It's The End of the World as We Know It (and I Need a Nap)

 Writing this blog post at the Thursday White House, my office, about twelve seconds ago. ENJOY! 

Writing this blog post at the Thursday White House, my office, about twelve seconds ago. ENJOY! 

Fun Fact! Donald Trump is going to become the President of the United States tomorrow! Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I hate you, tomorrow, you're only a day away.  I was just listening to NPR and the host teed up the news by saying "in less than 24 hours, Donald Trump will be sworn in..." and y'all, I nearly spontaneously combusted. IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS THIS IS HAPPENING. I mean, like, obviously I knew this day would someday come but I still thought we had more time. We just need more time!  

And do you ever, even for just a moment, forget? Every now and then in the days since November 9th, I've found myself slipping into a blissful state of mindlessness, completely checked-out from the reality swirling around me before one thing or another pulls me back down to earth. And yes, the shock of remembering jolts me every single time, but oh man, those sweet little moments - usually right when I first wake up in the wee hours of the morning, between refreshing the snooze button, or when I hit my stride on a great run - are pure gold. 

Exceptttt lately life has been conspiring to steal my precious moments (of time, not the religious figurines I received for my First Holy Communion) and things are not going well.

First of all, snooze button? What even is that? I've been absolutely swamped at work since the beginning of the year and I feel like I'm climbing a ladder and every day I get so close to the top only to fall off but then catch a middle rung with one hand and mustering all the upper body and core strength I have, pull myself back up. And then repeat. (Aka "two steps forward, one step back" but less cliche and far more dramatic.)  I've been waking at the crack of dawn to get to my desk as early as I can, working late, and tossing and turning due to the stress of it all. 

I need a nap. Badly. How badly? Let me share just one anecdote to illustrate. 

This afternoon one of my authors was in the office doing a few phone interviews from our in-house studio. I went to meet him to walk to another appointment and when I arrived, he was still on the phone, so I quietly found a seat in the adjoining conference room. As I sat down I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a person sitting on another chair next to me and I was a little startled, I'd thought I was alone, so I quickly and politely gave a little nod and said "hello" and at the same time the other person quickly and politely gave a little nod and said "hello" and oh wait...

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

It wasn't another person, it was a mirror. I was waving and chatting to my own reflection. The whole time. 

So yes, I need a nap. Badly.

And I'd really like to clear my head with a good stretch of the legs and a lap or two around Prospect Park, exceptttt, I'm hobbled, and unable to run. My usually tricky right hip has been just dandy lately, but in a fun twist, my left hip is busted.  I think I may have thrown something into whack over the holidays, because for the past few weeks I've had near constant discomfort in my hip, glute, and IT band, having trouble walking, running, and sitting.So basically just living, really. 

The discomfort became too much to bear (and I really, really miss running!) so I decided to be brave and try acupuncture again (ps I finally learned how to spell that word, only one c!) even though It was one of the more harrowing experiences of my life because I am unable to avoid the lure of a magical holistic cure and/or a good story to tell. 

I was feeling all proud of myself for uterising up and taking care of myself instead of laying on the couch, self-diagnosing via WebMD, and complaining about my life, which is my usual M.O., but hit my first road block when I went to get dressed. I could not for the life of me remember what the protocol vis a vis undergarments was the last time I'd gone in. I remembered a blanket. And taking my pants off. But was I wearing underpants? Or were we full monty down there? Because the primary issue is centered in the piriformis and gluteus medius muscles, aka da butt, I was worried about having too much fabric in the way but also didn't want to show up just like, vag out, you know? 

And then I remembered, thongs! They're a thing! An underwear specific for times when you need your bits covered but your cheeks out, i.e. butt acupuncture and literally that's it because thongs are terrible and life is painful enough already without a string up your b. So I duggggg into the fun drawer where I keep all of my special occasion (read: laundry day) underwear and unearthed a thongity-thong, suited up, and confidently marched out the door.

The whole time I walked over, sat in the waiting room, and then chatted with the acupuncturist in the exam room, I repeated a silent mantra in my head: "don't make it weird, don't make it weird, don't make it weird," and then, as I lay face down, in my lingerie, as a stranger, basically, stuck pins into my butt cheeks it occurred to me that it probably could not get any weirder, no matter what I did and at last, I was able to relax.

And I think my hip's starting to feel better afterwards, too! Now that I'm a mature acupuncture goddess (no), maybe I should get her to 'puncture away my sleeplessness and life would be all better again. I mean, except for the Trump thing.

DO YOU THINK there's a way we could acupuncture ourselves back in time, or maybe acupuncture Trump out of office?? I MEAN! People swear acupuncture is a cure for everything??????

Anywaaay, enough. I'm not 100% sure what either of these stories actually have to do with a) one another or b) tomorrow's Doomsday Situation, but one of my 2017 resolutions was "blog once a week...even if it's not that great" and they were medium funny and I can't focus on work on account of the exhaustion and the butt pain and the dawning apocalypse sooooo here we are. 

And how are you doing? 

The Year in Reading: 2016

2016 was a year for the books. Both in the sense of the popular idiom, roughly translating to "holy sh*t, did that just happen?" (I trust I needn't elaborate, you lived through it too) and in the sense of actual books. You know, literature! I used to be quite good about keeping detailed reading lists, but fell out of the habit sometime along the way. I picked it back up at the start of this past year (recording in my 5 Year Journal, about which I ought to elaborate another time) and now as we kickstart 2017, I'm looking back on my year in reading.

In 2016 I completed 55 books. More than one per week on average, bah-booh-yah! 12 of these were books I "had" to read for work, which sounds like a lot until you realize we publish 30+ titles a year. In 2017, I will do better. Of the books I read for funsies, 4 were by men and the remaining 39 by women. I realize midway through the year that I was inadvertently favoring the  ladies, and decided to lean into the trend. Only three were non-fiction and all of them in the memoir/personal essay genre. A whopping 12 were psychological thrillers, the rest a pretty even mix of historical and "literary" fiction, with a handful of short story collections sprinkled on top. 14 of the overall total were written by non-white authors, which leaves the balance of 41 books by white writers, eek. Looking at my list, it appears that many of the books by nonwhite authors I read were published by my imprint, which makes me proud to work for a publisher that values diverse voices, but does encourage me to look deeper when considering  the writers I'm consuming in my free time. Thinking about it now, white women (esp British) women seem to be dominating the psychological thriller genre. I wonder what's up with that?!  

2016 was also a year of unfinished books. I used to be of the philosophy that you should never quit on a book, no matter what, but ride it through to the end. A year or two I abandoned that ideology and in the process, many novels that just weren’t quite for me for whatever reason. I still can't help but feel frustrated by time "lost" reading a book, only to not make it to the end, but I guess them's the breaks. I carted Zadie Smith’s newest in my bag for weeks before conceding defeat (beautiful writing, but we all know I need a fast-paced plot!),  and seem to have come down with the only case of curable Ferrante Fever. The flame burned hot through all of book two, The Story of a New Name, but cooled reading the third, which I finally tossed aside ¾ through. Am I the only Ferrante Failure?? I’ve also taken to the habit of keeping inspirational or self-help type books by my nightstand, tucking into a few chapters before bed, but never really finishing any. I’ve been working through Pema Chodron’s Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times for the past few weeks (since November 9 obv) and savoring essays from Mary Oliver’s Upstream, too.

As people say about their pets or children, and I often say about sandwiches, it is hard to pick one favorite. But a few did stand out, like the bulging Italian hoagie from Faicco’s in the West Village or the gooey, savory breakfast sandwich at Deli Board in San Francisco.

Mmm. Cheesy.

Oh wait, right, this is the Year in Reading, not the Year in Eating. A few books did stand out, too! A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara remains a singular reading experience, impossible to fit into simplistic like or dislike columns. It was the very first book I read in 2016 and still it haunts me. As I recently wrote, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad blew me away, easily living up to the great hype. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett felt familiar and comforting, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi made me weep and weep and weep. American Housewife by Helen Ellis also made me weep, but with laughter. This slim little collection of stories still stands out as one of my most enjoyable reading experiences of 2016 and I’ve re-read many of the stories over and again throughout the year. My two favorite thrillers were actually the last two books I read this December, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and Under the Harrow by Flynn Barry. Full reports to come on both!

But possibly my favorite book of 2016, were I to have to pick just one, is not a new release at all, but an old, yet eerily prescient novel, The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. Working in publishing there seem to be these classics that everyone has read and this one is pretty much the bible for literary feminists. I’d never read it and was feeling quite shameful about that fact. Finally visiting Bookshop Santa Cruz on vacation I scooped up a paperback copy and devoured it, dog earing page after page, propelled by the suspenseful plot, horrified by the connections between Atwood’s fictional dystopia and the events unfolding around me in real life.  I realized that perhaps I’d yet to read it because I needed it now, this story came to me at just the perfect moment in time. If you’ve not yet read it oh, do it. And also after confessing to a few literary friends, who revealed that they too hadn't read it yet, I now know for a fact that many of you probably haven’t either and that’s totally OK! We really ought not to feel so shameful about books we have yet to read - so many books, so little time, etc. Another goal for next year! Not to read more old books, but you know, to stop assigning pass/fail grades to every decision I make. In literature as in all life!

And in 2016 I read the internet. More than any year before, I felt like a rabid consumer of all the web had to offer, highbrow and oh so low. If there was an article “How Hillary Lost” or “What The Fuck Do We Do Now?” oh, you know I read it. I read on Bernie Bros, on Standing Rock,  anything with bylines by Alexandra Petri or Anne Helen Petersen. I read on super foods, core strength, Aleppo, Lemonade, fertility, cropped jeans, Drake, Flint, gut microbes, Kimye, Zika, gun control, Black Lives Matter, bullet journaling, empathy, apathy, sinusitus, manicure trends, national parks, immunity, “silent majorities,” hair volumizers, succulent gardens, Brangelina. At times my mind felt overstuffed with random knowledge, unsure of how to process, prioritize, understand.

And I read countless, endless, mostly pointless Facebook status updates and Instagram captions, scrolling, scrolling, aimlessly scrolling, often while also eating, watching TV, or yes, even on the john, seemingly unable to just allow my brain to do one thing at a time, to take a single second from endless stimuli. This is one of my main “reading” goals for the year ahead. Less mindless scrolling, more intentional consumption. I realized I may have reached a breaking point when several times in a row Brian came upon me face pressed to phone and asked “whatcha looking at?”, and my response was “Oh, some random person on Instagram.” Unnecessary! The internet can be a big and beautiful space and falling into a Kinfolk prairie mama Instagram k-hole can be a fun way to pass a few idle minutes but so can ripping tequila shots and maybe both activities ought to be limited to special occasions only.

So that’s Year in Reading: 2016...what do I hope 2017 will bring? Why don’t we make a list!

  1. Less aimless, pointless scrolling.

  2. More non-white authors + intentional focus on other areas of diversity - gender, sexuality, physical ability, etc. Essentially, who is being overlooked in publishing and how can I do a better job of acknowledging that imbalance? 

  3. Read more books for work. I have a habit of only reading the books I’m immediately assigned to, plus any fun and sexy fiction we publish, ignoring a lot of the really interesting nonfiction we put out (...more on this in a second). Even if I don’t read every word, I want to at least dip into every book on our 2017 list and better support my colleagues and the authors we represent.

  4. NONFICTION! This is my biggie. I realized that I essentially never, ever read nonfiction, and when I do, it’s probably a funny feminist memoir. And there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it’s an area that gives me room for growth. I do think there is a lot to learn about the world from fiction, but as I enter a  period of political uncertainty, with a personal goal towards becoming a better global citizen, it might be time to break out the big guns. There’s so much incredible, investigative nonfiction work that may help me to reframe how I see the world and my place in it. In 2017 I plan to read one work of nonfiction on a social justice or sociology subject each month. Let’s make a list within this list!!!

    1. January is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, a book my very brilliant friend Katie has been telling me to read for a literal year.

    2. In February I’ll tackle The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, another one of those seminal works of woke literature that I’ve been pretending to read but oops, never have.

    3. March - December: HELP A SISTER OUT?! I have a list going here, but would loooove to hear suggestions from y’all.

I also just purchased The Fire Next Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward with essays by a lot of other exceptional black writers, and plan to make this my in-between book, dipping into essays on subway rides, or whenever I’m in between books and can’t seem to commit to starting anything big and new. It’s usually in this window that I reach for thrillers or lighter fare and that’s all well and good and you KNOW I’m going to still go all in on those genres, but it wouldn’t hurt to push beyond that too.

2016 a year in reading

I picked up these three books at Barnes & Noble yesterday (I was too hungover to walk the four extra blocks to the local indie, so sue me) (crushing 2017 so far!!), the guy behind the counter rang me up, gave the books a once-over, and said “well that’s a fiery start to the new year!”

Oh, indeed.

What will you be reading in 2017??? Aside from Hottsauce Blog Dot Com, obviously. And what was your fave in 2016? My TBR is ever growing and I'm all ears (err...eyes?) for your suggestions! 

Wishing you a HOTT and spicy 2017, my friends!  

xo Liz

HOTT READS: Volume Nine

Ho Ho Ho and Rabbit, Rabbit. It's December 1! Winter is coming! And I don't mean like in Westeros, where it seems like winter has allegedly been coming for six to eight years now, and winter mainly means zombies and murder, I mean winter the season is literally bearing down on us and will be imminently upon us with in weeks, days or even hours. Brace yourselves!

I'm not that fond of winter as a whole. It's cold and it gets dark at like 2 PM and my skin is so dry and the radiator makes so much flipping noise while I'm trying to sleep and all of my tights leave weird marks around my tummy and I'm just not here for it. 

But I will concede that all this chilly darkness does set a pretty good scene for cozying up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and ohh yes, a good book. Nerd hibernation! Hibernerdation? 

Shut it down.

Upon drafting this little ditty I realized that the titles I'd selected fell neatly into categories of sorts, essentially representing my three top genres. NEAT. So for funsies sake, and perhaps easier browsing sake, if you're more into one genre than you are the other, I've paired them up as such.  

I also took this overly styled photograph, because I am nothing if not a brilliant artistic talent. 

hottreads winter good stuff

I know, I know. I should quit my day job and become a photographer. You're far too kind.

Enough rambling, let's get to the books. Read on, readers! 


underground railroad commonwealth blog review

AKA: The big books by the big authors, read by all the literati in the know. 

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The best book of 2016 according to all the key cultural players: Oprah, The National Book Foundation, Amazon, and Ol' Hobag.

Honestly, I can't write anything better than what's already been written about this bestselling, heartbreaking, mind-bending masterwork which reimagines the allegorical underground railroad as an actual set of secret subterranean tracks shuttling runaway slaves to freedom, or at least the hope thereof, so I won't even try.

But trust me me when I say: it's worth the hype. 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It's no secret than I'm an Ann P superfan ... remember how I geeked when I met her in Nashville last year? Whelp, my fandom has only continued to grow. This fall I had a chance to see Ann in action while on tour for her new book and it was an absolute treat. The icing on the cake: after waiting on line to have my first edition signed like a regular old reader, rather than trying to pull my industry strings to sneak to the front, she remembered me (!) and wrote a hilarious inscription in my book. Then, a few weeks later, she did something very kind for one of my authors who was in Nashville on her own book tour, and this kindness involved her emailing me personally (ok, on my work email) which led to a days long back and forth convo and basically we are friends now. Well not like, real life friends but at least work friends. Cordial professional acquaintances. 

It's a risk to meet your heroes - what if they turn out to be terrible in person? But oh, what a joy when they turn out to live up to the admiration!  

ANWYWAY, enough about me (just kidding, never enough about me!), let's talk about this book. It's great! Commonwealth follows a sprawling blended family over the course of several decades, from California to Virginia to New York and beyond, through divorce, marriage, re-marriage, re-divorce, death of a child, death of a parent, betrayal, lies, secrets, the works. This all sounds like a lot to put into one novel but if anything, I could have read on for 400 more pages. Ann Patchett is always wonderful at telling just what needs to be told and not a word more, filling out lives and stories with the sparest details, almost creating set pieces within the framework of a novel. 

If you've read any of her non-fiction (and if you haven't, I can't recommend it highly enough, race out right this moment and snag a copy of her essay collection This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage), you'll recognize many beats from Patchett's own life reflected in this novel. It's deeply intimate and personal, which for me made it all the richer to read. And yet, this intimacy does not make it inaccessible, instead allowing a sense of recognition for any of us who has ever balanced a complex family situation.

And I mean, who among us hasn't? 



AKA: The kind of book I'd write if I ever got my ish together. 

You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Have you ever found yourself sitting around with your girlfriends just chatting about life and love and feminism and wedding dresses and bikini waxing and therapy and ex-boyfriends and current boyfriends and work stress and ambition and pregnancy and Bar Method and shopping and GOOP and thought "this conversation is SO MUCH FUN I wish I could write it all down and put it in a book and put the book in my purse and revisit it whenever I want"? 

Whelp, Jessi Klein went ahead and did that for ya. 

Reading this book I constantly felt like I was sitting across from a wise and funny friend over a glass of wine (or 12), nodding along with her stories like "yes, girl, I feel that way too!" Jessi also brings with her a slight wisdom advantage in that she's about ten years older than me, so has a few more years experience in the shitstorm that is Grown Ass Womanhood. She writes about serious personal issues like career, marriage, infertility, and eventually motherhood with such a perfect mix of humor and pathos, a mix I always strive to reach in my writing and in my life. Something about reading this both made me feel like I was doing an OK job at being a lady and has served as an inspiration to me in my own writing, while also just making me actually LOL. I know, that sounds like A LOT of Personal Growth to be gleaned from what is essentially a book of comic essays but the heart wants what the heart wants and mine just wants to read and write funny essays about vaginas. So sue me. 

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

You may recognize Phoebe Robinson as host of the podcasts 2 Dope Queens (with Jessica Williams) and Sooo Many White Guys, both which many people love and I have tried to love, but I am physically incapable of listening to an entire podcast, ever, without getting distracted and walking away. I recognize that what I am hearing is interesting and engaging and potentially even educational but my brain physically can not just sit there and listen to words, no matter what they are, without some kind of visual component.  I don't think I'm an auditory learner? Lucky for me I'm aces at reading and Pheebs' wit and wisdom is as easy on the eyes as it is on the ears.

That made NO sense. Just go with it. 

In You Can't Touch My Hair, Robinson seamlessly melds awkward childhood stories, sexual fantasies about Michael Fassbender, and pointed commentary on life as a Black woman in America, bringing you from "LMAO" to "huh, I never thought of it that way" and back again without missing a beat. I was straight up weeping with laughter on the subway highlighting particularly brilliant turns of phrase like I was cramming for a How To Write Funny Quiz.

Also, something you may not have noticed about me is that I am - spoiler alert - white. Surprise! Earlier this year I made a plan to read only books by women (allowing a loophole for non-white men, solely so I could read Underground Railroad) but realized halfway through the year that I was primarily reading books by straight, white women. So was I really achieving anything by sticking so closely to my own worldview? I pride myself on being a pretty passionate feminist but have had to grapple recently with my own shortcomings, and ask if my feminism really encompasses all women, not just ones who look like me. In the past few months I've made a conscientious effort to seek out writers who bring a different perspective than my own. I'm not saying that reading a book of comic essays by a black woman instead of a book of comic essays by a white woman is exactly undoing years of institutional racism and solving all the problems in the world or anything but I do believe that literature offers a powerful, accessible window into other worlds and a path towards empathy. In these particularly divisive times it feels extra important to broaden our reading lists. For all of us who are thinking, you know, "how did we get here and how can we do better?", reading books by people who don't look or love or pray quite like us is a pretty simple way to push out of our own bubbles. 

I still have a lot of work to do in this arena, and am in the process of putting together a fun reading challenge for myself for 2017, I'll be sure to share - maybe you'll join me! 

And yes, once again that's A LOT of Personal Growth to glean from a book of comic essay but the heart wants what the heart wants and mine just wants funny women to rule the world. 


next door

AKA: The Gone Girl on the Train Next Door

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Anne and Marco seem like a perfect couple - young, attractive, owners of a beautiful old row home and parents to a cute 6 month old baby girl. One night they attend a dinner party next door and leave the baby sleeping in her own crib. They bring the monitor and check on her every 30 minutes but when they return at the end of the night, she is gone. 


The ensuing investigation stirs up all sorts of secrets and lies hidden beneath the surface of their seemingly tranquil lives and the plot takes more twists and turns than the roads they drive in Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I am usually pretty good at figuring out thriller twists but this one kept me guessing right up until the (deeply satisfying!) end. The prose isn't the fanciest and the dialogue leaves much to be desired but if you're looking for an engrossing, fast-paced thriller, this'll do juuust fine. I couldn't put it down - it's a perfect book for holiday travel or a low key wintery weekend. 

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

I've had Alex Marwood on my radar for a few years now, after seeing the thriller master himself, Stephen King, recommending her books on twitter. My mother-in-law happened to snag a copy of this one at a library sale and when she asked if I wanted to read it, I basically ripped it from her hands, ran from the room, and buried my face in the pages. 

The Killer Next Door follows a motley crew of flatmates living in a dilapidated old house in a gentrifying neighborhood in London. Everyone in the house has something to hide, be it financial ruin, a criminal past, or a penchant for murdering beautiful women and embalming their corpses. 

You know, average stuff. 

Though the discovery of the titular (hehe, tit) killer next door is the central mystery of the story, I found myself far more engrossed in following the lives of the various roommates, uncovering their little secrets, and watching as they form a tentative bond with one another. This isn't a novel for the faint of heart. Some of the plot twists are quite dark and some scenes are visceral in their brutality (I will never look at a shower drain the same way again) but if you can stomach a little gore, you'll dig this creepy read. 


And that's that! Bring it on, winter. The temperatures may be getting colder but the reads are as HOTT as always! 

xoxo Liz Ho 



Some Expert Advice on Singin' the Blues

I don't know about y'all but this past week has just been a straight bummer. It's felt like a cloud hanging over the world. Some of the sorrow is collective, what with the whole electing a toxic bag of hot air as President of the United States (not to mention his appointment of a white supremacist as his Chief Strategist, which doesn't do much in the way of tickling the old funny bone), while others have been more personal. I have a friend whose grandmother passed away, and another who got dumped. A pal's baby girl got her first serious illness and here on the homefront, I lost a scarf I really, really loved.

I know this isn't the tragedy Olympics, everyone's fighting their own battles, but that scarf was like, super cute guys. 

 In light of this general aura of sadness, I thought I might offer up a few tipz on how I get myself out of the dark when I'm feeling blue.

Believe you me pal, when it comes to Having All The Feels, I'm an expert in the field. 

the world can be total crap!

1) Go Outside!

I can not state this strongly enough, if you are feeling like emotional garbage, drag your rear off the couch, put on some shoes and GO OUTSIDE. Take a walk, go for a hike, go to the park and lay on a blanket under a tree and watch the leaves rustle above you, breathe in the air and breathe out the air and look at the clouds and the blades of grass and the birds, feel the sun on your face. This won't actually fix anything, your troubles will for sure be home when you return, but there's just something magical about fresh air, shaking the dust out of your joints that makes hard stuff a little easier to face.

2) Cook Your Feelings. 

When my life feels out of control, I head for the the kitchen. (Which is convenient because that's where a woman belongs, according to the new top leaders of our country!) (Sadness and snark are first cousins in my own personal emotional realm.) There is something meditative to me in the act of chopping, stirring, bringing a meal to life, in providing something nurturing and delicious for myself and for the people I love. I know many friends who feel similarly - one takes comfort in complex, meals like braised meats or intricate Ottolenghi stews while another goes hard on the baked goods. I tend to go for comforting, savory, heavy foods - last Wednesday I poured all of my energy into a chicken pot pie, often I'll whip up some kind of cheesy pasta creation or coconutty, spicy curry dishes. 

3) Eat Your Feelings.

This can be as noble as a home made chicken pot pie or as lowly as a whole sleeve of ritz crackers or Nutella with a spoon. I wholeheartedly recommend going IN on a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (original, get out of here with those fancy shapes), nottt like I would know from personal experience or anything... 

4) Go To Your Fictional Happy Place.

From Hogwarts to Narnia to Stars Hollow, who among us doesn't have a fictional happy place they slip to when times are tough? Probably sane people with their two feet firmly planted in reality but pssh, those are not my people. Whenever Hugh Grant gets gloomy about the state of the world, he thinks about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. And whenever *I* get gloomy about the state of the world, I sneak away to Pawnee, Indiana - first in friendship, fourth in obesity! A few hours with my pals in the Parks Department and my spirits are revived. Specifically, I tune into Season Three, Episode Nine: Andy and April's Fancy Party which I have watched, no joke, at least 30 times, and I still cry every. single. time. Find your own personal Pawnee and go there. 

5) Exercise.

To steal some wisdom from National Treasure Elle Woods: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people don't [shoot their husbands, become internet trolls, scream at their children for leaving their stuff everywhere, lay in a heap on the floor bemoaning the great existential sorrows of humanity.]" 

6) Take a Shower.

Baths are pretty popularly regarded as a stress relief remedy and I'm all about that bath life but sometimes they're just so much work, you know? You gotta get the water just the right temperature and then stand and wait for the tub to fill and you need bubbles and oils and candles and it kind of hurts your tailbone to sit for a while and you always end up getting water everywhere and it's just a whole thing. But a shower is low maintenance goodness!! Just hop in there, turn the heat waaaaay up and steam out those feelings. One time my mom came to visit and we got into a big argument about something (it was addressing wedding invitations if you must know) and in the middle of our argument I just got up, marched ito the bathroom and stood in a steaming hot shower for 15 minutes and emerged calmer and ready to talk. Bernie was like WHAT is wrong with you and how did I raise this nutjob? And yeah, I don't really know the answer to that question she's a pretty rad mom and I'm bonks but trust me, showers are the jimmy jam when you're feeling off. 

7) Play With a Pet??

IDK, it's been pretty well documented that I'm a monster who doesn't really get that whole animal scene, but I've heard from social scientists and anecdotally from trusted friends that animals bring comfort and joy. Can't really say I see what that's all about but I know I'm in the clear minority here so I dunno, next time you're sad just go pet a dog or let a cat yawn in your face or whatever. Sure to calm your troubles, probably!

8) Cry.

Crying gets such a bad rap. When boys cry they're sissies, when girls cry they're too emotional. I'm here to say that all of those things are untrue and crying is GREAT. Sometimes it is the only thing that helps. You just gotta get in your comfy clothes and lay in a ball and just really fucking weep until your eyeballs feel like sandpaper and your body feels like you've been sent through the spin cycle and you have absolutely no more tears left to give. And then get up and face that world like a  tear-stained, wrung-out, hot mess, baddd motherfucker. 


And there you have it! Just a few tips from my enormous Mary Poppins Bag o' Emotional Tricks. Mix them, match them, do them ALL. Not forever, of course, I don't think your arteries would be too stoked about #3 and you'll surely run of of hot water if you spend too much time indulging in #6 but you know, an hour, an afternoon, a day or two. Whatever you need. I'm not promising you'll feel good as new right away - I'm not a magician, just a professional basket case - but hopefully you'll at least feel a little better equipped to face whatever crap the world deigns to throw at you.*

Now tell me - what are YOUR tricks?? Tell me, tell me, tell me!




* Disclaimer that if you are truly feeling in the crux of clinical depression, try as best you can to talk to a trusted friend and seek professional help. It's tough stuff, but there's no shame in admitting you need some help. And disclaimer two: these are just my tips and also me trying to be kind of cute in a time of much emotional upheaval, I don't mean in any way to belittle the genuine fear or pain that someone might be feeling in this moment - be it political or otherwise. I know a shower isn't going to put an end to institutional racism or revive a loved one, but perhaps they can bring one tiny bit of comfort. 

On Empathy, On Optimism, On Olive Branches

                                                 My reason to hope for a better future. 

                                                My reason to hope for a better future. 

I know we're all up to our eyeballs in election commentary at the moment and perhaps you're hoping this is just a jokey post to help you get your mind off things. I wish I could say it was. I really do just want to write about books and farting and how I have pho broth all over my shirt right now because I don't actually know how to use chopsticks but I just can't. My mind is in too much of a fog to access that literary brilliance. Soon we'll be back to the good stuff, but first, I need to get a few things off my chest. 

I am feeling very, very sad. For a number of reasons. I'm sad because my candidate lost, of course, but it's deeper than that. I don't think I even realized how important it was to me to see a woman president until we came so close. It is crushing to see a woman lose out on a job to a man who is infinitely less qualified than her and impossible for me not view it as a slap in the face to my gender. I feel the stinging crush of having high hopes dashed so brutally. I worry deeply about the rights and safety of my non-white, non-Christian, non-able bodied, and queer friends. I can't think of sweet, smart, wild little Lucy, that eager beautiful girl up there, and all of my friends' kids and my future kids, without without feeling like I failed them. I want so much better for all of them. 

I'm not just sad, I am angry. And I'm sad that I'm angry. I have always prided myself on being a relentless optimist who saw the good in everyone, a person capable of deep empathy, compassion, and understanding.  I consider this to be something great and true that I value in my flawed self. And yet this week I feel that spark has been diminished. I am not proud to admit this, but I find myself struggling to empathize with anyone who chose to vote for Donald Trump. There are so many people in my own life who I know to be kind and decent, who work hard, who love their families, and who still somehow found it in themselves to pull the lever for a man who spews vitriol for anyone who does not fall within his tiny, angry scope of what humanity should look like. And I can't wrap my head around that dichotomy. 

How do you cast a vote for a man who openly mocks a disabled reporter, who calls women fat pigs, and then try to teach your kids not to be bullies? That is not a rhetorical question. Tell me exactly what you would say? 

There's a lot of talk going around the internet about how Trump's victory is not about race, or gender, or religion, a lot of folks trying to absolve their own consiences by quickly declaring that a vote for Trump does not make one a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a mean, spiteful person like the one they voted for. It's just his tax plans, you see. A desire for a "shakeup in Washington," perhaps. And all of those motivations are well and good and valid but they alone are not the platform on which this man ran and on which he plans to govern this country. 

Here's the thing, y'all: when voting for public office, you don't get to pick just one or two items and ignore the rest. This isn't a Wawa automated sandwich menu, although I wish it was because I'd vote a turkey club into office any day of the week over Donald J. Trump. I have never seen a chicken salad hoagie try to justify sexual assault, that's for damn sure. 


You can tell yourself that you voted for him for his supreme court slots or because you just didn't like the other candidate either, whatever it is that helps you sleep at night, but in choosing those as your priroties, you also gave your support to his language of hate. You may not personally brag about grabbing women by the pussies or denigrate the Muslim faith or send photographs of your hands to Graydon Carter (look it up! A real, mature thing that the man about to have our nuclear codes does!) but by choosing to cast your vote for him, you you voted for those things, too. That's just how this works. 

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a beautiful piece of the country home to delicious corn and a vibrant, growing community of artists, and many people who I love and admire. 57% of the county voted for Donald Trump. On Wednesday at York County Technical High School, one county over, 25 minutes from the little town where I was raised, a group of students marched the halls carrying a Trump poster and chanting "White Power." This is true and here's a video. I'd encourage everyone to watch it and to meditate on it for a good, long while. I can not imagine the good people who I know looking young Kiana Alves - who had to leave the school in fear - in the eyes and telling her that they value her safety less than a spicy little government shakeup and yet, by casting a vote in favor of someone who does encourage this kind of violent, bigoted language, for whatever their own reasons, they are implict in allowing this kind of behavior.

To borrow a phrase from an essay a friend shared with me: "I’m not sure what is worse: to be the person who sets a house on fire, or to be the one who handed that person the match."

Before anyone can say "But her emails! Benghazi!", guys, I know. I never said anyone was flawless here. I actively and wholeheartedly chose Hillary despite some real concerns. She's hawkish, prone to secrecy, and basically refused to even acknowlage the No Dakota Access Pipeline Movement right up to the very minute I enthusiastically circled the bubble next to her name on my ballot. I cast my vote for the full package - for the progressive community activist and for the woman who coined the term "superpredator" - and I was prepared to reckon with my decision. 

And if you voted for Donald Trump, you need to reckon with yours. 

In the coming days I am going to work as hard as I can to reactivate that best part of myself, to present an open mind and a malleable heart, to actively listen to the concerns of those with differing viewpoints from my own, to extend an olive branch to those who I would ask to do the same for me. But an olive branch is not an absolution. 

If you voted for Donald Trump because you agree with his words of hate, I guess rock on with your bad self and I'm truly sorry you feel that way. But if you voted for him while claiming to disagree with his language, you need to put your money where your mouth is. One way I've seen folks jusifying his words is to argue that they are just that, words. That actions speak louder. By that logic, your words are just words too. You can shout "I'M NOT A RACIST!" from the roof of every building, share all the "let's just get along" memes the internet can dream up, but unless you are taking positive action to back up that claim, to work to heal the divide, your words remain just words. I implore everyone to take a stand aginst divisive language. To speak up if you see discrimination in your community. To hold our new president accountable for both his words and his actions. 

And while you do that work, I am going to put my energy into being sure that my own words of sorrow and disappointment are not hollow ones either. I have been encouraged to see that many of my fellow progressives are responding to this defeat with powerful, positive action. We are banding together to raise funds for causes we believe in, to hold our governement to a higher standard of humanity, to be, as that old chestnut goes, the change we wish to see in the world. At the end of this post, I'm sharing a few resources I've found helpful on this front, if you'd like to join me. 

I remain fearful and saddened but I am ready be proven wrong. 

With hope,


#StrongerTogether Resources:

Donate Your Hillary Vote

Ten Causes That Need Our Help Right Now

Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund & 10 Ways You Can Help the Standing Rock Sioux

.... AND MORE! I'd love to hear suggestions! 







Nancy Drew and the Missing Necklace

Any devoted reader of this here blog knows I love a good tale of mystery and suspense. I always have. I can recall being 8 or so on a family trip to Florida. My parents took us to a spring training baseball game and I spent the entire 9 (or is it 900?) innings laying on the bleachers, my face deep in the pages of a Nancy Drew novel. Next came Encyclopedia Brown, The Westing Game and soon I was ransacking the public library for any Mary Higgins Clark book I could get my freakishly long, bony mitts upon. To this day I can't scroll past a "13 Novels to Read if You Loved Gone Girl!" listicle without clicking through and buying at least one of the titles suggested, if not the full baker's dozen.

So it fills me with much glee to find myself in the middle of my very own crime caper! 

It all began this summer when I found a skeleton bured beneath the floorboards.  

Just kidding. That would be legitimately terrifying. And also probably more exciting than my actual mystery but you can't pick your hauntings, they pick YOU. 

It actually all began this summer when I decided to jazz up my wardrobe a bit vis a vis some cute artisan jewelery from the online retailer, specifically from a little shop out of Canada (eh!) called Vintage Acorn. My favorite in the bunch was a necklace with a wooden chevron on a long chain, a versatile piece that compliments everything, be it a professional dress at the office or jorts and a tank top at a music festival, as you can see pictured here in exhibit A: 

exhibit A

Photo shared as evidence that a) I owend and wore the necklace in question and b) after years of doubt, it turns off I can totally pull off a summer hat! 

I had this necklace on heavy rotation, sporting it a few days a week until one morning I went to toss it on and found the hook where it usually hangs was bare. I searched all of the usual spots - every single handbag, my gym bag, the pockets of all of my jeans. Nothing. I overturned the couch cushions, crawled under the kitchen table, pulled the dresser from the wall, turned my hamper upsidedown and vigourously shook it and nada! Well, I found dozens of pens, hundreds of bobby pins and enough loose change to put a down payment on a single family home in the suburbs but not the one thing I was looking for: my necklace. 

I was confounded! Where could it be? Our apartment is not that large, there was nowhere else to look. I swore the last place I'd worn it was to a Mets game (where once again, I watched zero seconds of the actual game, oh, how I've grown since childhood), and worried it must have broken on the commute home, lost forever, fated to become construction material for a new rat motel deep in the depths of the NYC subway system. 

A few days later I was meandering down my street when something caught my eye in a little clothes boutique across the way. Curious, I crossed over. And there I saw it, draped around the neck of a headless mannequin in the window: MY FLIMFLAMMIN' NECKLACE!!!

exhibit b

I couldn't believe my own eyes! It looked 100% exactly like my necklace, right down to the gold chain which I sometimes worried was too shiny, but HOW did it end up in that store? Did they break into our house and only walk away with one $15 artisan small batch Etsy necklace? SEEMS DUBIOUS. And yet...

Suddenly memories rushed back to me, like I was that guy in Memento getting over his amensia or whatever. IDK I've never actually seen that movie. I had completely forgotten that after the baseball game, in a low self-esteem frenzy, I had frantically swept through a few stores, on a hunt to find a new dress for a wedding the following weekend. I was going to be seeing a bunch of folks I hadn't seen in years, and thus decided I needed to fully reinvent myself sartiorially and otherwise by spending a lot of money on a new dress I didn't need. (Spoiler alert it did not work and I just wore a dress I already owned and was my usual wine-soaked, weird self, but also now with a $140 Anthropologie dress that I don't even like burning a hole in my bank account. Someone plz remind me to return that before the month is up!)

And then it all made sense. I must have taken off the necklace while in the dressing room and forgotten to put it back on when leaving. It could even have gotten tangled with one of the dresses I'd tried and been mistaken for merchandise. I'm not accusing this store of stealing, per se, but I'd swear on a dogeared copy of Moonlight Becomes Her that was my necklace.  

I sprinted home armed with cold, hard, grainy iPhone photo evidence that the greatest heist of all time was happening right under my very nose. And I was going to crack the case.

The next day I dressed myself in my cofidence outfit - jorts (natch) and a grey t-shirt (double natch) with the word "unapolagetic" emblazoned across the front in black script. The tee is made my a designer and blogger I admire, Jolie Ankrom, a mantra and a reminder to stop apologizing, to be more fearless. 

I took a deep breath and marched into the store and...immediately apolozied. 

"I'm SO sorry, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I can't find my necklace anywhere and I think it's here, in this store? Like, for sale? Over there? SORRY FOR BOTHERING YOU."

I yammered, I stammered. I finally got to my point. She politely (perhaps too politely, covering up her obvious criminal guilt???) opened the cash register to reveal a drawer full of lost jewelery. Was any of it mine?

NO but also all of it was ugly so of course you would hide it an not try to re-sell it. You think you're a criminal master mind? 


Finally I got her to take me over to the manequin and show me the necklace. It did not have a price tag (!) or anything identifying the designer (!!) but she assured me it was store stock - from a shipment that had arrived "Tuesday or Wednesday, I think?"

TUESDAY OR WEDNESAY! That is some pretttty conveninet timing, considering I'd been in on Sunday. 

Nothing was adding up but, what was I to do? I realized I had one card left to play, to demand to see their invoices, proving they'd actually purchased the necklace. Nancy Drew so would've done it, and probably uncovered some document forging in the process. But I folded.  Maybe if it was my wedding ring or some priceless family heirloom I would have pushed for it, but I decided that a $15 Etsy necklace, cute as it may be, was perhaps not worth launching a full-on slander attack and criminal investigation of a lovely local botique.

I apologized, again, for taking up her time and slunk out of the store, defeated. It was then that I realized my "confidence shirt," the one with the bold UNAPOLOGETIC slogan had been inside outthe whole time. GOOD GRIEF. I mean, what would you do if a deranged woman marched into your store with her clothes on the wrong way and started stuttering about stolen jewelry? I'm lucky she didn't call the cops on ME! 

When I got home, I did a little more searching and convinced myself that my life as a crimefighter was over, I'd just lost my necklace myself, case closed. 

BUT! The next day I couldn't help crossing by on that side of the street, just out of curiosity and when I came to the window, the necklace was gone! They still had the same outfit on display but they'd changed out the necklace. Every single other manequin was dressed exactly the same, accessories and all, the one and only thing amiss was a new necklace, in place of the one I suspected to be mine.

COINCIDENCE? Ok, probably yes. 

ORRRRR, I was right the whole time! They are running a largescale crime ring, re-selling the jewels left behind by flaky neighborhood ladies making frenzied shopping sprees after consuming a few too many gigantic beers at Mets Stadium. It's genius! Right under our noses like that, who would suspect a thing?? 

They were getting away with it but I got too close. They saw me sniffing around and knew the product was hot and they needed to get rid of the evidence, and fast. 

But I'll get the last laugh. If I've learned anything from a lifetime of consuming mysteries it is that no crime can stay buried forever. I can wait. I live right across the street and have no hobbies and plenty of time on my hands and soon enough they'll slip up and oh, the case will be finally closed. 

In the meantime, I'll be keeping my detective skillz polished by hiring out my investigative services. Any takers? If interested, email me anytime, no case is too big, too small,  or too clearly imaginary for me! 

Sincerely Yours,

Liz HottSauce, P.I. 




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. 


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." 


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.


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.


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! 


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. 


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.


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: 

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 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!