My Macabre Musings (Or I Return to My Roots)

Maybe it started with the Raymond Chandler novel my aunt encouraged me to purchase at The Last Bookstore, or maybe it’s my mood about my dog’s cancer, but I recently abandoned my usual girlie reading material for more macabre fare.

(Translation: no more Emily Giffin for a minute.)

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I read the entire Chandler classic in the Mexico City Airport.

Now I’m reading two rather grim books, and I’m LOVING both of them.

(If you must know: The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo, and Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter are riveting. The former is non-fiction, the latter, fiction.)

Also?

The Last Bookstore is AMAZING, and you ABSOLUTELY have to go if you’re in LA. It’s like the only real culture we have here.

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Aptly named, it’s also basically THE Last Bookstore in LA.

Inspired by my dark books, I tweeted last weekend, “Given the state of my love life, I think it’s time to shelve my rom com ideas and write stories about serial killers instead.”

I gained a few new followers after the tweet, so maybe I’m on the right track.

I have been utterly unable to write ANY of the soapy/rom commy ideas I’ve outlined in the last six months. Every time I sit down to write, I feel hollow, empty, and devoid of inspiration.

Sure, I actually had feelings for the first person in FOUR YEARS this year, but that was a raging dumpster fire of a disaster, and while the fallout SHOULD have sent me into a writing frenzy, it has utterly failed to do so. I spent hours journaling, trying to mine my heart and brain for reasons, but I came up empty.

Why was I crazy about him and unable to put the experience into words?

What was different this time?

Other heartbreaks have inspired my best work.

I mean, I should have known better than to fall for him in the first place, but feelings aren’t logical and that’s why I find them so maddening.

I had a date last week, but I couldn’t bring myself to go on a second with the poor guy. My feelings on the practice of dating remain unchanged. (#ihateit) I’d rather just hang out casually and slowly decide if someone annoys me or not.

Sure, I can be sentimental, and I am a bit of a princess (or so my friend Tim says when he hands me my Sauvignon Blanc after work), but I’m not sure I’m suited for the traditional trappings of romance. It all feels forced, contrived, conventional, and more disgusting to me than a rotting corpse covered in maggots.

I spent my adolescence devouring Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Christopher Pike, and Peter Benchley. (I read Jaws in the fifth grade for crying out loud.)

My friend Mike was recently shocked to learn that I have never seen The Notebook. He’s known me HOW long, and he’s surprised by this?!? (In his defense, I guess I was equally surprised to learn he HAD seen it.)

I think maybe my perky, let’s-put-a-bow-on-it, party planing side throws even my closest friends, but COME ON…

Have you seen the art on my walls?!?

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My living room is a shrine to David Lynch.

(I am QUITE aware the prints are not hung symmetrically and it KILLS me.)

The stills are limited edition Richard Beymer originals from the set of Twin Peaks.

Also?

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Who hasn’t noticed my creepy bathroom art situation?

My sorority roommate’s mother let me pick out one of her prints at the Ann Arbor Art Fair back in the day, and I selected the most disturbing one she had.

It’s a vintage mannequin head, and it looks simultaneously serene and unsettling to me.

I love it.

So, anyway, I think maybe it’s time to write about murder because I’m just NOT feeling love at the moment.

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I Celebrate Shark Week (Or How to Make Shark Cupcakes)

Check out my shark week action.

It’s time to talk about sharks. Why? Because it’s Shark Week! And also ‘cuz I LOVE them. Like, you have no idea. For as long as I can remember, I wrote research papers about sharks. I mean, I wrote manifestos about conservation. When I was ten.

See, I saw Jaws 3 in 3-D before starting kindergarten and while some might say that was a serious error in parental judgment, I disagree.

The things that are wrong with me?

They weren’t caused by a rouge Carcharodon carcharias eating people at Sea World.

I promise.

So, anyway, Jaws 3 was a decisive moment in my childhood. Not because the movie was any good, mind you, but because it probably began my fascination with the Great White and sharks in general. As we settled into our seats with buckets of buttery popcorn, my 3-D glasses, slid off of my face. They did so repeatedly until my mom used my bobby pins to secure the glasses to the sides of my little head. Once we got that situation settled, I was riveted as severed legs floated toward my face and Louis Gossett, Jr. went running around Sea World shouting and shit.

It wasn’t just Jaws 3. It was everything Jaws. I read the Benchley book when I was 10. And I put the first two movies in a steady rotation during much of my childhood. I also devoured all of the information I could find on sharks.

When I was 16, I visited Washington, D.C. for a student government forum. I stood up and started grilling some political official (I can’t remember his title now — ocean something) about his stance on shark finning in front of about 200 people. (Everyone called me “Shark Girl” for the rest of the week. True story.)

And my dog? Apparently, he likes sharks too.

So, anyway, you get it. Sharks are my thing. And Shark Week speaks to my soul.

To celebrate this magical week and the majestic apex predator I adore, I made shark cupcakes.

I found inspiration in a few places. First of all, I got the idea to fill them with strawberry compote from this post on Cupcakes and Cashmere. The actual sharks themselves were inspired by Hello, Cupcake!. I didn’t exactly follow the directions because I didn’t want to buy fruit roll ups, miniature chocolate chips, or chocolate wafers, so I improvised a bit.

Here’s how I did it.

I put the Twinkies in the freezer for a while to make them easier to cut.

And for the fins? I opted for Trader Joe’s Maple Leaf Cookies. I sliced them like this.

Then I created a pointy end I could stick into the Twinkie shark for stability. Oh, and I also scraped the leaf pattern off of the other side of the cookie with my Shun Santoku knife.

I attached the Twinkie sharks to the cupcakes with some frosting. I sliced a small slit into the Twinkie and inserted the cookie fin.

Then I put the cupcakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Next, I heated up the gray frosting for a few seconds in the microwave (on the defrost setting) so that the frosting was runny enough to pour over the sharks. (Hello, Cupcake! recommends dipping the sharks, but I did not find that as effective as pouring the frosting over them with a spoon.)

If you end up with excess frosting on the cupcake, you can scrape it off after it freezes.

After I covered the sharks (and the fins) in frosting, I put them in the freezer until the frosting hardened.

After the frosting had hardened, I put on a little Frank Ocean and decorated those fabulous fish. Hello, Cupcake! recommends using fruit roll ups for the mouths and small chocolate chips for the eyes, but I didn’t feel like buying those things so I just improvised with frosting. It’s totally worth buying the book, though, because they have SO many amazing ideas. Plus it’s like $11 on Amazon. Total bargain.

After decorating the sharks, I put them in the fridge for a while so everything hardened properly.

Then I pretty much dove in head first. And devoured them.

I used Amy Sedaris’ recipe for the cupcakes, but I made my own cream cheese frosting. (I did use a butter cream for the gray frosting, though, because I wasn’t sure how well the cream cheese frosting would melt.)

Soon I’ll hook you up with the owl cupcake tutorial. Remember those? From the baby shower that didn’t happen because my birthday buddy decided to arrive early?

I made the cupcakes anyway… for fun.

But now? It’s time for my other love: NFL pre season football.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 9 (Or Here’s the Peter Pan Party Decoration Download)

It’s probably time to talk about the rest of the decorations at my party. Then I really will wrap this up. I promise.

I’m ready to move on from the boy who refused to grow up to Jaws anyway.

Tonight Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is airing a special called, “How Jaws Changed the World” and OBVIOUSLY I set my DVR for that. Plus I have the champagne to pop ready because I looooove Jaws.

And sharks.

They’re sort of my thing.

On Thursday I promise to write a post entitled, “How Jaws 3 in 3-D Changed My Life” complete with a shark cupcake tutorial, but until then…

Peter Pan and the decorations.

This is my quick watermelon carving of Hook’s Jolly Roger, complete with the menacing croc. I wish the windows were level, but alas… I was rushing.

I did a freehand sketch for the sign, and it’s a quote from J.M. Barrie’s novel. I wanted to include it just in case people didn’t understand why there was this weird crocodile lurking around Hook’s ship.

If you want to get yourself a cool croc, I found that guy on Amazon here. It’s not the cheapest croc online, but it’s the best looking, and let’s be honest: that matters. A lot.

This is my (bad) attempt at a papier mache version of Hangman’s Tree. Hangman’s Tree is a departure from J.M. Barrie’s original story (there were multiple entrances into the Lost Boys’ home under the ground).

It was easier to do one tree and explain it on my Neverland map than to get into the whole passage about how Peter fits boys for their own trees, so that’s why I went this route.

Here we have lipstick on the proverbial pig with pearls hanging from Hangman’s Tree.

The entire skeleton of the tree was made with painters’ tape and twisted newspaper. If I had it to do all over again, I’d probably use a few real twigs and maybe even a little chicken wire. For the final layer of the papier mache, I used paper towels. I found posts online saying that makes it easier to cover the piece with paint.

I was in a hurry so I turned on the oven to dry out the tree. It’s probably a fire hazard or whatever but I kept an eye on it and didn’t let the dogs investigate it with their faces.

In retrospect, I think white tissue paper would have been better because I could have achieved a look more like this:

Photo Courtesy of Ultimate Paper Mache

And what would be a Peter Pan party without a little Tink?

I hate Tinkerbell, but you can’t really leave her out of your Peter Pan Party.

She is a scheming bitch, but she’s essential to the story.

The lantern is this little ditty from Ikea. I made Tink out of pins and tissue paper from Target.

At one point I considered hanging the lantern from a ribbon in the yard and surrounding it with green and white suckers, but I decided to reign myself in a bit.

My menu was another freehand sketch, but you could easily trace the silhouette and keep it simple. (Simple is something I SO need to learn.)

Here’s the Peter Pan Party menu situation.

I promise I’ll write my full wrap up post, so we can really fly away from Neverland. Forever.

Not that I’m going to grow up or anything….