Pin This; or, Adventures in Acupuncture

(photo stolen from the internet somewhere)

(photo stolen from the internet somewhere)

Oh, hello! Happy Friday. It sure has been a while, hasn't it? What have you been up to? Have you had any exciting/unnerving/deeply awkward new experiences recently?? I sure have and you BET I'm about to tell you allll about it. 

As you may or may not know, depending on what country you hail from (I don't know your life), this past Monday was Labor Day, which which means three day weekend!  I used this extra day off to finally try something I've been meaning to try for years: acupuncture. Every time I mention one of my myriad ailments, which is always, because I love whining and oversharing, someone will suggest acupuncture. Apparently it is just the cure-all for everything: IBS, bum hips, anxiety, sinus shit. You name it, they can poke it outta ya. Brian is a huge fan and encouraged me to give his practice a go, so I picked an ailment (bum hip!) made an appointment and whoop, there it was. 

The clinic is in a brownstone building a few blocks away from me (have I mentioned that I live in a fancy part of Brooklyn and am a very cool person? Just dropping that B-stone hint for ya in case you forgot), so I sauntered on up and kicked things off to a roaring start when I could not find the entrance. I kept walking up and down the steps and shaking the doorknob and looking all around and finally asked a kindly stranger who exited the building if she could tell me what floor the acupuncture clinic was on and she just kind of rolled her eyes and pointed down. Apparently the clinic was in the basement. WHO KNEW! Listen, Park Slope Wellness, you gotta be real clear about this stuff on your Yelp page unless you want a bunch of bum hip randos wandering the neighborhood breaking into apartment buildings. 

When I finally entered the clinic it was EXACTLY what I expected it to be. There was a little cubby by the door where everyone has to take their shoes off before entering and the waiting room was very calm and zen with tinkly waterfall music playing in the background and the receptionist was wearing like 14 layers of knit prairie skirts and offered me herbal tea. They advise you to get there 30 minutes before your first appointment to fill out paperwork. It seemed like overkill at first, but as the second I got the paperwork in my hands, I honestly thought they might be underselling it. This thing was the most intricately, intimately detailed questionnaire I have ever seen in my life, listing every single ailment you or anyone in your extended family may ever have experienced, from regular stuff like heart conditions allll the way to the consistency and color of your menstrual blood.

The color? You mean red? OH MY GOD what other colors could it be??? I do not mean to dismiss the ancient and beautiful science of acupuncture but I feel like if your period is turquoise or something you should probably not be sitting calmly in a zen waiting room, sipping nettle tea and answering questionnaires, but instead be rushing immediately to the nearest emergency room. 

Buttt that's just me. 

After finishing the most epic Buzzfeed quiz of all time ("which one of these lattes most accurately represents the texture of your nasal mucous") I was led back to an exam room where my acupuncturist walked me through what was about to go down. We sat for a long while and went page by page through my questionnaire which was possibly my favorite part of the whole thing, which I think says a lot about me. I just LOVE talking about gross bodily stuff and instead of being like "ew, women don't poop" she literally asked me "how are your stools?" and I was like FINALLY! Someone wants to hear about my stools! And she was so sensitive and nurturing and I got the feeling she wasn't just asking me because it was her job, she really did care about my stools. 

Bless.

Then I stripped to my skivvies and laid face down on one of those massage tables with the face hole at the top and she covered me with a paper sheet and started putting the little pins all over me. The focus for the appointment was to alleviate my recurring hip/butt pain as well as some shoulder tension that has been lingering since I threw off my entire upper body attempting some burpees at an ill advised boot camp workout class, and she said she'd throw in a few extras "for stress." 

OH DO I SEEM STRESSED TO YOU?????

She talked me through the whole thing and it's really fascinating how the body all works together. A pin in the foot to open up the side of the body, somehow related to the gallbladder. Pins in the hands to open up the heart center. Truly incredible! All told I think I had about 20 little needles in me, a few of the pins hurt a bit but nowhere like getting blood drawn or a shot. It mostly just felt a little funny, I was cognizant that something was happening to my body but otherwise barely noticed them. I was trying really hard not to try too hard to relax, which was mostly worked and I managed to achieve a state of semi-calm which is pretty much as good as it gets in my world. She covered me all the way to my neck with the sheet and left me alone in the room. I was warm and cozy and doing a-ok! 

It didn't last long. I knew the appointment I signed up for was something called "Community Acupuncture" which I thought just meant discounts for people who live in the community. Apparently it meant that you were in a room getting 'puncthed with up to two other people. VERY RELAXING. I mean, I should have realized when I got to the room and saw three beds divided by hospital curtains, but I just thought it was for couples massages or something. Throuple massages, even. This is Brooklyn, we're progressive! 

I had just reached peak calm when my poke-woman (get it? Because she poked me with needles? And Pokemon is a cultural reference??) came back into the room with another patient and got her all set up on the bed next to me.

Who dis bitch? This is my pin room!

I tried to just zone out and ignore them, but of course I had to eavesdrop because I am a creep. Sadly everything they said was boring and I learned nothing exciting about anyone's stools. Then five minutes later she brought in another chick! Suddenly it was like, the Phi Beta Kappa sorority house of acupuncture, just ladies everywhere. And then she abandoned us all to lay there and pretend we're not stressed about the whole situation. It was at this moment that two things happen concurrently: my phone buzzed in my purse, leading me to panic about my poor behavior not putting it on silent, thus ruining other folks zen experiences and my nose began to itch, madly. I wanted to scratch it but I couldn't move my arms, because I had pins all up and down my shoulders so I tried gently blowing on it, which did nothing and it was in that moment, laying there there pinned like a dead moth in a frame, puffing breath up my own nostrils, that I came to the sad realization that I maaaaaaay not be an acupuncture person.

Sigh. 

Finally after 700 hours later (probably 10 minutes) the acupuncturist came back into the room and unpoked me and I hovered behind my little curtain and quickly dressed, lest I accidentally destroy another patient's holistic experience by accidentally exposing them to my unkempt bikini area, and scurried out of the room. 

I felt like I was back in a safe womb when I returned to the waiting lounge. The receptionist gave me cool water and talked to me in her calming, whispery, hippie-lady voice and I handed over my credit card, which is a social transaction I know all too well how to handle and was really starting to feel like maybe this wasn't so bad after all when I saw it. There, perched in a little box on the edge of the counter, was a stack of those tiny envelopes you see at salons, the ones you fill with cash to tip your stylist.

What fresh hell is this?? Are you supposed to tip your acupuncturist?! I mean, I think of them as medical practitioners and I wouldn't tip my dentist so I feel like no. But also it's Eastern medicine and I guessss I would tip a masseuse (I mean, if I was the kind of chill person who could handle massages) which is another service offered by the practice, so where is the line drawn?  It's all very complex. I didn't have any cash on me so I didn't tip. I just tried to look the receptionist in the eye very kindly and avoid drawing any attention towards the envelopes so maybe no one would notice. If I can't see it, it can't see me! But that put me all back in a tizzy, what if you ARE supposed to tip and now they know I didn't and next time I go back the kind and sensitive lady acupuncturist reveals her inner fury and needles me in the eyeball or something? 

I know you're thinking "next time? It seems like you hated the first time" but like, now I need some acupuncture to get over the stress caused by acupuncture and it's just a whole vicious cycle. There's no stopping now!

Also I just really like talking about my stools in a safe and comfortable environment so, yeah. Maybe I am an acupuncture gal after all. 

And that is what I have been up to. Also a good example of how you can get an old dog some new alternative medical treatments, but she will still be the same neurotic pup.

Or however that old phrase goes.

Happy Friday, buds. Don't try anything new, it's a trap! 

HottReads: Volume Eight [Summer Reads Redux]

According to my Facebook page, which lives to shame me in oh-so-many ways (yes, internet, I did see that yet another person who graduated 8 years after me is now the owner of a 4 bedroom home, including their own washer dryer, and is busy filling said 4 bedrooms with beautiful offspring), it has been 69 days since I Iast blogged.

Oops.

One could call this extreme creative laziness or assume I did it on purpose, to indulge my puerile sense of humor.

69! Tee hee!

Regardless, it’s been a long, long while and the more time that passes, the harder I find it is to start back up again. Words bounce and scatter, ideas scrabble around around in my mind like squirrels in an attic, only to scamper away when I try to put them on the page. One of these days I’ll find a way to trap them, train them, make them my pets. But until then, I’ll ease back in doin’ what I do best, talking about books.

Summer 2016 is rapidly drawing to a close (sob!), with one last long weekend into which we must attempt to squeeze out every last drop of the season. A last grasp at beach days, lobster rolls, rose and oh indeed, summer reads.

So for anyone needing a literary accessory to toss in their weekend bag, here are three more big summer releases you may yet have had a chance to discover. 

homegoing yaa gyasi hottsauce hottreads book review

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi is one of the buzziest young authors of the year and rightly so. Homegoing is an ambitious epic, spanning centuries and continents to tell the story of two branches of one family with their roots in Ghana’s red soil.

Effia and Esi are two half sisters born in different villages in the 18th century and unaware of the other’s existence. Effia is married off to a British general and lives in comfort in the Cape Coast Castle where, unbeknownst to her, Esi is imprisoned in the dungeon below her before being sold into American slavery. The story then unfolds in alternating chapters, telling the stories of sisters’ descendents, Effia’s pulled into centuries of warfare and colonization in Ghana, Esi’s living through the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality, right up to modern day.

It’s a hugely ambitious novel and for the most part, I think Gyasi pulls it off. Some critics and reader pals lamented that the chapter-by-chapter storytelling made it difficult to get pulled into any one tale and that some of the sections felt allegorical, shoehorned into checking off Key Moments in Black American History. I hear those criticisms but none of that bothered me. In Esi and Effia’s families, as in all families, fables and legends play a huge role in honoring and remembering the past and the art of storytelling is crucial in building the novel. To me, each of these short chapters was a fable itself, a little story within a bigger family story within an enormous story of two countries linked by a dark and painful history.

It’s a testament to Gyasi’s incredible writing, character building, and attention to detail that every segment leapt off the page for me, that I would have happily continued along in any of them, endlessly. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Recommended for: Everyone. Really! Gyasi is immensely talented and a writer to watch and I think that in this moment, as we consider the tumultuous state of race relations in America, it is vital to look back on the sins of our past and the deep wounds than linger (rightly so!), before we can move forward.  

Your Summer Reading Scene: Your comfiest deck chair, next to an XXL box of tissues.

you will know me megan abbott hottreads book review hottsauce

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Y'all know I love me some Megan Abbott and have been eagerly awaiting her latest release since the moment I heard of its publication. And praise Bey, it did not disappoint.  No one can tap into the complex minds of teenaged girls better than Abbott and here she turns her eye on the world of competitive gymnastics. At the center of the novel is Devon Knox, a hugely talented teenage gymnast, and her family, including her overlooked younger brother, overworked father, and overwhelmed mom Katie, who tries to hold it all together and narrates the novel.

The Knoxes are part of a close-knit community of gymnastics families, tied together by a gnarled web of ambition, jealousy, support, and obligation. The mysterious death of Ryan, a young man who works at the gym, splinters the community and threatens to upend everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

While the mystery of Ryan’s death is the central crux of the novel, it - like all of Abbott’s novels - is much more than a whodunit. Instead, she digs into the psyche of a family unraveling, discovering secrets that even the closest of families can hide from one another, exploring how far parents will go to protect their children, the lives they’ve built.

I absolutely inhaled this book in one sitting. Granted, I had nowhere else to go,I was on a cross country flight, but still! I was so absorbed I didn’t even realize I was stuck in a middle seat and the second I finished, had to restrain myself from running to the front, grabbing the flight attendant microphone and giving an impassioned book report for all the flight to hear.

That would have been a good story, huh?!

Recommended for: former gymnasts, Simone Biles superfans unable to let the Olympics go, readers of domestic suspense, family drama, teenage angst

Your Summer Reading Scene: Snuggled up on the very same couch upon which you glued your ass in front of the Rio Games mere days ago.

 

cabin 10 ruth ware hottreads book review

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I found myself deeply entrenched in this psychological thriller, so much so that I opted out of a happy hour in favor of reading by myself in the park one Friday evening. I packed a La Croix and some crackers and was happily having a little picnic for one when a gentleman approached me and said “Oh, I think we’re reading the same book!”

Ever enthused to talk about reading, I sat up straighter and gasped “really, cool!”

“Uhhh, not really…” he stammered…”I just thought I knew you. Actually no, that’s not true, I didn’t think that, I just saw you reading and needed to some up with something to say.”

It dawned on me: this was a pickup! And a terrible one at that! Neill Strauss would be cringing at the sight. Pick one strategy and stick with it, this poor guy was wavering between “comment on something the person is wearing/holding,” “pretend you know them,” and just “bold-faced sheepishness.” Oh, dude, this isn’t going well.

Also upon further inspection he was French, which doesn’t matter, and wearing tall black socks with boat shoes and shorts, which very much matters, and he was very, very nice but oy. He continued to try to converse. He asked me what the book was about and I told him it was a psychological thriller, to which he replied “Oh, like Agatha Christie?” I said “Yes! Do you like mysteries?” To which he replied “No.” He then invited me to come listen to jazz with him, which I politely declined while awkwardly touching my face a lot with my left hand so he could see I was wearing a wedding ring.

GUYS. When I was single it was my dream of dreams that a man would hit on me vis a vis literature. Every weekend I would doll myself up and wander the streets of New York City waving David Foster Wallace novels like a flag, hoping some literary minded hottie would notice how intellectual and interesting I was and propose marriage on the spot. Of course zero men ever hit on me re: my book choices (or much else, tbh) UNTIL NOW!!! Dreams finally do come true but never quite how you imagined them. 

This story has literally nothing to do with the book I’m about to recommend, but it was funny and I wanted to make sure the whole world knows that your girl’s still got it!! Men find me irresistible, what can I say.

Anyway, I digress. What am I talking about? Oh yes, The Woman in Cabin 10. I will admit, it was a bit of a pleasant surprise to find myself so wrapped up in this novel. Ruth Ware’s previous thriller was a big smash which everyone in the world seemed to love...except me. But I believe in second chances in life as in literature (but not so much in bad pickup attempts) and am pals with her publicist who sent me a copy of the book just as I needed something captivating for a weekend read and the next thing I knew I was on board.

On board is a great pun because this book is set on a ship!

Lo is a 20-something travel writer on assignment to cover the the maiden voyage of an exclusive cruise ship in the stark but stunning North Sea. Her first night aboard she hears the sound of a woman being thrown overboard, sees blood on the glass window of Cabin 10, yet when she calls in the staff to investigate, none of the passengers are counted as missing, no signs of struggle remain and no one believes her. Lo becomes slowly obsessed with finding the truth even as her investigations bring her deeper into danger herself.

At times I found Lo to be a bit of a dum dum but I was entirely hooked by the storytelling and genuinely surprised by the ending. The unreliable narrator psychological thriller genre is having a bit of a boon these days. It’s a tricky conceit to do well and I think Ware does it very well. I was never quite sure if Lo was right or, indeed, just crazy and my nerves built as the walls of the ship seemed to close in around her. If you don’t like psychological thrillers like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, The Widow, etc, you will probably hate this book. If you DO like that genre, this is a worthy addition to the list and a perfect long weekend read. 

Recommended for: Agatha Christie devotees, thriller fans looking for the latest spooky escape, French men who need fodder for chatting up married women, travel writers with a taste for murder.

Your Summer Reading Scene: on a dock or better yet, way up near the dunes on very, very dry land.

And there you have it, friends! Just five more days of summer to go. DON'T BLOW IT! 

xoxo 

Liz Ho

 

HOTT READS: Volume Seven [Summer Reads Special Edition]

Friends, hello! Grab your SPF, summer is upon us! And you know what that means: Beach Reads Season!  Summer can be a confusing time for the discerning reader, as buzzy new novels are as plentiful as garden zucchinis.

What a terrible metaphor!

What I mean to say is this, dear discerning reader: do not fear finding yourself stranded in the sand with nothing good to read because I've got you. Here are my deep thoughts on  four of this season's HOTTest new releases, perfect for all of your summer reading needs. (See what I did there?) (Just spelled the word correctly but with some fun capitalization?) (That's called poetic license, my friends.) 

Stop rambling and get to the books? You got it, dudes! 

hottreads summer reads book blogger best of summer 2016

As always you can check the HottReads tab above or #hottreads on the 'gram for all of your burning literary queries. 

Now let's do this. 

THE ASSISTANTS hottreads book blogger book review camille perri

 

THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri

Tina Fontana is an executive assistant to a hotshot investment banker, helping facilitate his baller life as she lives paycheck to paycheck, drowning in student loans.

(Sound familiar? OOF.)

One afternoon Tina receives a corporate check with the comma mistakenly in the wrong place (still pennies to her multi-billion dollar company) and decides to keep it to pay off her crippling debt. Soon she finds herself the Robin Hood of student loans, embezzling from the company to help her fellow plebes pay their bills. Hijinks ensue.

The Assistants is snappy and charming, Tina and her cohorts are funny and fully realized and it's just the David and Goliath story we need in this era of massive wealth disparity and student debt. A societal take down wrapped up in a sassy, satirical, fun-as-heck bow. 

Recommended for: anyone who started from the bottom (now they here); anyone with student loans (what up, my peoples!); fans of what we might call "elevated chick-lit" 

Your Summer Reading Scene:  On a summer Friday, savoring a few delicious hours outside of the corporate grind. 

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ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld

I have a confession to make. I have only read half of a Jane Austen book. Like, ever. In 6th grade I famously set out to read Pride and Prejudice for a book report but found it utterly boring and a little advanced for a 12-year-old, even one with a high school reading level (brag). Luckily PBS came to the rescue with a perfectly timed P&P episode of my very favorite show Wishbone. I did an entire Jane Austen book report based off of an afternoon TV special starring a Jack Russell terrier as Mr. Darcy.  I got an A. Andddd never revisited the Austen well again. Whoops. As a professional bibliophile that's got to be some kind of mortal sin. But here we are. Promise never to tell? 

Lucky for my cheaty-cheatster self, Curtis Sittenfeld, one of my favorite authors whose books I have actually read, is here with modernization of Pride and Prejudice to help me keep my streak alive, to keep reading Jane Austen without, you know, actually reading Jane Austen. 

Eligible takes the famous tale and sets it in the present day, in the greatest place on earth: Cincinnati, Ohio. Her Elizabeth Bennett is Lizzy, a 39-year-old, unmarried NYC magazine writer with four increasingly silly sisters, all still single, much to the chagrin of their old-fashioned, social striving parents. Home in Cincinnati one long, hot summer she meets snobbish yet roguishly handsome ER surgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy and the two instantly butt heads. But could their animosity actually be - swoon! - love in disguise?!

If you've read Pride & Prejudice (or Helen Fielding's masterpiece of an homage, Bridget Jones Diary) you know what happens. Lizzy somehow falls in love with Darcy, despite the fact that Darcy is a dog and they live happily ever after. At least that's how it went down in Wishbone. 

Jane Austen aficionado or not, there will be very few plot surprises in this novel but it's a fun and sexy ride all the same. I was reading at a bar one night while waiting for a friend to join me and was genuinely hoping she would stand me up so I could sit and read all night, I was that hooked. The romantic tension is A+, the dialogue is witty, the characters loveable, the hunks hunky and no star shines brighter than the great city of Cincinnati. 

Recommended for: fans of Jane Austen, Curtis Sittenfeld, Bridget Jones, and/or Wishbone; kooks who remain oddly obsessed with the city of Cincinnati; hopeless romantics; readers with lots of sisters; unmarried 30-somethings whose parents won't just lay off already, Mommm

Your Summer Reading Scene:  en-route to your family reunion, the Bennetts will make you treasure your own clan, no matter how nutty they may be. 

sweetbitter stephanie danler book review hottreads

SWEETBITTER by Stephanie Danler

I have to be honest right upfront and admit that I approached this novel with a Costco-sized bag of chips on my shoulder. Stephanie Danler is gorgeous and blonde and got a sizeable book deal and her novel has scooped up every coveted publicity hit from The Skimm to a Wall Street Journal profile to a flat-out rave from the New York Times.  I was (am) personally and professionally jealous and thus was prepared to fully despise her novel and damn it, y'all. I liked it.

Don't you just hate the taste of crow? 

Sweetbitter unfolds over the course of one year, following 22-year-old Tess, a new college graduate who arrives in New York with little more than some hope and a backpack, an age old tale but one well told. Tess lands a coveted position on the waitstaff at a hip Union Square cafe and is drawn into the tumultuous restaurant world full of ambition and lust and late nights, with plenty of booze and drugs. This novel is sensuous. And I don't mean that in a pervy way (though sex is definitely an element) but in the literal definition. Danler's writing draws on all of the senses as she evokes the din of the bustling restaurant, the scent of a just-shucked oyster, the taste of wine, of whiskey, of exotic black tea, the oppressive heat of New York City in July and the bitter January chill, the cocaine drip down the back of the throat. (I mean, I have never done cocaine, obviously, but in reading I though maybe I have?! It felt so real!) The plot instantly hooks and I was hugely impressed by the ending - I won't spoil it, but if you do read, let's chat!

What ultimately captured me, and sticks with me still is how she evokes the absolute chaos of life in New York City. I underlined the quote below in my copy and it's lingered with me since I finished: 

"As I contemplated the skyline this double feeling came to me as one thought, pressing in from either side of the bridge, impossible for me to settle or process: It is ludicrous for anyone to live here and I can never leave."

I've been here for nine years and I still feel like that every single day

Recommended for: anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry; anyone who moved to a strange, scary city nearly a decade ago and still finds themself in awe that this is their real life; jealous haters who need to be taken down a peg; foodies 

Your Summer Reading Scene: on a patio al fresco alongside a crisp glass of sancerre and a dozen briny oysters. 

the girls emma cline hottreads book blogger book review

THE GIRLS by Emma Cline

Another splashy debut, this from a 23-year-old wunderkind.  Loosely inspired by the women of the Manson Family, The Girls is set in the famed Summer of '69 in Northern California. Evie Boyd is 14 and lonely, ignored by her recently separated parents, hovering in that murky danger zone between childhood and adulthood. She becomes enraptured by a group of seductive older girls who are part of a cultish group living on the outskirts of town, led by the charismatic Russell.  We know that the other girls' story will end with great violence, an act in which Evie will have no part, leaving her at once involved and innocent, a barely-known footnote in a legendary story. Though the criminal cult backstory is the obvious hook (got me and got me good), The Girls is ultimately not about  murder or Manson but about yes, girls. Their relationships to the men in their lives, their bodies, the world around them, and particularly to one another.  Emma Cline so painfully and vividly captures the tiniest minutia of being a young girl, all the boredom and frustration and hormones and insecurity and longing and curiosity and guilt and sadness and wonder. 

I just finished this book yesterday and I already want to dive back in.

Recommended for: readers who don't mind a lingering haunt of darkness; anyone who has ever fallen into an internet rabbithole reading about cults (haiii); GIRLS

Your Summer Reading Scene: in a comfy deck chair with a stash of drinks and snacks handy so you don't even have to think about moving until you're finished. 

And there you have it, friends. These should keep you busy until at least July. Happy reading and happy summering. And seriously please do remember to wear sunblock!! 

xoxo Liz Ho

Love is a Verb

love is love is love is love orlando hope lgbtq pride

Hi, friends. I sat down and started to write a touching and poignant and passionate essay on my feelings in the wake of this latest unspeakable tragedy but I just don't have the words. I used them all up, six months ago. And here we are.

 Again. 

If you’re anything like me, may the lord bless and keep your neurotic soul, and also you’ve probably spent the last three days in an absolute haze, wildly shifting between sadness and anger and confusion and back, flailing at any possible opportunity to make sense of things. Wondering how we got here and where we go.  I keep telling myself to step away from the internet, to not click another link. It’s all too much to bear.

But here’s the thing, I think we have to bear it. We cannot – CAN NOT –allow ourselves as a collective human community to file this away as another entry in the Mass Murder in the United States Wikipedia page (real thing. Do not read.) and move on with our lives. We can’t.

As with many national tragedies, I turned to the evening news to help guide me through and there were two particular voices that resonated with me. Samantha Bee managed to say everything I was thinking and feeling – only better and funnier – and drop the goddamn mic on the way out:

And Stephen Colbert, as always, encouraged me to look inward, to find the moral lesson:

 

"Let us remember," he says, "that love is a verb. And to love means to do something." 

A verb! Love is love is love is love is LOVE, yes, but it is a verb and if we want to truly love we must do something. 

I had to take a hard look at myself and the lovin’ I’ve been putting forth. In the face of these crises in the past, here is what I have done: cry, write occasional blog posts, hit like on dozens of Facebook posts and…that’s about it. That’s not enough, guys, it’s not enough. If I’m going to ask the government to take a stand on gun violence, on hatred, on fear, I have to be an active participant in the conversation.

So I extricated myself from the depths of a hateful facebook conversation I probably shouldn’t have been reading in the first place (I can’t stress this enough: NEVER. READ. THE. COMMENTS.), put on my Democracy Panties, and got to work. I wrote to my senators, my congresswoman, my presidential candidate of choice. I made financial donations to a few organizations I believe can help fight the good fight, I paid a visit to the Stonewall Inn to stand for a few moment in silence and remembrance of the lives lost on Sunday, and all the other souls taken too soon by gun violence. And now I’m using my platform of approximately 12 readers (17 on a good day!) to encourage you to do the same.

I know it feels like small drops in a huge, horrible bucket but I think that the moment we give up hope in the good of humanity and give up trust in our government and give up the belief that our own tiny voices can make a difference, that’s the end. We might as well give everyone an AK-47 and go full The Purge and just burn this whole place to the ground.

I’m not quite ready for that yet.

So here are a few ways I'm working to love as a verb. I hope you'll join me! 

1) Write: I used this helpful website to track down information on how to contact my representatives, to see how they’ve aligned with gun control measures in the past, as well as to find a template of what to say. If you need help figuring out where to start, I'd be MORE than happy to assist you in locating your particular government officials or sharing my emails with you as a template. Feel free to email me: lizhottsauce@gmail.com. 

2) Donate: If you are able, consider making a financial donation. Here are a few causes I have chosen to donate to:

·         Equality Florida – a GoFundMe page set up to directly assist the survivors and families of the victims of Sunday’s tragedy.

·         Everytown for Gun Safety – a tremendous non-profit organization working towards ending gun violence in America.

·         The Center Orlando – a local organization serving the LGBTQ community right in the heart of Orlando.

·         The Trevor Project – a national organization providing counselling, support and other services to the LGBTQ across the country.

You could also look into donating to a politician you think is fighting the good fight, an LGBTQ organization right in your hometown or hey, any cause you think brings love as a verb.

3) Mourn: There was one article in particular that rocked me to my core. One of the victims of Sunday’s massacre was Luis Vielma, a 22-year-old employee of Universal Studio’s Harry Potter World. “He was a Gryffindor,” his friend wrote in tribute. “He was a kid.” This sweet, sweet boy believed in magic and believed in goodness and he’s gone. Like the He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named villain of Luis’s beloved stories, let’s not speak the name of the killer, but the names of the victims. Let’s not let their deaths be in vain. Read more about those lost in Orlando here. Remember their names.  

4) Listen: This is the hardest thing for me to do, but I think it’s important. This is clearly a hotly debated, difficult to solve issue with ideas on both sides that are probably valid and terrible and somewhere in between. There is so much media chatter and political chatter and internet chatter and I fear we’re not really listening to each other. We all have to be willing to have hard conversations, to try to hear what the other side is saying. I straight up DO NOT want to hear one more person tell me that people kill people or that all Muslims are evil or that gay people are no longer oppressed...but I have to be willing to put myself in that painful place and hear the core of the opposing argument and hope that my friends on the other side would do the same for me. This blind bipartisanship, this othering of ourselves needs to end. We have got to try to come together and listen, really, really LISTEN, to each other and to find common ground and move ahead.

5) Hope: A sweet friend shared this moving poem by Maya Angelou, which I’m going to leave you with today. Without hope, what’s left?

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

 

 

Brooklyn Summer '16

Well hot damn, it's been about the far side of forever since I last showed my face around these parts and in the interim, summer arrived in Brooklyn in a big way. With barely a warning it's 80 and humid and I think I might just love it. I'm typing this on my veranda, aka our fire escape, surrounded by Brian's plants. This is the summer I'm determined to make the fire escape patio happen. Watch me.

brooklyn summer fire escape

Brian's extra cute during gardening season, every morning he pokes his head out here to check on his lil' guys, reporting on their progress, worrying over buds that just won't bloom. I like to tease that I know he'll be a good dad some day, just by how tender he is to his basil plants.

How's that baby fever going? Whyever would you ask??

Quite honestly, it's a relief that summer came upon us so quickly. I've been in a busy spell with work and life and have let my laundry situation get the best of me. So praise the l-a-w-d it's warm enough for dresses, I am literally out of clean pants. I found myself wearing jeans mid-week a few days ago, which is a move I try not to pull except when absolutely necessary. I did feel a bit sloppish about it but I must say I learned a fun and interesting sartorial lesson which is to tuck in your top.

tuck it in hottsauce blog photo funny awkward

A) It really snazzes up the whole look. 

B) It's a handy storage unit for when you drop blueberries down your decolletage. Untucked, they fall right on through to the floor but tucked? Reach down, pluck 'em out and they're still good to eat. Wearable tupperware!

(Important Notice: this outfit was significantly cuter in person. This lighting is unflattering and there was a whole wedge sandal situation happening out of frame and just...trust me, I was slaying.) 

I have BIG PLANS for this summer, aside from just making this fire escape happen. I'm going to finish the Neapolitan novels (holy shit, so good), go back to Coney Island, drink on as many patios as possible, dust off my bike and take her for a few spins, possibly purchase and wear a jumpsuit (????), perfect home-made cold brew, attend a weekend-long music festival, stay calm and cool and collected whilst attending a weekend-long music festival, eat a lot of tomato sandwiches, sleep with the windows wide open, try not to panic about the Zika Virus, lay in the park, get uninentional and weird sunburns, figure out once and for all what the hype is over rose, plan a trip to California, ask my boss for days off to travel to California, travel to California, write postcards, forget to mail them, write essays, muster the courage to pitch them, eat fresh basil, fresh mint, fresh everything, shuck corn, bake corn, freeze corn for the dead of winter when I'm missing these lazy, hazy days and need a bright POP! of color to bring me back to life. 

I'm going to soak it all in to the last sunlit drop. 

hottsauce fire escape summer blog humor funny wine

And right now I'm going to duck in the kitchen window, pour myself another glass of wine and snuggle up on that cute husband of mine because if there's one thing that blossoms through all seasons, it is our love.

BAHAHA gross, JUST KIDDING the one thing that blossoms through all seasons is mint (srsly, it like, never dies!) and also me being really embarrassingly corny on the internet.

Happy summer, guys! We made it! 

Another Awkward Week [5.5.16]

Hello, it's me. 

I'm in New York where it's rainy and it makes me have to pee. 

And just like that, it's MAY. It's been grey and drizzly here for the entirety of the month to-date and I am not feeling it. This just does not fit the narritive of my very best joke at all. April showers are to bring May flowers which bring PILGRIMS! If the April showers just bring May showers...what do we get? Wet pilgrims, I guess? That's not hilarious!!! 

What is hilarious is that I'm typing this sitting in my office with the door locked and my pants off. 

Allllll the way off.

Why? Why not!

Nooooo, you know why. Despite the torrential downpours and frigid temps, I refuse to dress in warm and appropriate attire because it is MAY goddamn it, and I did not spend a collected $43 on all of this chic finery from the Old Navy Spring '16 collection to just let it rot away in the closet. NO! Today I tossed caution to the wind (the literal wind, this weather can eat me) and wore white jeans (before Memorial Day!!!) and made it all the way until 4:24 PM stain-free and then I ate two mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and maybe also squeezed them in between my legs like a thighmaster workout because somehowwww I have not one, not two, not even three but FOUR separate chocolate blobs on my pants and in like, the inner sanctum region.

How, friends, HOW? Honestly there are some questions I just don't think we want the answers to.

At any rate, the stains were too widespread and ferocious for me to Tide Pen whilst they were still on my legs, so I had to get surrrious and also pantsless and whelp, here we are.

I know what you're thinking and it is that today is Cinco de May and we should probably all do some tequila shots. That's a great thought! 

And the other thing you are, of course, thinking is that I probably shouldn't wear white pants, given my track record with eating. That is also a great thought! Butttt, yesterday I wore black pants, theoretically the safest color of the whole rainbow, and dropped half an avocado on myself and had a Grinch-green schmear on my thigh for the rest of the day so really there just is no safe answer. 

Although I may have discovered a outstation to my problems! Well, my food stain problem. The rest of my myriad issues remain! Yay therapy! This past weekend I went to visit my little bestie in Chicago for her FIRST BIRTHDAY (can you even believe it???) and during meal times she was rocking this number:

poncho baby

Yes, that is a MEAL TIME PONCHO. Forget a bib, this baby is rocking a full poncho to protect her cute lil outfits. Not just a bib. A full poncho. I need one!! I mean, I am basically as messy an eater as a one-year-old (though, this particular one-year-old does have very advanced motor skills, she's kind of the smartest ever) so I should take a cue from the toddler set and wear a poncho to the dinner table. It's my only option. 

The only option! 

Much like celebrity deaths or Mighty Ducks movies, all food spills must come in threes and good news, dudes, the avo & choco are actually numbers 2 & 3 for the week, so I'm finally in the clear, phew...until next week, at least.

The first spill of the week occurred on Tuesday morning. I'd spent several hours the previous evening whipping up a sundried tomato, goat cheese & caramelized onion quiche with a gluten-free sweet potato crust and oh-so carefully sliced it into four portions for the week into individual tupperware containers and I gently carted one of the slices into work and heated it up in the microwave and pulled it out of the microwave and plated it on a REAL PLATE because I'm not a heathen, I keep actual dishes in my office, that's how high my commitment to fine dining is, and I had a few little sliced strawberries on the side for a little breakfast dessert and then somehow I flipped the whooooole plate onto the ground and it landed with a splat and I yelled "OH NO!!!" and multiple people came running thinking I was like, injured or dying, but no I was just sad about my breakfast and causing a scene. 

As ya do.

Anyway, I went down to the cafe below our office to buy a replacement breakfast and the barista had accidentally rung in the previous customer's order twice and had two large coffees just burning a hole in the counter and did I want one, with half and half? You bet I did.

So that turned things around just a lil bit!

 Spend a lot of time making a healthy and fancy breakfast and then throw it on the floor and then go buy an overpriced croissant but also get a free coffee. I feel like there's some kind of metaphor for life in there, you know? Like, you can plan for things but they'll probably go totally wrong but then they'll go ok in a totally different way!

Oh yeah. 

I'm like Brene Brown over here with these revelations! 

And how has May treated YOU so far? 

Better than this, I sure do hope!

lucy is so sad but still adorable

Ok - my pants are dry. Time to re-enter polite society.

Smooches!

Liz Ho 

Thumbs Up Time Machine

Notice anything...deeply creepy about this photo?? 

Notice anything...deeply creepy about this photo?? 

I've been thinking a lot lately about time travel. Not the science of it or anything (why waste precious brain space on science when you could fill it with useless Hollywood gossip) but just, you know, the theoretical idea of it. Like, would you do it, if you could?

The reason behind all this introspection is, of course, television. Brian's deep into 11.22.63, the Hulu adaptation of the Stephen King novel and I'm deep into reading internet think pieces about the new season of Outlander and attempting to find some kind of Starz hookup. Anyone out there want to help a sister out? I need my fix! 

Anyway, I'm very curious. If there was some kind of science that allowed you to travel backwards - or forwards! - in time, would you do it? Where would you go? And why? 

There often seems to be some kind of moral component to it, you know, go back and hug Jesus or kill Hitler or, in the case of 11.22.63, prevent the assassination of JFK. So much PRESSURE! Like, who wants to be responsible for the whole of humanity? Hard pass. Me, I think I lean more towards the Outlander school of time travel, just go back in time and bang hot Scottish farmers. I could be into that. Time travelling = the new Vegas! What happens in the past, stays in the past. 

Just kidding, you know Brian and I made a pact that we would only ever time travel together. 

Sitting here now, I know exactly where I'd go first. The time: Monday, April 11, 2016 - that's right, just two days ago - at about 5:12 PM. The place: my office. Moments from now a gal I work with, let's call her Veronica, will walk down the hall towards me. She has just received a promotion and I want to commemorate her achievement. 

"Hey, Veronica," I'll call out, while simultaneously pointing at her in the infamous "finger guns" position. And then, simply "congrats," as I transform from finger gun to a vigorous thumbs up. I'll stand there, staring at her, grinning weirdly, thumb way up like I'm the goddamn Fonz, saying nothing further.  I'll become fixated on by own weird hand motions, decide that too much time has now elapsed to keep this conversation going, that there is but one possible course of action: to flee the scene. 

This is how it really went down, but! Oh would that I could travel back in time I'd stop myself moments before. "Hey, Veronica," I'd call out, keeping my hands and arms in a casual, gun-free stance. "Congrats!", my thumb remaining firmly in a relaxed position. Maybe I'll have one hand jauntily cocked on a hip or my arms crossed or, I don't know, gang what do people do with their arms when they talk? Please tell me now because the moment I figure out some time travel technology,  I'm heading riigght back in time for a hot second and doing it right. 

That is all I want. I'm not slick enough to kill Hitler or save JFK or, let's be honest, seduce a Scottish farmer. I would just welcome the opportunity to re-do a few of my less socially graceful moments. Is that too much to ask? Also, those big things always seem to have ramifications, otherwise known as The Butterfly Effect, otherwise known as a masterpiece of a major motion picture starring future Oscar Winner Ashton Kutcher, where changes in the past affect the present and ... dun dun dunnnnnnn, never in a great way. Again: way too much pressure. All I want to do is slip back in time and create a world where I never gave anyone a thumbs up in public. I'll re-emerge in a present that is exactly the same, except everyone's just like "man, that Liz Ho is one cool cucumber who definitely knows how to handle herself in social situations." 

What a world! 

That or I'd go back to the moment they were casting James Franco in this 11.22.63 show because, no offense JF fans but homeboy can not act. 

Srsly, though - where would you go?

Thumbs Up!

Liz Ho 

 

#HottsinCharleston

Hey y'all! Happy Friday!! How's your week been?  Mine has definitely been funner than last week, when I was wining and dining my way around sunny South Carolina. Office Life > Lowcountry Life, any day.

APRIL FOOLZ!!!!

Real life is garbage, vacation is the best.

Would you, too, like to make a little jaunt down to historic Chucktown? Of course you would! It's the best!  Allow me to regale you with some Hott Tips to help you make your visit the very best it can possibly be. Trust me. When it comes hanging out in Charleston and looking good doing it, I'm pretty much an expert.

HOTTSAUCE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO CHARLESTON, SC

Liz Hott so hott charleston awkward childhood travel

Where to Stay:

FullSizeRender (10).jpg

Take your pick from any of these gorgeous historical mansions!

Just kidding, stay in this parking garage. 

(photo via parkme.com)

(photo via parkme.com)

No SRSLY we stayed in an AIRBNB apartment directly adjacent to this parking garage. To enter you would walk up the steps to the second floor and then through the garage, past all the parked cars to a metal door on the far back wall, enter a code into the keypad et voila: your home for the week! Narnia meets the sharing economy.

It was actually a really nice space, probably some kind of office turned into a rental unit, with one big room with a king bed & sitting area, a smaller bedroom with queen bed, and a fancy ass bathroom. There was no stove or kitchen sink but there was a Kuerig, a mini-fridge stocked with those little half-and-half cups you get at diners which are so gross but I adore, and an ice maker that rattled all. night. long. 

The other thing that rattled all. night. long was the old windows. It legit sounded like someone was jackhammering all the live long night. OR it sounded like someone was opening and closing a door...aka it constantly sounded like someone was breaking into the apartment. Y'all know I think a serial killer is going to get me at any moment so you can guess how well I slept in a parking garage where everything constantly went bump in the night.

Not great.

Still, I'd recommend renting this space! SUPER centrally located right in the downtown area, walkable to everywhere, and a solid price. Pack ear plugs. And by earplugs I mean Ambien. 

What to Do:

hotts in charleston couples vacation travel blog

Whatever you dang well please! Don't make an itinerary. Don't even get a map! Just walk out your door and see where the day takes you. You can ask our couple friends (with whom we got along swimmingly and did not have a fourway), Brian and I were LEGIT chill on this trip. A couple of cucumbers, I tell ya. Fresh out of the garden. We pretty much walked and walked and talked and ate and drank and popped into shops and napped and took a million photos and enjoyed the slow speed of life and the warm weather and crushed the pants off life. If we can survive three easy-breezy, unplanned vacation days, I'm prettttty sure you can too. 

Where to Eat:

hominy grill charleston food blogger hottsauce

Well you should probably eat at Husk because apparently it is delicious and also every time you instagram a picture from the city someone will comment "omg eat at Husk!!" and then when you don't in fact eat at Husk you'll just feel weird and stressed and guilty about it as if you're doing everything wrong in this world and need to defend your life choices. 

GUYS I'M SORRY WE DIDN'T EAT AT HUSK!!!! WE JUST DIDN'T OK???

Don't worry tho, we def didn't starve. Here's what we'd recommend - have The Hotts ever led you astray when it comes to food?? 

For some goddamn good sandwiches: Artisan Meat Share

For raw oysters: Pearlz

For biscuits so good you'll want to take them behind the middle school and get them pregnant: Callie's Hot Little Biscuits (I now look like someone took me behind the middle school and got me pregnant but that ain't a baby, it's biscuits and pimento cheese. mmmm.)

For fresh modern Mexican by the guy who runs Husk so you can say that at least you ate some Sean Brock food while in town: Minero

For LITERALLY the best and freshest small plates of seafood your body will ever consume you'll be ruined for fish for the rest of your life: The Ordinary (this was our favorite! Beautiful restaurant in an old bank building, we sat for 3 hours and dined on plate after plate of the tastiest seafood dishes, washed down with delicious wine and I wore a fun top with NO cardigan and really what a night, gang, would highly recommend this joint if you're in town and looking to get a little schmance.)

For indulgent brunch that includes macaroni & cheese and fried cheese grits on their vegetables menu: Hominy Grill

For greasy dive bar treats with a fancy twist (think duck BLT): Tattooed Moose

For light & healthy fare: LOL go home, you're boring. 

Where to Drink: 

gin joint charleston travel blogger hottsauce

Assume you'll be partnering all of your meals with at an adult bevvie or twelve, but if you're looking for a place to imbibe while digesting, here are a few places we liked.

For Oyster Shooters: Pearlz (it's like a tiny shot of bloody mary with a raw oyster inside. SO GROSS! By gross I mean great!)

For great views and horrible service: Vendue Rooftop

For a long list of delicious craft brewz: Craftsman Kitchen & Taphouse

For touristy but surprisingly well-priced al-fresco cocktails: Fleet Landing

For creative mixology: The Gin Joint

Where to Caffeinate:

hottreads charleston city lights cafe travel blogger

You're going to need a lot of coffee to counterbalance the downer effect of all the sweet tea vodka and lard you're consuming. Might we suggest:

For charming Southern service & yummy lattes served in mismatched Fiestaware: City Lights

For "good cold brew": Black Tap Coffee (We popped into the local indie bookstore Blue Bicycle, more on dat below, and asked the tres too cool for school proprietors where we could get a good coffee nearby and were met with the following conversation:

Me - "Where can I get some good coffee nearby?"

Her - "Question: Do you want your coffee good or do you want it nearby?"

Me - "Um, I guess good? I just want an iced-coffee to go."

Her (dripping with pretension) - "Sub-question: Do you want iced coffee or do you want cold brew?"

Me - stares blankly

Her mustacioed colleague (proudly) - "we're hipsters."

Brian (valiantly saving the day) - "We'll take some good cold brew, I guess!"

Them (together) - "Black Tap."

And then they ignored us and had a private conversation about the various artisan coffee bean subscription services they use. This interaction made us laugh and laugh but also made me a little sad because bookstore people aren't supposed to be hipster douchebags! They're supposed to be the best people in the world!! I'm chalking it up to an off day. And I gotta admit, the cold brew was pretty damn good.) 

Where to Shop:

oops, I don't have any pics of stores so here's some more gratuitous house porn

oops, I don't have any pics of stores so here's some more gratuitous house porn

For Books: The Blue Bicycle! Adorable indie bookstore with new & used titles and a teeeeeeny tiny shop dog that even I thought was adorable and I'm a monster. Give the benefit of the doubt to the snoots magoots staff mentioned above!

For toiletries you forgot to pack: This Walgreens. Centrally located! Great selection! And they sell WINE!

For sweetgrass baskets and kitschy crap: Historic Market. If you want a hilarious sign about boobs for your man-cave, this is the shopping mall for you! (Also I don't think we can be friends anymore.)

For antiques and art and fancy shit like that: Everywhere!!! Charleston is overflowing with high end homegoods stores but I'm poor and think the Pier One Outlet is a sophisticated place to buy furniture so I can't really help you here, folks. 

How to Pose:

Just like this, folks. Just like this. 

Liz is still so cool!

And there ya have it. The definitive guide to the very best Charleston visit a person could ever possibly dream of. Have a great trip! Take me with you!!!!!

xoxo Liz Hott 

HOTT READS: Volume Six

hottreads version 6 bookblogger books lit

Hello and happy spring! One of the worst things (among a large amount of worsts) about adulthood is that real life doesn't come with a spring break. But fancy high schools do! You might consider teaching as a career option if you want to make the most of your March. OR go a step better and marry a teacher, so you can reap all the benefits without, you know, having to be responsible for the futures of a bunch of hormonal youths. Bri-guy always gets off the last two weeks of March and we try to sneak in a little (or huge!) getaway every year to take advantage. This year, the Hotts are headed to Charleston, SC for a few days and I can't WAIT. We jet out tomorrow AM and we're going to eat so much food. We have a pretty solid list of reccos, but if you have any to share, hit me. I'll find the room. 

We're starting the trip with a few days downtown with another couple, our first couples' getaway! So adult! Don't worry, somebodyyy already had to go and make it weird by saying "just confirming, this isn't turning into some kind of swinger thing, right?" 

I'll bet you could never in a million years guess who that somebodyyy was??

We're then going out to my Aunt's house at the beach just outside of the city. We got lucky this year that Brian's break just so happens to straddle Easter, one whole side of my family is flying down the spend the holiday together (including my BFFFF), so we're getting the best of everything: friends, family and fried chicken. It's fixing to be a pretty perfect getaway.

Of course, what would a vacation be without books?! Literally nothing! Why even live. I'm planning to use this opportunity to catch up on some Pat Conroy, who just passed away. I've only read one of his novels, South of Broad (recommended) but just picked up The Prince of Tides, now seems like the right moment. 

As for YOU my friend! Even if you can't physically get a spring break, you can always go on an adventure of literature!!! 

Yes that isthe cheesiest thing I've ever said, thanks for noticing!. 

For real, tho. Take a look, it's in a book and here are a few I recently read and loved and hope you will too. As always, all book reccos are stored under the hottreads tab riiiiight up there. This list is long, I've been on a tear, so I'll do all I can to keep it brief. (LOL, sure.)

I'm glad about you, theresa book review hottreads litblog

I'm Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck

A completely charming, relatable, grown-up love story between Allison, an aspiring actress living in NYC and Kyle, her long-term love who she left behind in Cincinnati. The novel unfolds over a number of years, as their paths cross and diverge, as Allison's star begins to rise and Kyle's complex Catholic faith keeps him rooted in Ohio, not always to his pleasure. It's smart, sexy, sophisticated and hard to put down.

Elisabeth Egan, a writer I admire, hit the nail on the head in her review for the New York Times Book Review, praising: "Theresa Rebeck’s tale of two star-crossed Midwesterners passed my screen test with flying colors. You know the one — you have a little pocket of time (15 minutes in the eye doctor’s waiting room, three minutes while waiting for the coffee to perk), and you have a choice: You can check your phone or dip into a book. When you pick the book, you know you’re reading a winner." 

I don't think I realized that was my test, too, until she put it into words and this novel absolutely hits the spot. I read it on a trip to Philly to visit my sister, devouring the first half on the way down, and found myself actually looking forward to getting back on a bus - A BUS - to return home, because it meant I could dive back into I'm Glad About You. 

Two thumbs, way up.

Recommended for: People who miss that show Smash (Rebek was the creator!), rom-com aficionados, anyone (else!) who is randomly obsessed with Cincinnati, lapsed Catholics, Midwesterners. 

the nest cynthia sweeny book review litblog hottreads

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeny

The Nest (fresh on stands today!) is one of the buzziest books of the season and meets the hype. Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, it's the story of four adult siblings on the cusp of earning a generous inheritance until the eldest brother, Leo, finds himself in a hot-hot mess that even he, generally charmed, can't pull them out of. The author is fascinating, this is her first novel, at 55! Her maturity comes through in her writing - the characters are real, their struggles feel earned and she beautifully conveys the delicate balance of family : obligation, guilt, loyalty and alternately loving and deeply loathing someone at the same time. I adored!

This book weirdly reminded me of that Netflix show Bloodline, with Coach Taylor, a show I thought was kind of horrible but did involve complicated sibling bonds. Also murder. This has no murder and is not horrible, but there is never a wrong time or place to fantasize about Coach Taylor, friends. NEVER. 

Recommended for: Fans of Jonathan Tropper & Meg Wolitzer, people who watched that Netflix show Bloodline, with Coach Taylor, and thought: "I wish this was better and funnier and had less murder!", anyone with many siblings or a complex family sitch, trendies who like to be in the know on the latest & hottest releases. 

american housewife book review litblog hottreads helen ellis

American Housewife by Helen Ellis

I don't know what to say about this slim, riotous, deranged little story collection except to say that Helen Ellis is my goddess. Move it or lose it, Beyonce. There is a new kween in town. 

Ellis herself is also utterly fascinating (read this or this or follow her on twitter if you don't believe me!) Like many writers, she landed in NYC at 22 with a suitcase and a dream, published her first novel to mild success, got married, and didn't publish again for years, instead leapt headfirst into the role of Upper East Side Housewife...and national poker champion. 

The stories in American Housewife are darkly funny, oft satirical glimpses into the inner anxieties of the modern woman, packed with a zany brand of retro feminism and oft informed by Ellis's own experiences. We've got murdered doormen and beauty queens and reality TV and failed novels and nefarious book clubs and oh my stars, y'all (I can say that here, the author's orig from Alabama and brings a hefty dose of Southern charm...and barbs) I adore this book. I want to read it over and over and over and savor it forever.

Like all of my favorite books, American Housewife made me cry on the subway. Except this time, I was crying with laughter, not sadness. Perhaps the ultimate proof of a winner?

Recommended for: all mah ladies who like their humor prickly, their wine chilled, their bras expertly fitted and thier wainscoting installed just so. Avid readers of anything in the realm of The Toast or The Awl or McSweeney's or Shouts and Murmurs. People who want to be my best friend. 

salt to the sea ruta book review litblog hottreads YA

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Veering very far in another direction, Salt to the Sea is a YA novel about WWII so it did make me cry on the subway, but for the other, standard reason. The lives of four young people converge in East Prussia in an imagining of the true story of the doomed ship Wilhelm Gustloff, which was meant to carry refugees to safety but instead sunk, becoming the largest maritime disaster in history, the details of which are sadly known by very few. Sepetys, who also wrote the wonderful novel Between Shades of Grey (and has a hilarious story about being mistaken for EL James on an airplane), is of Lithuanian descent and lost many family members during WWII. In both books, she shares stories that are not covered in traditional history classes, beyond Germany and Poland (which are, to be true, horrible in their own right!). 

I'm generally not a YA reader and there are some tropes of the genre present which I personally don't love (I'm such a cranky old crone, I roll my eyes at teen romances. Is that terrible of me?), but don't let that keep you away. Her writing is vivid, plotting is suspenseful and the depth of her characters goes beyond what you'd expect to be aimed at teenagers. She doesn't dumb down the realities of the situation for a younger crowd and knowing the inevitable ending - that all of these people you're travelling along with are going to end up on a sinking ship - adds a heartbreaking intensity to the book. 

The novel left me in tears, thinking of the fictional characters but also the real people they represent and all of the horror stories of war that go unremembered. LIFE IS SAD GUYS. 

Recommended for: adult fans of YA (no shame!), high school teachers or parents' of teens to share with the youths in their lives, fans of The Book Thief, The Nightingale and other WWII literature, people ready to weep. 

perfect days montes raphael book review hottreads translation litblog

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

Switching tacks again, this slim novel in translation by a young Brazilian writer is CREEPY, caps intentional. The protagonist, I suppose we might call him that, Teo, is a medical student and oh, an anti-social psychopath. He meets Clarice, an aspiring screenwriter working on a film about a road trip across Brazil and proceeds to kidnap her and take her along the course of the trip in her script...as you do. 

Montes sets the eerie tone from the beginning and slowly escalating the stakes and the twists until a point of no return. There is one moment that haunted me, literally, keeping me awake all night and still makes my skin crawl when I think about it. 

Ultimately the creepiest thing about this novel - like reading any great psychological thriller with the bad guy at the center - is how you find yourself unintentionally stepping into the shoes of Teo. Not necessarily rooting for him, per se, but  seeing into his mind, nodding along at his decisions, waiting for his rationale to his behaviors. He gets under your skin in a way that's so bad, it's  good.

Perhaps the scariest plot twist in the novel is the final line in the author bio that reads "Montes was born in 1990...". KEWL. 1990! That's the thing about hot young writers. We get older, they stay the same age. 

Recommended for: people with a high threshold for horror, anyone who doesn't need sleep at night, psychopaths, Brazilians. 

breaking wild les becquets book review hottreads

Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets

I absolutely devoured this book during Winter Storm Jonas Brothers back in January (#neverforget). Set in the Colorado wilderness, Breaking Wild alternates between two female narrators: Amy Raye, a hunter who goes missing while out trailing an elk, and Pru, a park ranger who refuses to believe that Amy Raye can't - or doesn't want to - be found. The novel spins out like a great thriller as it digs deeper into the psychology of these two very complex women. I initially deemed this a "modern, feminist Hatchet" and I stand by that judgement. 

I LOVE reading about women found outside of traditional "feminine spheres" (duh) and Amy Raye and Pru bring that in spades, their version of "having it all" involves slaughtering an elk in a blizzard while also balancing family and love. Les Becquets has a deep appreciation for the power of nature and her reverence brings the book beyond an adventure narrative. I highly suggest listening to this tremendous NPR interview, which gave me some insight onto what it's like to be a woman hunter, to understand why a person could love animals and yet desire to kill them, to see how cleansing the great outdoors can be. 

Recommended for: badass feminist ladies, anyone who loves the great outdoors, hunters, people who think hunting is weird but want to understand it a little better, anyone who loves a great tale of adventure and wilderness, Gary Paulson fans all grown up. 

***

And there you have it, friends! That should keep you occupied at least until beach reads season. Happy spring, beloveds, and happy reading!

xoxo Liz Hott 

Another Awkward Week or Two or Five [3.18.16]

HELLO!! And oops. I just realized that the last y'all heard from me was a lengthy word-vomit about how badly I  need a therapist and then I went and dropped off the face of the (blogging) earth for a month. You were probably so worried about me!!! You're so sweet to be concerned. 

Ok yes, it is also possible that a) you didn't even notice how long it'd been or b) noticed and didn't miss me at all, which frankly is so rude, but I have now been to four whole therapy sessions so I am a fully actualized, self-confident and emotionally stable adult woman who totally does not even care at ALL about being liked by everyone all the time. Who needs outer validation when I have inner peace?!

JUST KIDDING I STILL NEED SO MUCH VALIDATION!!!!!!! Please love me! I'll do anything!!! 

Ok, maybe I still need a few more sessions to get over that particular personality trait. But otherwise, no I have not been off having a nervous breakdown, I've just been, you know, livin' my life. Watching TV, running, eating cheese, looking at houses I can't afford on Zillow-dot-com, making fancy breakfasts, falling for any and all feminist thinkpiece click bait the internet has to offer, transitioning from whole milk to half-n-half in my coffee and then back to whole milk again, going to be at 9 PM, considering veganism, biting my nails, planning imaginary vacations, webMDing various ailments, reading and publicizing literature, talking about myself. 

The usual!

Oh and also dropping my panties in the office.

Oh yes. You read that right.

Dropping. Panties. Office.

Let me explain! So as I've written once or thrice before, I have a terrible habit of leaving my wallet anywhere other than in my purse, where it belongs, and then finding myself in all sorts of shenanigans as a result. For example, this past week. I'll set the scene: It's 2:05 PM on Monday,  March the 14th. I was already having quite the day, being that it was a Monday and it was pouring rain and I was late to work because I had to stage an instagram of this Pi Day mug (my priorities are great, thanks for asking) and then as I was racing out the door to make up for all the time I lost filtering that shit I stepped in actual shit, of the dog variety. Yup. Some kind neighbor had the thoughtfulness to leave a big 'ol pile of dog doo right on the sidewalk next to our building and it was exxxxxxtra wet and gloopy thanks to the rain storm. Real cool, neighbor. Real cool.

So I went to my 1 PM Pilates class, as I do every Monday, determined to turn the day around with a heady mix of deep breathing and endorphins. And it was working! I pilatesed (not a verb) and rinsed and waltzed back into the office ready to give the day another go. As I entered our lobby, I began to dig into my oversized gym bag to find my tiny wallet, which I would need to enter through the security gates. I drew closer and closer to the gates, becoming frustrated. I swore the wallet was in there, why couldn't I find it?? I paused in my tracks and amped up my digging to level F for "Furious," scrabbling around in that tote like a drunk badger and it turns out that I did not have my wallet in there after all but what I DID have was a pair of underpants and somehow amidst all of that frantic searching I flung said underpants out of my bag and onto the floor of my office lobby.

Was the lobby crowded? Yes.

Could you tell they were def undies and not just like, fabric? YUP.

Was it clear they belonged to me? Crystal.

Were they laying there for at least 30 seconds if not longer? YES.

Does 30 seconds seem like four hours when you're talking about having your UNDERPANTS LAYING ON THE FLOOR OF YOUR OFFICE??? Honestly, it feels even longer. 

Did anyone notice? OH YUS. 

Did I look up to find the security guard staring at me in horror? Obviously.

Did he then kindly let me through the security gate, though I clearly didn't have an ID? No of course not. 

After I realized the scene I was causing I quickly scooped my panties off the ground and shoved them into my bag and tried to play it cool and sauntered up to the guard like I hadn't just been standing right in front of him throwing my undergarments all over the place and asked him to let me in and he blushed HARD and I knew he watched the whole thing go down, but what was he going to do? Point out that he noticed my underpants?? I've seen the company sexual harassment video our company sends out. Don't go there. I politely told him I forgot my wallet and he wouldn't even make eye contact with me, that's how embarrassing this all was and of course he still wouldn't let me, so I had to stand there, shamefaced and sweaty, waiting for someone I knew to come save me. 

GUYS!

You know I have a very high threshold for embarrassment so when I say this, I mean it: I was MORTIFIED.

I mean, all things considered I guess it could have been worse? They were a pretty cute pair, neither overly sexy nor overly frumpy and I'm pretty sure they were clean, at the very least they didn't have like, overt menstrual stains or anything, so like, if I had to pick an ideal pair of underpants to throw on the floor of my very crowded office lobby, this was probably the best pair to pick, but honestly, I really would prefer to pick the option to just not throw my underpants on the floor of my very crowded office lobby. Like, ever.

Mortified. 

You would think this would teach me a lesson about being more careful with my wallet, but no, I managed to forget it again two days later when I went to lunch and ended up stranded in the lobby for 20 minutes, calling every co-worker cell number I could think of until someone picked up and came downstairs and got me.

Hot. Mess. Express.

So there ya have it! What I've been up to the last month. And how has YOUR March been?? 

Peace, love & underpants,

Liz 

 

 

 

The LaxBro is In

crazy therapy hottsauce mental health self care wellness blog

Friends, hello! It's been a while, have ya missed me? Juuuust nod your head yes. As you may have deduced from my absence / manic rants about interior decorating, I'm in a bit of a winter blues situation. This happens to me every year and I usually just ride it out with a self-prescribed mix of hibernation, prestige television binges and spaghetti, emerging on the other side as chipper as ever. But something felt off this year, the usual techniques weren't quite working. Last week I confessed to a friend that I was in the midst of my "Annual January Anxiety Spiral" and she kind of paused and very kindly replied, "Liz...you know it's February, right?"

RIGHTTTTT.

I came to the hard realization that I might be beyond carbs at this point and it's time to call in the big guns. Professional guns. AKA: your girl's going to therapy.

FINALLY!! I know, right?! 

Many of you might cringe at that admission, thinking therapy really isn't something we ought to talk about openly but I wholeheartedly disagree. I think this mindset perpetuates the harmful stigmatization of mental health issues, which only furthers tragedies like suicide and addiction. Mental illness ought to be discussed as openly and treated as urgently as physical ailments. I truly believe it's vital for the wellbeing of society as a whole. 

Also I have literally #nofilter so...pretty much anything's polite conversation as far as I'm concerned. 

I think therapy is great. Everyone should get therapy! I honestly think it should be mandatory. Even the sanest of people benefit from occaisionally hashing it out with a neutral third party. Unfortchhh it's not quite that easy. For one, those who most pressingly need psychological help often lack the ability to seek it out by very nature of their illness. If you're so depressed you can barely leave the house, how are you going to muster the courage to pick up the phone and call a doctor? I have a pal who has issues with avoidance and procrastination. We were chatting one day about our mutual need to get our ish sorted and he confessed to me, very vulnerably, "if I was able to pick up the phone and call a therapist today instead of talking myself into just doing it another time...I wouldn't even need them in the first place!" 

Word.

Secondably, therapy ain't free, unless you live in Canada, probably, those goddamn Maple Leafs have it all, so one must wade through the arduous task of tracking down an acceptable therapist that falls within her particular health care plan which, frankly, is the worst. Did you know that Anthem Blue Cross and Empire Blue Cross are different providers?? Even though they're both frigging BLUE CROSS?? And therapists (and docs of all stripes, to that end) can take one but not the other? How are they not the same thing??? The mentally healtiest of people could have a full on nervous breakdown just from trying to navigate health insurance. 

There's another option, of course, which is to go to an indepent provider or to one not in your network and pay out of pocket. Which is, let's say, inaccessible. Last week I was quoted $350 an hour by one doc. THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS AN HOUR?? Do I look like Kim Kardashian??? I mean, yes, obviously I do, but though I may have the ass, I don't have the cash. Money can not buy happines, but apparently it can buy you some nice out of coverage mental health care.

Oof.

Lastably, unlike, I don't know, an ENT or a knee surgeon or whatever, it is vitally important to find a therapist with whom you can connect and feel comfortable baring your soul. It's like dating! Except kind of the opposite, wherein on a date you try to act like your very best self possible, but in therapy you spew out all of the inner truths that make you a delightful headcase. 

I honeslty don't know which is worse. 

I very briefly saw a therapist a few years ago and, like essentially all of my dating tales not involving BriGuy, it was an awkward tale for the books.

Staring down the barrel of a standard January Anxiety Spiral, I decided it was time to get serious and spent weeks basically being the Three Bears of Generalized Anxiety Disorder - this therapist's too expensive! This one's too far away? - until a co-worker passed on a recommendation from her own therapist, for the doctor who worked across the hall. He came recommended, took my particular, apparently very specific, brand of insurance, had offices just up the street from my work...could this guy be just right?! 

Spoiler Alert: he was not. 

The second I walked into this well-apointed digs in Manhattan's Greenwich Village I just knewit wasn't going to work out. I knew! Nothing was alarming from the get-go but, just like a first date, either you feel it or you don't. I could smell something was amiss. Except I couldn't actually smell anything at all, as he burned large quantities of incense, to which I am allergic. Five minutes into the session and I was weeping, not so much from my emotions but from my smarting sinuses. 

Sinii? 

Anyway.

We started with the plesantries. He learned I was a high strung neurotic with daddy issues and I learned that he really, really, REALLY liked lacrosse. 

Like, really. 

Every tidbit I would reveal, he would meet with a story or metaphor about lacrosse, the preffered sport of date rapists and douche bros worldwide. 

"I'm afraid I might suck at my job!" I would blubber.

He would serenly nod, in that therapisty way, lean forward and reply: "Did you know the Iriquois invented lacrosse in the early 18th century to play during harvest festivals?" 

"Um...no? Are you saying I should quit publishing to become a farmer? Or make bespoke lacrosse sticks??"

"Only you can know what you need to do," he would reply. "I'm just here to listen."

WHAT???!! 

Ever the Type-A people pleaser, I decided to overlook these instant and obvious flaws and stick it out. Rock a boat? I would literally never. I would just smile and nod and make this work. Maybe his weird metholodology will actually heal me! Until then, I would just sit there and learn about lacrosse for one hour per week for the rest of the weeks of my whole life until one of us died. 

This lasted for four sessions until he finally decided to spice up his standard lax ramblings in favor of something a little more, um, intense. 

I bet you're thinking that's a good thing, right? Ditching the weird coach act for some real therapizing. Oh no, friendo. Oh no.

I don't remember what I was yammering on about, I'm sure it was some unhinged paranoia about how someone, somewhere is probably mad at me, that sounds like something I'd work myself into a frenz about, but I do remember exactly what he replied. He nodded, brought his hands to his mouth, tented as if in prayer, and said: 

"Did you know that during the Holocaust, some imprisoned Jews would serve as guards in the camps and would become very corrupt and betray their own people to the Nazis in an attempt to save themselves?"

What. The. Actual. What. I did not know that particular historical fun fact but now I have ONE MILLION follow up questions such as "why are you talking about the Holocaust right now?? Are you calling me a Nazi? Or am I a traitorous Jew?? IS THIS REALLY MY LIFE RIGHT NOW???"

Clearly, this had to end.

Sadly, as hard as it can be to find a therapist, it can be even harder to let one go. I mean, I was paying this man to help me get over my pathalogical need to be liked by everyone and now I had to dump him? Wait...does that mean he might ... not ... like me?!

I did what any rational human would do and googled "How to break up with my therapist?" and was amazed to find I was not alone in this world! Countless other nuts had gone before me and with their help, I bravely drafted an "It's not you, it's me" brush-off, printed it out, and practiced a dozen times before leaving him a cool, calm and collected voicemail, never to speak to him again.

Well, there was that one more time.

A few months after I so boldly dumped him, my phone lit up with a new text message. It was from my ex...therapist! He had a question about billing and, like a professional medical doctor, was using text messaging to convey this query. In the message he asked if I might clarify some insurance information and left his email address for me to follow up.

I won't reveal his full address as that is both unkind and probably a violation of HIPPA, but I will share that it contained the prhase...and again, this is an adult, professional, doctor we're talking about here...it contained the phrase "laxbro."

LAXBRO!

Laxbro.

I could not make this up in my wildest of dreams. It is so real, it almost hurts. On the plus side, this did clear up, much like a bad date, that he was deffonot the one for me. But on the negative side, I was once again back in the wild, chomping my fingernails with no therapist in sight.

Until now! I finally harnessed my powers to wade through the muck and have a preliminary appointment this afternoon. On paper this gal seems great! She's a lady, which I'm into, you know, therapy wise (and romance wise if you're Keri Russell...are you guys watching The Americans? Good GOD Felicity, you minx), takes my insurance (booyah!) and comes highly recommended via my lady doc, whom I adore. If this woman takes the same care with my mind as her friend does with my va-jay-jay, I'll be sane in no time!

Wish me luck? Clearly I need it.

Before I go, I'm going to hop back on my soapbox for a hot second and tell you that if you ever are feeling off and like you might benefit from talking to someone, do it! And don't be shy about it. Tell a friend. Seek a recommendation. Put on your biggest big girl panties, clutch your lucky lacrosse stick and make the call. Believe me, I know it's hard, I am clearly barely listening to any of the advice coming out of my own mouth (fingers?) right now, but I know you've got it. Seeking help is not shameful in the least, it's bold and you should feel proud about it. You're going to be great.

I think you are the nicest and best Jew who would never, ever sell out his homies to the Nazis...no matter what. 

Hugs! 

xoxoxo Liz Hott