Things You Might Overhear at My Family’s Thanksgiving Celebration

Few moments in my life are funnier than the comments bubbling up during meals spent with my crazy family and equally crazy friends (who are like chosen family.). Since my cousin Jeff and I can basically mind meld, all it takes is a quick exchange of glances to kick off some of these running dialogues during Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s my Top Five List of Oddball Things Said During Meals Together (family and friends edition), with a (T) behind those you might overhear at my family’s Thanksgiving.

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  1. “I have a torn labia.” One of my guy friends said this when I asked him what kind of shoulder surgery he was recovering from. He meant to say “labrum,” but somehow, labia is what came out. I was in hysterics for a good half an hour afterwards. I felt guilty laughing because he looked so pained and embarrassed, but that only made me laugh harder. I choked on my coffee this morning, just remembering this one all over again.
  2. “No man can refuse this p***y!” A certain uber-tall cousin of mine grabbed his right ankle and lifted his long leg over his head, uttering these words in the middle of a Sizzler Restaurant during lunch one day, mimicking Grace Jones in the Eddie Murphy movie, Boomerang.  Unbeknownst to him, as he was sitting in front of a column, there was an entire table of people behind him, whom I was facing, who did not appreciate his Grace Jones imitation, making this even funnier. I waved my hands wildly about in the “stop” motion, but he misinterpreted my gesturing as “Stop making me laugh!” I couldn’t stop hyperventilating in giggles long enough to warn him to stop.
  3. “Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben!” (T)This line from Blazing Saddles is uttered every time someone tries to push food on us at Thanksgiving, when we’re already way too stuffed.
  4. “It’s only wafer thin…” (T) –– This alludes to the epically disgusting, never-ending puke scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. John Cleese offers up a wafer-thin mint to an obese man who has eaten so much, he explodes. In the end, all that remains is a beating heart, dangling, encased inside of a rib cage.
  5. “Go make yourself a danged quesadilla!” (T) — To say this correctly, you have to make quesadilla rhyme with Sarah Palin’s hometown, Wasilla. This line, from Napoleon Dynamite, is typically said later in the day, when dinner has settled and someone interrupts our Euchre game long enough to announce they have a taste for a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich. I also say this to Jack, pretty much every day we’re home together and he asks me to make his lunch.

This year, Jack and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family over the weekend, so tomorrow will be a quiet day at home, watching “Holes” and Napoleon Dynamite, wishing the pilgrims had kicked off this holiday with Beef Wellington rather than turkey. And what are your plans? Need ideas for side dishes, cocktails, main course recipes, cooking time, gravy techniques, family games or table decor tips? Check out my freshly curated Pinterest Holiday Entertainment board. Consider this your new go-to resource filled with infographic goodness and everything you’d need to know for holiday entertaining. Also, I learned a great trick on Saturday with my baked brie — using apple butter instead of apricot preserves gives it this apple pie flavor that is simply amazing. Give it a whirl!

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I’m Divorcing The Walking Dead

I’ve given myself a week to recover and seriously consider this, but on this Halloween day, my decision remains the same. I’m divorcing the The Walking Dead. Done. Game over, man.

The first episode of this season crossed a line for me, coming waytooclose to torture porn for my comfort level. It’s still making me sick to my stomach, a week later. I wish I could unsee that which can’t be unseen — Glenn’s all-too-graphic death. It’s still playing in my head. I was disturbed by one of the past season’s episodes, the one where Laurie gave herself her own c-section, and The Governor was combing his zombie daughter’s degrading scalp as it fell apart in his hands, but this first Negin episode was my horror cup runneth over. I’m content to simply read the recaps online and not watch it anymore.

And while I’m talking Walking Dead, I have to be honest. Fear the Walking Dead, the west coast version of Walking Dead, has never measured up for me to the original series. I wanted it to. There are few places in the world I love more than the west coast. I thought it would make an interesting, fresh retelling of the story. I just could never get as emotionally invested in those characters — the protagonist mother and daughter mostly just irritated me. Perhaps it’s because the mother reminded me too much of Katie Couric, who also irritates the shit out of me. In the final analysis, I’d rather be watching Westworld or Preacher.

Pretty much sums up Episode 1.

Pretty much sums up Episode 1.

With all of the anxiety over my beloved CUBS winning the first World Series in 108 years, and the current political landscape, my entertainment shouldn’t be amping up my stress. Maybe I need to immerse myself in some Bob’s Burgers binge watching. In the interest of adding some levity to this weird confluence of stress ball events, here are some memes that have made me laugh over the last day:

Oh please, oh please, oh please...!

Oh pleaseOh pleaseOh please…! GO CUBS!

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The Value of Impatience: This Chicagoan Votes Early, Just Not “Often”

I hate waiting in lines. I mean, really HATE. IT. I’m convinced the Disney Fast Pass came about when they read my none-too-subtle solution in their suggestion box. One of the greatest perks to working in TV production with Jan Gabriel on his nationally syndicated motorsports series The Super Chargers was getting that elitist, front-of-the-line access at Universal Studios in California, back when Molly Miles was in charge. God, I miss those days. For the 8 hours I was an entitled princess, I kept thinking to myself, “Self, you could really get used to this. And that could be dangerous.”

As a Chicagoan, I’ve exerted enough energy being patient in my life. After all, it’s taken my beloved Chicago CUBS 108 years to get into this World Series. I’ve literally waited my entire life for this moment!

Fortunately, the line to vote today was just 5 people long. All told, I was done in 30 minutes. I highly recommend you vote early. Just get it done. And if you’re voting in Chicago, I hope I don’t need to tell you, but please, do not vote more than once. Here’s a handy, party-agnostic link to find your early polling location: bit.ly/2dPJH3W

Hey, I'm Chicago. I vote early, just not OFTEN (in the same election).

Hey, I’m from Chicago. I vote early, just not OFTEN (in the same election).

Announcing My New Blog Series: COOL PEOPLE I KNOW

I found this meme on Facebook the other day, and I screen-grabbed it immediately. In one sentence, it sums up how I live. You see, as an ENFP, I believe everyone has an interesting story, from every walk of life — from CEOs to ex-cons. I’m at my most hyper-focused when getting to know a total stranger. This is why my grade school friends have christened me “The White Oprah.” I don’t mean to interview people, but it’s like breathing for me. They fuel my curiosity.

The Meme That Best Describes Me

The Meme That Best Describes Me

Cool People I Know: My friend Rohita Shah, born in Zambia, now owner of an award-winning Mathnasium in Wisconsin, with 1 new Brookfield location opening soon.

Cool People I Know: My friend Rohita Shah, born in Zambia, now owner of an award-winning Mathnasium in Wisconsin, with 1 new Brookfield location opening soon.

I have to wonder if my genuine interest in people is somehow invisibly telegraphed when I’m out in the world. My friends have all witnessed it. Total strangers love to ask me for directions, how to fix their iPhone, or whether they should buy the outfit they’re trying on in a department store. No, I’m not arrogant enough to think my opinion matters one iota, but it’s weirdly consistent that they do. This bizarre people-magnet vibration I exude might explain why, when I merely entered an empty gas station to pay for my petrol — literally saying nothing but my pump number to the cashier — she unburdened herself, sharing the story of her recent abortion. Or why, when I went to the DMV with Darlene, my BFF since kindergarten, I knew all about the DMV eye examiner man’s divorce during the 5 minutes of getting my test. Or why I leave restaurants more often than not with the phone number or email address of the waitress or waiter to follow up on some conversation. I consider it an honor and privilege that someone trusts me to listen to them. I don’t judge. I just listen. I think people appreciate that someone is actually present and in the moment with them in this distracted, ADD world where they are accustomed to getting ignored.

When I first met Dave, he was extremely nervous about exposing me to the massive enclave of fandom at his San Diego Comic-Con booth. He needn’t have worried. I thrived on it. Unlike introverts who find it a psychic drain to deal with the public, I get energized by being around people. They recharge my batteries. Today, 16 years later, those San Diego fans visit our home, chat with me at least three times a week on Facebook private messages, and have become some of my best friends. I feel blessed to have met these many interesting people from literally around the world, whose paths I would never have crossed in my ordinary, Northern Illinois life.

An apt description of ENFP's.

An apt description of ENFP’s.

As women, we all have stories of telling our spouses about their friends’ medical issues and life dramas, as our spouses look on dumbfounded, replying, “He never told me anything about that!” But I take it about three steps further. I walk away knowing about their UFO encounters, their politics, and their funniest pranks. My conversations with people are always organic. I never know where they’ll meander, but they’re always interesting. As I was interviewing a VP on Friday for a B2B article on his company, I learned all about his Chicago cop relatives, and their take on the current gang situation in Chicago. It was a counterintuitive perspective I could never have guessed, and it became fodder for my hands-and-feet card game last night on the Mag Mile (And btw, GO CUBS!!!! FTW!!!).

So…aside from the ghostwriting I do in my career, I’m starting a new series on my blog, maybe once a week, called “Cool People I Know.” These interviews will be with people from all walks of life, and you will learn things you would never have guessed, about topics you probably have never considered before. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I have doing the interviews! Let me know, okay?

So I guess my Myers-Briggs score explains my career choice...

My Myers-Briggs score explains my career choice…

My List of the 19 Best Comic Book Adaptations

The Wasted Lands Omnibus, available through Magnetic Press: http://www.magnetic-press.com/wasted-lands-omnibus/

The Wasted Lands Omnibus, available through Magnetic Press: http://www.magnetic-press.com/wasted-lands-omnibus/

While I do enjoy blogging about cuddling with weatherman Tom Skilling during a violent storm and the late night adventures of Jonesie, my hairless cat, today I’m talking comics.

Jonesie the #hairlesscat - #catsofinstagram #felinefemmefatale

Jonesie the #hairlesscat – #catsofinstagram #felinefemmefatale

Specifically, moving picture adaptations of comics–TV and film. The pop culture world has been flooded with comic book movies and TV shows, and it looks like studios won’t be keeping their powder dry any time soon. There are days when I wish film studios would just take a deep breath. Let it breathe, Warner Brothers…let it breathe. Maybe try vacationing in Barbados.

Ahhhh...Barbados...

Ahhhh…Barbados…

I’m not saying every comic book movie is terrible–far from it! There are just way too many. The quality suffers for it. But I’m no Debbie Downer. I choose to walk in the light of Odin, crop-dusting glitter-filled unicorn farts and rainbows. I’ll save the Batman v. Superman and Green Lantern funerals for another day.

Pretty much my favorite Bitmoji.

Pretty much my favorite Bitmoji.

Bloggers are always big on lists. My first inclination was listing my favorite book hangovers–and yes, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is on there — but today’s quickie post is just the best and worst comic book adaptations of all time. I haven’t done a Top 15 yet of the most mediocre. If I did, normalman would ascend that list. And then there are those I wish would be made into adaptations–Dave Dorman‘s The Wasted Lands, Mike Baron’s The Badger, and Myatt Murphy’s Fade from Blue and Two Over Ten.

I’m not here to to tell you which media you should be binge-watching. I’ll never sit in judgement if you’re revisiting Howard The Duck. Hell, I’ll cop to getting hooked into Martin Short’s Clifford or Chris Elliott’s Cabin Boy when I’m channel flipping. We all have our guilty pleasures.  (Avid readers of this blog know some of mine already. I may not have mentioned my sugar-free Bubble Yum addiction yet.) You can take or leave these lists as my seal of (dis)approval.

19 of the Best Comic Book Adaptations

  • Suicide Squad
  • Walking Dead
  • Preacher
  • Hellboy
  • American Splendor
  • Superman: The Movie
  • The Dark Knight
  • A History of Violence
  • The Crow
  • Road to Perdition
  • Sin City
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  • Watchmen
  • Iron Man
  • The Avengers
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Deadpool
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

14 of the Worst Comic Book Adaptations (Sorry if you liked them!)

Me, apologetic.

Me: The apologetic version.

> Batman and Robin
> Jonah Hex
> Catwoman
> Howard the Duck
> Superman IV: The Quest of Peace
> Green Lantern (2011)
> Judge Dredd (1995)
> The Spirit
> Fantastic Four (2015)
> Daredevil
> Elektra
> Ghost Rider
> Hulk
> Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Disagree?

...here's my #, so call me maybe...

…here’s my #, so call me maybe…

Tell me some of the comic to film or TV adaptations you have liked, hated, or secretly enjoyed.

Stranger Things: I Want My ’80s Back!

My fitness trainer Kim shared with me her iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts during our Monday night workout. According to Kim, this was no ordinary iced coffee. This one had been cold-brewed for 12 hours. Whatever that meant … it was a new offering on the menu. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. As much of a coffee addict as I am, iced coffee rarely calls my name.

Dunkin' Donuts Cold-Brewed Coffee: Heaven in a plastic cup.

Dunkin’ Donuts Cold-Brewed Coffee: Heaven in a plastic cup.

I took one tiny sip, just being polite. I was instantly transported.

Were this a Twilight  Zone episode, you’d see that bad special effect of me, sans color, dizzily spinning backwards in time, calendar pages flipping past me in fast succession. In my case, I time machined back to age six. I was standing on our kitchen stool so I could reach the sink, washing the family’s dinner dishes. The first part of this evening chore meant washing my dad’s lunchbox tupperware, and his khaki-green metal coffee thermos. Dad had engraved his name into the side of the metal. I’d trace his signature with my fingertips as I was washing the outside of it. When no one was looking, I’d sneak a sip of its contents — his day-old java — pretending I was a grown up. (I know, I know … I’m still pretending.) This Dunkin’ Donuts cold-brewed fare mimicked Dad’s day-old coffee, perhaps because Dad’s had steeped for a good 12 hours in his thermos. While it can’t bring my father back, the nostalgia of those lost days washes over me with every swallow. I’m hooked!

On the website CockedEyed.com, you can create your own "STRANGER THINGS" Lightbulb Message Encoder. How cool is that?!?

On the website CockedEyed.com, you can create your own “STRANGER THINGS” Lightbulb Message Encoder. How cool is that?!?

The much-talked-about Netflix horror series Stranger Things became my other childhood time portal recently. I binge-watched the entire series in two nights. It was beyond amazing. Winona Ryder portrays the emotional fragility of a frantic parent as believably as Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice. Maybe moreso. The camaraderie feeling we get from Stephen King’s Stand By Me (and the origin story to that film, The Body) combines with the government conspiracy style narratives of Dean R. Koontz. The music, the fashion, the cars, the bad basement decor. The vulnerable, gawky, tender awkwardness of being a teen. It all felt so familiar — like an old friend returning. A friend I didn’t realize I had been yearning for as hard as I had.

For us Gen-Xers, those were magical times. Whenever I discuss Stranger Things with my peers, I always ask them, “If you could go back to the ’80s, would you?”

Without hesitation, faces telegraphing that “Are you daft, girl?” expression, every single friend has declared, “In. A. Heartbeat.”

#SDCC2016 Attendees – PLEASE Stay Vigilant This Year

The greatest show on earth.

#SDCC – The greatest show on earth.

I debated whether I should even write this blog. I don’t wish to plant ideas in the minds of our common enemy. However, especially in light of recent events, I just beseech and implore every one of you attending San Diego Comic-Con this year to pay hyper-focused attention to your surroundings. Be aware of everything and everyone around you. We’re living in sad times; the anxiety riddled like myself are mapping the fastest route to the nearest trauma center for any major event we attend.

My son and I won’t be attending Comic-Con this year. Frankly, I’m a little relieved. That almost throw-away comment made in the press that the San Bernardino terrorists were actually plotting to attack a much bigger event made my hackles rise. It has festered in my brain ever since. Their distance to San Diego was too close for comfort. I just hope that all of you who are attending this year remain safe. There’s no greater soft target than a convention center full of entertainment industry icons.

Watch.

Look.

Listen.

Be safe.

I hope you all have a fun con. I will be keeping you, and the families of all of the fallen in my prayers.

I Really Need to Cuddle with Tom Skilling Right Now

Tom Skilling is THE rock star of weathermen. When I learned my friend Ian had interned with him, I pummeled the poor guy with a million questions. Which aftershave does he wear? What makes him laugh? Where does he live? Like Game of Throne‘s Peter Dinklage, WGN’s forecaster Skilling has been the enigmatic source of fascination for me and a few of my friends. But today, I just need to cuddle with Tom Skilling. Preferably beneath a bed. Also, that bed needs to be in a deep basement. I need Tom’s reassurances that everything is going to be just fine. Here’s why:

Dude...we are SO screwed right now.

Dude…we are SO screwed right now. (Image courtesy of U.S. National Weather Service Chicago.)

After Hurricanes Ivan (which wiped out our Florida home) and Dennis, weather anxiety has become a thing with me. Dave Dorman and I lost too much. I’ve never recovered from the panic it caused me. It even prompted our move back to Illinois. This, despite me being a sturdy Midwesterner. I’m accustomed to death-defying weather like the Blizzard of ’79, where snowmobiles were racing down Michigan Avenue. I lived here during the 1990 Plainfield tornado, so devastating it made the cover of PEOPLE magazine.

Prior to my hurricane experiences, the weather unglued me only once. I was unaware my next-door condo neighbors had just installed surround sound. They were watching the movie Twister” at what I’m guessing was 11–the loudest volume. My entire condo was vibrating. As Helen Hunt was diving into the storm cellar on their TV next door, I was bending myself into a frickin’ pretzel, trying to squeeze behind my spiral staircase to certain safety. I couldn’t reconcile why, from my cramped vantage point, I was peering out at blue skies through my transom windows. Post torna-faux, we all had a good laugh about it. (If only they’d watched Jurassic Park, like most folks with new surround sound at that time. I probably wouldn’t have freaked over an impending T-Rex attack.)

So..before Hurricane Ivan, I never gave weather forecasts a second thought. I scoffed at the old farts for whom the Weather Channel was their MTV (yes, I’m old enough to use MTV metaphors). All that changed when Jim Cantore suddenly appeared on our TV screen, reporting from two miles down the road. Like a bad horror movie, at that exact moment, our power was cut. We were sitting in inky, black darkness. We couldn’t even see our hands in front of our faces. The winds howled from the depths of hell. It was the longest, most terrifying wait for dawn I’ve ever known.

Now I sit. And I wait. The eerie stillness outside like the mosquito who has ominously stopped buzzing. It’s about to hit the fan, folks.

I get it. Chicago needs Tom Skilling in studio right now, reporting the weather. But I also need Tom, my weather teddy bear, here. Reassuring me. Beneath the bed. Preferably in my basement.

 

 

 

 

#Foodgasm Alert: The Turducken of Pies

I was just reading this hilarious article about the new 5-pies-in-one, or the “Turducken of Pies.” 

Screenshot 2015-12-18 15.05.38

A few years ago, my dear publicist friend Stephen Crane and I headed up from his SoCal home to visit my other friend, Tony Swatton in Burbank. (I always stay at Stephen’s house for a few days after San Diego Comic-Con to recuperate.) Tony, whom I had just seen at Comic-Con, could be a blog in and of himself. He was the “Pirate of the Year” for Pirates Magazine and has graced the cover more than once.

Our favorite pirate, Tony Swatton.

Our favorite pirate, Tony Swatton.

Tony formed the “Norse Hollywood Dining Vikings” Club, which started out as lark; he and his buddies all dressed up like Vikings and showed up at Ikea for Swedish meatballs, bemused when they were firmly escorted out. Here’s a typical biz card:

Image courtesy of Matthew Hunt Designs.

Image courtesy of Matthew Hunt Designs.

You see, Tony makes all the costumes and weapons for those memorable Capital One ads, and they are all stored at his fabrication shop. Yeah, I’ve tried some on. Since Tony tends to hang with fellow pranksters, the hijinks never stop. (If I ever move to California, it would be Burbank just to be near our funny actor friend Dan Roebuck, plus Tony’s shenanigans.) Tony also makes the swords for all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and most recently, was the star of the internet sensation show Man at Arms. His Sword and Stone shop in Burbank, CA is legendary.

On Victory Boulevard just a few doors down from Tony’s storefront is this wonderful Greek restaurant. Actually, I’m not sure they refer to them as Greek restaurants in California, but that’s what we call them in Chicago. Diners, maybe? You know the kind. The menu goes on forever. If you have a tough time making food decisions, this is no place for amateurs.

So in all, it was Tony, Stephen, Scott Empey (Tony’s BFF and my custom jewelry designer) and me. We entered and walked past this well-lit, glorious display case of pies. You could almost hear the choir of angels singing inside of it. As we sat down and discussed which sensible foods we should be ordering, the discussion took a dangerous turn, shifting to those damned delectable pies. I opined that it was criminal that no one ever made a banana-coconut-cream pie, since I always hated having to choose between the two, like two calorie-laden lovers who could both satisfy me equally. At that point, Tony excused himself to go wash his hands, and I noticed him getting chatty with the woman at the counter on his way.

As our meal ended–our bellies sore from laughing at all of Scott and Tony’s crazy exploits–a vision of beauty arrived at our table: a coconut cream pie, flipped over atop a banana cream pie, with four forks! We four foodgasm’d out! To this day, it remains the most exquisite dessert I’ve ever had, in no small part because of the company who shared it with me.

If they ship, I’ll be ordering the Turducken of Pies for my next trip to Burbank, reassembling my merry band of knights of the round pie table, plus Tony’s new wife Karen, whom I love and adore. I even have a new name for my epicurean kindred spirits: The Norse Hollywood Dining Pie-Kings–Pie Pillaging Specialists.

Dave Dorman STAR WARS Marvel Variant Comic Featured in Limited Edition STAR WARS LOOT CRATE

And what, to my wandering eyes, did appear…but a $100 Limited Edition STAR WARS LOOT CRATE, pulled by eight tiny Tauntauns…

Usually Jack will say, “Guess what came in the mail today?” followed by “Deez nuts! Ha!” and he goes off on his merry way. But today was different. Today was followed by the scream of “LOOT CRATE!!!” which was probably heard all of the way to Tatooine. Since Dave couldn’t get a copy of his own comic, he just had to spend the $100 to order it via LOOT CRATE. You know…that monthly geek tzotchke box that is the bane of my existence? I think the NDAs Dave signed were probably more onerous than those from the State Department. So here’s a play-by-play:

The STAR WARS LTD. ED. LOOT CRATE: I'm just surprised it didn't feature the radioactive glow of the briefcase in PULP FICTION.

The STAR WARS LTD. ED. LOOT CRATE: I’m just surprised it didn’t feature the radioactive glow of the briefcase in PULP FICTION.

HISTORY: Dave seeing his VADER DOWN cover in comic book form for the very first time!

HISTORIC GEEK MOMENT: DAVE DORMAN seeing his VADER DOWN cover in actual comic book form for the very first time!

VADER DOWN Marvel Comics variant cover by DAVE DORMAN

VADER DOWN Marvel Comics variant cover by DAVE DORMAN

Even though Dave had to buy this limited edition LOOT CRATE to get a copy of his own book, he feels he “still got a lot of cool stuff I can share with my family.” (Editorial comment: I think by “family,” he means “Jack.”)

Dave would like to thank Jordan D. White and Heather Antos at Marvel, the folks at Lucasfilm, and the decision makers at LOOT CRATE for having Dave paint the cover for this once-in-a-lifetime collectible.

For those of you wanting to hear Dave’s take on the new Force Awakens film, check out our son’s post-movie interview with Dave at https://youtube.com/the_surfmonkey early on the morning of December 18th, as we are attending the midnight showing.