We turned that opportunity into dreck. He said to us directly, ‘We took what was filling the halls at Comic-Con and turned them into empty rooms.’”

Gamble hadn’t even noticed Syfy’s faded place until that meeting. “But then I realized I was a huge genre fan and wasn’t really watching much of their stuff,” she said.

“We just left the room saying, ‘At least we know one thing: We’re going to work people who are self-aware and honest,’” McNamara said. “’Are we going to get the biggest budget? No. Are we necessarily going to fit their corporate identity? I don’t know.’” But the idea of being an important part a rebuilding brand had its appeal: They sold The Magicians to Syfy, which made the pilot in December 2014, and then ordered it to series in May of last year.


SUPER COOL interview with a weightlifting Muslim woman:

At a time when women are representing countries never before represented by females in the Olympics, Pakistani-American Kulsoom Abdullah is doing her part to forward the cause of Muslim women in sports. Kulsoom Abdullah is like many readers of Breaking Muscle in that she is a weightlifting enthusiast and sometime CrossFitter. She is perhaps different from some readers in that she is also Muslim and wears a traditional head scarf, or hijab, as part of her religious expression. When I had the opportunity to interview Kulsoom, however, I discovered the differences are not all that pronounced. In fact, Kulsoom’s experiences “lifting covered,” which is also the name of her website, reflect the experiences many of us have as athletes and thoughtful people, Muslim or otherwise. Ironically, it is the very clothing of her religion that is now becoming the center of conflict in her life as an athlete in the United States.


This happened after I finished my roundup, but our friend Doug was killed in an avalanche yesterday. We got a call from a friend who had heard he was involved, then we called his cell phone and his girlfriend answered. It was terrible. If you are religious, I would so appreciate your prayers today, and if you are not, I would welcome your good vibes and thoughts. Steve just drove to his house to be present with the people who loved him, and although I do personally believe he is in a better place, I grieve terribly for his family and friends, and it is hard to accept his loss. Please embrace the people who care for you.

Crush Cakes: Sandy Cohen

Let us gently drift back to the year 2004. I was 18, I got my first pair of Chuck Taylors (bright red, low tops); I was obsessed with Pink Floyd; and a TV show called The OC was the hottest ticket on a Friday night in the dorm of the Anglican girls’ boarding school that I lived in.

Welcome back to Crush Cakes. When you sit around breathlessly swooning over your crushes nonstop like me, well…we are worldly people here, you know what happens next. I make cakes expressing my feelings for them, and then sit back and wait for my destiny to be fulfilled. It all makes perfect sense. 

Let us gently drift back to the year 2004. I was 18, I got my first pair of Chuck Taylors (bright red, low tops), I was obsessed with Pink Floyd, and a TV show called The OC was the hottest ticket on a Friday night in the dorm of the Anglican girls’ boarding school where I lived. Most people were in love with buff bad boy Ryan; there was a significantly vocal minority in love with the witty nerd Seth; and, secretly, one person was in love with Sandy Cohen. That person was me.

Mine was a hidden, verboten love, as it was hard to explain to my fellow teens why this floppy-haired, abundantly eyebrowed dad-man was my crush of choice over the more nubile youngsters on the show.

smouldering for justice

Years passed and I didn’t give it too much thought until a month or so ago, when I decided to rewatch The OC in its entirety. Oh my god. Not since 2004 had I known such plummeting highs and soaring lows of emotion, such intense bonds with characters, or such AGGRESSIVE REKINDLING OF MY LOVE OF SANDY COHEN. 

These days I am more just attracted to the idea of him as opposed to wanting to nail him, but either way I am honestly floored by the things he does to my heart. Did you know Sandy Cohen is just so good? He is in fact the goodest boy, which is a phrase I usually use exclusively for describing friendly dogs. Speaking of dogs, what I particularly love about him is his amazing ability to stick up for the underdog, and if he sees no underdog to stick up for he bloody well goes out and finds one. You could be a complete stranger and punch his mother in the face and he’d be like “kid, I’ll be your lawyer.” You could run Sandy Cohen over with a truck that you stole from a homeless nun, and he’d invite you over for dinner and let you stay the night. You could impregnate his wife during a salacious tryst and he’d raise the damn baby and teach them how to surf. You could create literally any hyperbolic situation you like and Sandy Cohen would insist on not only sticking up for you, but also providing you with a roof over your head and a schmear on your bagel.

It’s this legendary love of bagels that spurred on this crush cake: I took the dough that would normally go into an entire batch of bagels and made it into one giant bagel, a leavened bread the size of Sandy Cohen’s heart.

A Giant Bagel for Sandy Cohen

glasses for scale

4 cups strong bread flour

1 sachet instant dried yeast

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons malt syrup, golden syrup, or honey

sesame seeds

Mix the yeast and water together in a small bowl and allow to sit for five minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Pour in the water and your syrup of choice, and use a wooden spoon to mix together. Either in the bowl or on a floured surface, knead the dough by using the heel of your palm to push it down and away from you before pulling it back towards you, repeating until it’s a fairly springy ball. The dough should be a little dry and floury, and it will be very dense and thick. Allow the dough to rise in the fridge overnight in the bowl, covered in plastic cling film.

glasses for scale

As soon as you possibly can the next day, take the dough out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature, or as close to it as possible. Shape it into a giant bagel shape – I roll it into a ball and then squash it slightly into a puffy circle, then prod a good-sized hole in the middle. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to rise for at least half an hour to an hour.

Bring a wide pan of water to the boil, and carefully lower the puffy bagel into it. Allow it to boil merrily for a few minutes on each side – it’s a mission to turn it over, but with some tongs and a spatula this is fairly doable. Then sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 220 C/440 F for around 20 minutes. Let it sit on a rack for about half an hour before you tuck into it.

It gets better! Peter Gallagher, the actor behind the role, hosts an annual Sandy Cohen Award ceremony where he gives a Berkeley law student who wants to become a public defender a scholarship. Sandy Cohen is creating more Sandy Cohens! Like a Russian nesting doll of abounding pure goodness and eyebrow fecundity! I mean, I’m pretty sure that having the eyebrows isn’t an integral part of being a good public defender, but I also can’t be entirely sure that it’s not. Either way, I’m flailing.

smouldering for freedom

This bagel is a simple token of my love for him, but don’t feel stuck with the concept of having a giant one – you can of course use this batch of dough and divide it into smaller balls to make regular-sized bagels. A giant bagel is surprisingly practical, though – slice it acrossways for the most chewy, hauntingly sweet toast ever; or simply eat the entire thing while watching The OC. I’ll have you know that it was at 3am after finishing a long shift at work when I watched the very last episode of the series, and it seemed only right to nourish both my soul and my actual hunger with a toasted bagel. Did you know that bagels are good at absorbing tears? Yes, it happened to me: I cried into a bagel.

Let us all try to be more like Sandy Cohen – there is a simple truth to him, and even if none of us can be quite as inherently good as he is, at least we can share his love of the unbroken circle that is the bagel. Safe in the knowledge that every bite brings us closer to his eyebrows, and therefore heaven. 

me thinking about sandy cohen

It Has Come To My Attention I Was Misinformed About How Bees Reproduce

Friends, I am not often wrong, but when I am, I do not try to run from my mistakes. I square up to them and make what is wrong right. This week, I believed I had discovered a video showing a bumblebee giving live birth. I showed it to you in good faith.

I was wrong.

Friends, I am not often wrong, but when I am, I do not try to run from my mistakes. I square up to them and make what is wrong right. This week, I believed I had discovered a video showing a bumblebee giving live birth. I showed it to you in good faith.

I was wrong.

That bumblebee was not birthing another, smaller bumblebee. That bumblebee was having sex with presumably another adult bumblebee. I will not compound my error by pretending mistakes were not made. I failed to perform due diligence, and we are all the poorer for it.

Here is how bumblebees actually propagate further bumblebees:

When she has chosen her nest, the queen will begin to collect pollen from flowers, to bring back to the nest. She forms a mound of pollen and wax (which she secretes from her body) and lays her first brood of eggs. She also collects nectar which she stores in a pot-shaped structure made of wax which is positioned in front of her mound. The queen keeps the eggs warm by sitting on her wax ‘nest’ and shivering her muscles to keep warm. Sipping from the nectar-pot gives her enough energy to incubate the eggs for several days until little white grub-like larvae emerge. These larvae are fed on pollen and nectar which the queen goes back-and-forth to collect from nearby flowers. Once they have eaten enough, after around two weeks, they spin a cocoon, inside which they develop into adult bees.

Just because a video is labeled “Bumble bee giving birth” does not mean it is, in fact, a video depicting a bumblebee giving birth. Caveat emptor, bee-video-wise, my friends. Cav-bee-at emptor.

I am truly sorry.

Geography According To Housewives In 1950s Pensacola

Let us journey through the world of this culinary paradise.

In my small collection of weird and old cookbooks is this delightful tome of “Brownbagger’s Recipes” from Pensacola, FL, published in 1956 by the CPO Wive’s club. The best part of it, besides recipes like “Frozen Salad,” are the maps of the world that begin each chapter. Let us journey through the world of this culinary paradise.


Right off the bat, “Chili Wind” sounds like farts. Get it together, ladies.


Addalyn Mooncatcher’s heart fluttered as she sailed down the Lime River toward the Tomato Red Sea. She had never left Punch Bowl in all her fifteen years. The sights of the Olive Oil Fields of the coast and the treacherous waters of the Thousand Islands her bedtime stories. But now that her father was missing, it was her duty to protect her family’s honor. She must find him, no matter where her journey takes her.


“Tartar-sau Ce” is far too much of a stretch to actually count as a pun. If you have to explain your pun in parentheses it is clearly not doing its job. At least go with “Tartar-SEA-ce.”


What’s something that every home cook should have in their kitchen and add to all their baked goods?

Yellow food coloring?

Yes, nailed it.


That one island looks like a dick, sorry.


“National Wildlife and Fruit Preserve” FINALLY A REASONABLE PUN.


For meat substitutes we actually have a treasure map, presumably because the three recipes in this section (Deviled eggs, punch and “Sandwich Deluxe”) are so disappointing they need to be preceded by an actual adventure so you don’t feel totally cheated. FYI the sandwich includes ham so what even is the meat substitute here?


Death awaits all those who enter the Diet Section.


Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Here is a recipe for “Preserved Children” included in this book that was definitely written by normal housewives and not demons.