Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Author:
Hard at work catching a murderer.

Hard at work catching a murderer.

I had the pleasure of helping to throw a baby shower for my best friend over the weekend. She’s pregnant with her first child and, seeing as I’ve known and loved her for over half my life, I knew I needed to throw her a truly special shower.

The first thing I knew I had to do was…Not cook. Ha! Seriously, though, my friend is a first-class baker and cook and there was no way I was going to be up to her caliber. I asked her and her mother (who is also an accomplished cook) to handle the menu and food.

The second thing I did was delegate the decorating to my friend’s sister in law because, again, decorating isn’t exactly my strong suit. I can do it, but neither well or with aplomb.

So, after that, there was nothing for me to do except handle baby shower entertainment. I knew we had to step things up in that arena because my friend is an exceptionally entertaining person. She’s irreverent, hilarious, candid, and unscripted and, as such, canned baby shower games simply would not do.

No, she needed something special. Something I could do well. Something like…A murder mystery game!

It was terribly interesting learning about how to write those. I had a lot of fun and ended up with a lighthearted caper that somehow managed to contain no less than five inside jokes for my friend and a solution that included light cannibalism (which is perfect for my friend {who loves the Hannibal Lecter books [don’t worry, the victim was The Stork]}).

What was most nerve-wracking for me, though, was having a live audience reading something I wrote. I could see their reactions firsthand and, I gotta tell you, it was so strange! I’m used to people buying my books, reading them on their own, and then telling me later what they think. A live audience was both exhilarating and discomfiting.

Everyone seemed to have a splendid time, though, and I received a great many sincere compliments afterward, so I’ll count it a success. My friend was showered with love and gifts, the food was awesome, and I found out that nothing bonds strangers faster than solving a fictional murder together.

In other news, Wes and I are off to Las Vegas for a few days to celebrate our ninth anniversary. See you later, alligators!

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Monday, December 15th, 2014 | Author:

christmas_stress_shoppingJust in case there are some of you out there among my blog readers who don’t have kids, or else have kids who haven’t been born yet or are still in that wonderful stage where they’re basically just Tamagotchis you have to feed every time they make noise, allow me to paint you a picture of the peculiar joy that is…Christmas shopping when you have kids.

So let’s say you have kids, and they’ve been good enough this year to have earned some toys under the tree for Christmas. Hooray! Now all you have to do is find those toys, hide them, and then wrap them without your kids knowing about it. Pretty easy, right?

Well, you can go one of two routes here. You can order gifts online and have them shipped to you, or you can buy them in a store. Let’s talk pros and cons for each.

If you go the store route, you get to try out and hold the toy before you buy it. Definite pro. Unfortunately, you either have to go shopping in the store while your kids are somewhere else or bring them with you. Definite con, because you’re either using your precious alone time to battle for a parking spot and fondle a bunch of Elmo toys in search of the perfect one, or you’re taking your life and sanity in your hands by bringing your kids to a store where they not only do not get to touch all the toys they see, but they have to see you buy them and then disappear them once they get home. If you want to give a four year old a rage stroke, that’s a pretty good way to do it.

If you choose to do your shopping online, you get to skip the crowds, lines, and parking lot massacre. Pro! But you have the challenge of trying to assess toy size, quality, durability, and function using nothing but a screen and some product pictures that are specifically designed to mislead you into thinking the toy is awesomer than it actually is. Con. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered a toy for my kids online and had it arrive looking either smaller, cheaper, or less useful than it looked online.

Of course, you could go shopping in person and then order online, but that’s really just compounding the shopping experience, isn’t it?

I wish I had some advice for you, but I really don’t. Whichever way you do it, you’re going to have a lot to do, but it’ll be worth it when Christmas morning is done and the presents have been opened and your kids are blissfully content and quiet while they figure out their new toys. At least, that’s the hope.

And if not? Well, you probably have enough wrapping paper and tape left over to make a perfunctory straitjacket for them so you can sip your coffee in peace. Merry Christmas, everyone. May your kids be well-behaved, endearing little moppets who love everything you get them and show you by showering you with hugs and smiles, or, at the very least, some well-earned peace and quiet.

Monday, December 08th, 2014 | Author:

For those of you who don’t know my husband, here’s what you need to know about him to understand this post:

  • He’s very tall. I’m tall for a woman, and he’s about five inches taller than I am.
  • He’s smart as a whip, but he’s quiet about it. He’s not the flashy smart person in the room, he’s the quietly brilliant smart person who’s having an entirely different conversation in his head that’s somehow tangential to the one that’s happening in the real world. Regardless, he’s still able to keep one ear on the conversation at hand so he can interject a funny movie quote at precisely the right moment.
  • He’s talented. At just about everything. Guitar, software, people, cooking, driving, fatherhood, growing facial hair, he’s adept at it all. He was also great at helping me through having two babies, though I doubt that skill would be helpful to any of you unless you’re nine months pregnant and get trapped on an elevator with him and then go into labor. That’s super unlikely, though.

I could talk about Wes for hours, but the last bullet point is the most germane to the subject of this post, which is that I beat Wes at something. This is pretty big deal for me, and I’ll tell you why.

Yep, you guessed it. He's even a better shot than me.

Yep, you guessed it. He’s even a better shot than me.

Wes can be counted on to learn quickly. Even if he isn’t initially good at something, he figures it out pretty quick. Take cribbage, for example. I’ve been playing cribbage since I was in elementary school. I love it. I taught Wes to play it back in 2012 and at first I was able to beat him with no problem at all.

Ten games or so spaced out over the course of two years later and I’ve got myself a serious competitor who makes it a lot harder to win. He even beat me in a nailbiter game last week. Dang it.

Bowling is another good example. I may beat him the first game, but by the time we’re three games in he’s winning handsomely and my thumb hurts too much to keep going. Double dang it.

Okay, now that you’re familiar with the territory, here’s what happened Friday night. We were playing with our kids when I decided to do a time trial assembling a toy plane. This plane is one of our son’s toys and it breaks down into various nuts, bolts, and pieces and it’s a lot of fun to break it down and reassemble it.

I challenged Wes and then we did timed trials to see who was fastest. The first round, Wes beat me by thirty seconds. Abysmal, right?

Second round, though? The second round was after the kids went to bed and I’d had a generous glass of wine. We put on “Eye of the Tiger” and threw down. Wes went first and beat his first round time. I went next and beat his best time by fifteen whole seconds.

It was amazing. I was in this zone where I felt this kind of superhuman focus take over and before I knew it, BAM! VICTORY!

It just goes to show you, give a stay at home mother some wine and a kick ass song and she can do just about anything.

Wednesday, December 03rd, 2014 | Author:

Welcome back, my post-feast friends! I hope your Thanksgiving was full of good food, fun times, and warm pie and/or cake, if you’re into that sort of thing. As for me and my house, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I baked three dozen rolls, I battled my daughter for the last of my sister-in-law’s Jello/cream cheese confection, and watched the Seahawks spank the 49ers. What could be better?

Now that we’re square in December and Christmas decorations are up everywhere and 2015 is less than a month away, I can’t help but sit back and reflect on…

Edits. Edits as far as the eye can see!

Edits. Edits as far as the eye can see!

OH MY GOSH EDITS AND REVISIONS.

Ha! Weird transition, right? Sorry, I have to find some way to spice up the perpetual one-track content train my blog has been lately. How tired are you of reading about deadlines and revisions? Probably about half as tired as I am living with them. And yet? There’s no choice for me but to be glad to have them, because the alternative would be not to have them because no one cares about my writing and that? That would be sad.

Even still, I’m boring. Edit, revise, edit, revise, dream of the day I’ll be caught up on sleep, exercise, housework, and writing. Take my word for it, though: when Bai Tide comes out, it’s going to be AWESOME. This is the best book I’ve ever written. It’ll definitely give you at least, oh, I don’t know, five hours of quality entertainment, give or take a few hours depending on how fast you read.

In other news, Wes and I are scheduled to leave for Las Vegas in less than two weeks, I’m helping throw a baby shower for my best friend in eleven days, and Christmas is in twenty two days. But other than that, life is so mellow! Ha!

Welcome to the holiday season, everyone. Spike the egg nog and raid your chocolate stashes, winter ain’t coming. It’s here. And it’s BUSY.

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Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 | Author:

Usually, we’re a two Thanksgiving dinner family. We host a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house for my side of the family, and then have dinner with Wes’s family on Thanksgiving day. We’ve always been quite fortunate that my family is not particular when it comes to which exact date we get together to feast. So long as I save my mom a turkey leg and my step dad brings sweet potato pie, we all get along just fine regardless of what day of the week it is.

This year, however, my mom and step dad are on an RV trip until next May so no pre-Thanksgiving feast for us this year. That means I have a curious excess of holiday energy prior to the big day. Normally, I’m so tired from grocery shopping, meal planning, house cleaning, cooking, baking, hosting, cleaning dishes, and cleaning the house again I have very little to put into Thanksgiving day proper. Not a big deal, usually, because my mother in law cooks most everything and I just have to show up and wash dishes. Easy peasy.

So here we are, the day before Thanksgiving 2014 and I’m not sick of my kitchen yet. So what do I do? Bake a pie from scratch for absolutely no reason at all. Pumpkin pie, in case you’re curious. Why for no reason? Well, my mother in law, the inarguable Queen of Perfect Pies, is baking a pumpkin pie for dessert tomorrow. My pie is GUARANTEED to be less delicious than hers, and yet? I felt like baking pie while I baked rolls today so I threw a pie together for no reason.

But then, because no Erika Tries to Cook story would be complete without some kind of failure, this happened:

The last ingredient, by the way? Was sour cream. The pie crust turned out okay in texture, I think, but was extra sticky and difficult to wrestle into the pie tin. And who knows how it’ll taste? But, you know, the pie looks like a pie and I’m sure it’ll taste like a pie. Maybe just a sort of Russian-y hybrid pie because of all the extra sour cream.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Here’s wishing you hot food, sober relatives, and non-weird pie!