Friday, May 30, 2014

"I'm #^@!#$% Cooking!!!" with Allison

Hello all, I hope you are all doing more splendidly than the thought of a thousand Elvis impersonators reenacting the Battle of Philippi.

A quick reminder June 13th I will be at Hyde Park Books in Boise to sign your copies of "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus!"

Luckily the Demon had the Recipe
A couple of weeks ago I might have mentioned that I'm a good cook but kind of (or extremely) dangerous in the kitchen. I also indicated that my friends have commented multiple times that I should have my own cooking show titled "I'm #^@!#$% Cooking!!!" with Allison.

Since that post went live I've had multiple requests for a culinary demonstration. As to not disappoint, today I am providing you with one of my favorite absolutely and completely unhealthy recipes.

So don your aprons, send any children or sensitive/annoying relatives or friends to another room, pour yourself a glass of wine and follow along!
Cookie Dough Brownie Bombs

(AKA: Screw it! I'm wearing sweatpants today!)

You will need:

1. Cookie Dough

2. A box of fudge brownie mix (important that you buy FUDGE brownie mix, otherwise it all just goes to Heck).

3. Chocolate Bark - Pick your poison. I personally favor mixing dark and white chocolate together, but I won't tell you how to run your life. You will be dipping your creations into its sweet melty goodness, so make sure you buy it proportionally to your cookie dough.

4.  A large cookie sheet with tin foil covering it. Make yourself a hat too while you're at it, after all you don't need aliens getting all up in your business.

The Process:

Step 1: Buy cookie dough (or be all Martha Stewart and make your own) preferably chocolate chip cookie dough. Make small balls of cookie dough and place them on the cookie sheet that you have pre-covered in foil. If you forgot the tin-foil, now would be the moment before you actually follow the rest of these instructions to take care of that. Place the dough balls in the freezer to set up for 45 minutes to an hour. Eat a spoonful of cookie dough, because after all that work you deserve it.

Step 2: While you're waiting for the freezer to do it's magic sing "Let it Go" and proceed to use the instructions on the box to make your fudge brownies. Make them on the moist side rather than the dry side. In other words your arteries be damned, add a dash of extra oil to them. 

Let them cool otherwise the next step will result in a lot of choice words, a brand new dance move and the need to go to the store again for aloe lotion.

Step 3: Once your brownies have cooled cut them into large squares. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the brownies down as much as you can. That's it, let out all your week's frustrations ("Come on Steve! All you had to do was file one report!?!?!"). 

Step 4: Then remove the dough balls from the freezer and wrap them inside your flattened brownies. It's ok if the brownies crack a little, you should be able to kind of smooth them out so that they cover the cookie dough balls. Once you have done this, set everything back in the freezer. Pour yourself a celebratory glass of wine.

Step 5: Eat any cookie dough balls that managed not to get covered in brownie. Top off your glass of wine and pretend to care about something someone said on Facebook for about 15 minutes.

Step 6: Melt your chocolate bark in whatever way you find preferable (if you have never melted chocolate bark before, please Google it as it is actually really easy to burn). Take your cookie-dough brownie balls out of the freezer and dip and coat them in the chocolate. 

Then swear profusely and remember that melted things are often hot, and grab some tongs with which to dip your creations. Refrain from eating them immediately as well, they are still hot and it will not be as pleasant as one would think. Place the coated balls back on the tray and pop the tray back in the freezer.
Step 7: Pour yourself another glass of wine and watch an episode of that one T.V. show that you hate to admit you like to watch on Netflix. After about 30 or 40 minutes everything should have set and they should be ready for eating! 


Need more cooking tips? Come find me on FacebookTwitter (@AllisonHawn) and Goodreads

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mirror Mirror on the Wall...

Hello all! I hope you have all had positively magical weeks thus far! 

I do have just a couple of quick reminders before we dive into today's post. For all of you in the Boise area, I will be having a book signing on Friday, June 13th at Hyde Park Books!

Also, I just started a new mini-blog called Case (Un)Managed about life in the social work and helping professions fields that is being updated approximately every other day!

This week we are joined by David Meredith and his book "The Reflections of Queen Snow White."

David Meredith's "The Reflections of Queen Snow White" is an interesting and fresh take on a familiar story. 

Set years after the events that we all know from our childhood Disney retelling of the classic fairytale, readers find Snow White looking back and facing her life in a revealing way. Meredith portrays a much deeper character than the singing, frolicking, conversing with woodland creatures one that most people picture when Snow White's name is mentioned. 

The book takes readers on a tour of Snow White's past, exploring her relationships with the dwarves, her subjects and especially Prince Charming in a real and emotional way. I particularly appreciated that Meredith did not portray Snow White as a perfect princess, in his work she definitely has her human flaws.

I also found it interesting that the author painted Snow White's marriage to Prince Charming as an almost political move. While the story is still romantic, it does bring a different edge to it.

This dramatic account as Snow White looks deep into herself from the very mirror that was used by her enemy will keep readers turning pages. Fans of the mini-series "The Tenth Kingdom" and the T.V. show "Grimm" will love this book.

And here is what the author has to say for himself!

When did you start writing and what prompted that start? 

I guess I’ve always had a little bit of the writing bug. As far back as elementary school I was writing stories on notebook paper in pencil and binding them together with marker-decorated shirt boards. 
I wrote a lot of crappy fan-fic and horribly cliché poetry in middle school and high school and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to see any of that early work now, but those were important steps in developing as a writer. 

I guess the reason I have pursued it for so long though is that I’ve always felt like I had these stories bubble up inside my brain that needed to come out – things that would stay stuck in my head until I got them down onto paper. I think what finally convinced me to publish though was frustration. 
I had written several other novels before "The Reflections of Queen Snow White," but gotten nowhere with traditional publishing. I had gotten into this pattern of submitting my materials, waiting for months, and then getting yet another form rejection letter. When I did get feedback it was generally good. The few editors who took the time to write me a personalized response seemed to like my work, it just wasn't what they were looking for - didn't fit neatly into their predetermined slots. 

I decided to publish my work myself and take it directly to the public and so far, it has worked out well - "The Reflections of Queen Snow White" is closing in on 100 ratings on Goodreads and enjoys a 4.04 star average. 

Why did you choose Snow White as the focus for your book? 

On the one hand, I realize she might seem a little cliché at first glance - after all the Disney version of Snow White is iconic and there have been countless riffs and re-tellings. She is one of the first characters we think of when we hear the words "faerie tale princess". Who doesn't know Snow White? 

However, I felt like the intimate familiarity we all have with her really helps the reader connect to her older self. Much like an old friend I haven't seen in years, I sill care about her. Also, in reading the original Grimm faerie tale, there is a lot of really interesting darkness that I've tapped into for The Reflections of Queen Snow White. I think it helps elevate the level of drama and emotion in the story. 
You spent nearly a decade teaching English in Japan. Did you experience a sort of reverse-culture shock on your return to the United States? 

I Might Be The 8th Dwarf
 I did actually. In fact, the reverse culture shock was worse than the culture shock I experienced after I got to Japan. I think that might have been because I wasn't expecting the reverse culture shock, but there were lots of adjustments I had to make when I moved back to the US for good. 

For one thing, people struck me as being really loud and rude when I first returned, because I had gotten so used to the more reserved Japanese communication style. Also, I was amazed by the number of really large people I saw everywhere. Obesity is relatively rare in Japan. 

Probably the most difficult thing, though was that I had just gone through this amazing, life altering experience, gotten a more expansive view of the world and my place in it, and as a consequence really scrutinized and reevaluated many of the core beliefs and attitudes I had held before I left, but everyone who had been close to me - friends, family, old acquaintances - expected me to be exactly the same. 

I had moved forward and changed, but they had stayed the same. I still cared about them of course, but I had a lot of trouble relating to them like I had before. That was actually kind of sad and a little traumatic - some of those relationships never quite as close as they had once been. 

What was your favorite part of this book to write? 

In terms of what I found the most fun, I think it is the sequence when Charming is forced to mediate a truly stupid dispute between one of his nobles and one of Snow White's nobles. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that it works as a good break in the drama (a little comic relief), and was a lot of fun to write. 

In terms of what I think is the most impactful writing, I really like the funeral sequence. I think it vividly illuminates Snow White's mental state and is intensely relatable to anyone who has gone through a similar experience of loss and grief. 

Did you find yourself struggling to create a magic mirror with a personality? 

I don't think I struggled really, but I did give it some careful thought. The mirror in both the Disney version as well as the Grimm Faerie Tale is not developed very much as a character, but at the same time comes off as something sinister. I wanted the mirror to play a more proactive role in "The Reflections of Queen Snow White," but at the same time come off as less villainous. 

I suppose I view the mirror simply as a tool - a powerful tool, but still just a tool, the impact of which is determined by the intentions of the user. Just like a knife can be a good when you use it to cut up food for dinner, it can be an evil if you use it to stab someone to death, but the knife itself is really neither good nor evil. It's just a knife. 

In much the same way, I envisioned the mirror as being neutral and even a little sympathetic. After all, it was misused for years and secreted away by a narcissistic sociopath then abandoned in a storage room for decades more. In a way, you could argue that the mirror is just as abused as Snow White. 

I had a soundtrack playing in my head for much of this book. Was there any music in particular that inspired you? 

For this novel, nothing in particular, but I will admit to listening to a whole lot of movie sound tracks on Pandora as I wrote it. I think I tended to gravitate toward epic scores - for example the music of Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc. 

If you had to decide which of the fairytale step-mothers or adoptive mothers (of which there were a prolific amount) was the most evil, who would you choose?
Snow White's is pretty bad. After all, in the original Grimm story she not only tells the huntsman to bring Snow White's heart back in a box to prove that she is dead, but also directs him to bring back her lungs and liver so that the queen can have them cooked and served to her for dinner. 

I do make it clear that she is horribly abusive and self-absorbed, but I don't think I take Arglist quite that far in "The Reflections of Queen Snow White." Even though she is admittedly a horrible human being, I also try to help the reader understand her insecurities and motivations to better comprehend her obsession with Snow White. 

If you're interested in "The Reflections of Queen Snow White" it can be found on  Amazon.

As always, you can find me on FacebookTwitter (@AllisonHawn) and Goodreads

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Dangers of Cooking

Hello everyone! I hope your weeks were more fantastic than the thought of a thousand and one kittens mewing the tune to the Eagles' "Hotel California."

A very quick announcement: You will notice that there is a link titled "Case (Un)Managed" above this post. That is for a new mini-blog that I have recently started to help explain what social workers and those who work for non-profits go through on a daily basis (though regular, non-crazy people will probably find it funny too). Enjoy! 

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post!

So, I have something to admit; I love cooking. 

You Know That's Right
While I dislike most other activities that would qualify me as a domestic-diva, I can't resist the urge to wander into my kitchen, dig through the fridge and create something new. 

There is just something so stress relieving about all that chopping, boiling, beating... No, I've never been convicted for assault, why do you ask?

As much as I love cooking, cooking hasn't always loved me back. Our relationship is less of a love/hate relationship and more of a love/light-you-on-fire one.

Now don't get me wrong, I am a pretty spiffy cook. There isn't a soul on this planet who would contradict that. (This is might be due to the fact that I'm usually holding a kitchen knife when I ask people if they like my food.)

But I do have a... shall we say "energetic" presence when in the kitchen. That energy is occasionally expressed when I'm beating the side of a big pot with a wooden spoon while yelling, "Get back in there!" or when I'm furiously lecturing carrots on why they shouldn't attempt to roll off of my cutting board (they rarely listen, cheeky carrots).

Several of my friends, who have come over just to watch the fantastic spectacle that is me cooking, have mentioned that I really should just have my own show called, "I'm $#%@-ing Cooking, with Allison."

Now, the things that happen to me in the kitchen tend to border on the freak accident scale. I have turned baking brownies into a science project, cooking rice into a geyser and once even turned pancakes into a first rate fiasco. If you need proof check out "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus."

Probably one of the most memorable of these little adventures happened my first week living in Spokane.

I had just moved into a studio apartment, which means that I was suddenly living in the tallest postage stamp on the planet. My kitchen was what my friend Kari likes to call a "one-butt" kitchen.

It had no counter space. I often found myself chopping vegetables on top of my microwave which sat precariously on top of a garage-sale nightstand, mixing ingredients on my coffee table and occasionally using my blender on my writing desk.

It was a time of imagination, perseverance and finding out new and incredible ways to get cornbread batter out of a living-room rug.

One night I decided to make some stir fried rice noodles. Simple enough: You boil noodles, you drain noodles, you heat noodles while adding sauce and veggies. Boom, meal.

Except in this case it was boil noodles, drain noodles, forget which burner you just cooked noodles on, set your colander on that burner, melt plastic colander permanently to your stove. Boom, quandary.

I quickly figured out a way to get the noodles out of the colander (namely lift up the entire burner on my gas stove and dump the noodles out). Now I was stuck with two kitchen appliances that had simulated the formation of the band the Rolling Stones (still together after 53 years!).

I tried prying it off, but the colander just started breaking off in little chunks. I tried pulling it off with pliers and nearly gave myself a black eye. I tried reasoning with the colander to leave, but it didn't believe me when I told it that the burner didn't really love it.

Finally, and possibly out of flaming vengeance, I decided that if melting it had gotten it stuck on there, maybe melting would get it off. I fired up the burner.

My Life in GIF Form
I would like to point out that I was technically not wrong, the colander did come off the burner. The other half of the story is that the colander lit up like it had Satan's seal of approval creating a momentary fireball.

Flinging all of it into the sink was probably the most sound of mind thing I did that entire evening. What lessons did I learn?

1. Plastic and fire are foes, not friends.

2. Eating the noodles that almost caused you to light your apartment on fire is a bittersweet experience.

3. When it comes to kitchens, less is not more. More kitchen means less chances of lighting something on fire.

If you want to see what's cooking in the kitchen this week, come join me on Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Goodreads!

Also, don't forget if you happen to be in the Boise area on June 13, you should come join me at Hyde Park Books for a book signing for "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus!"

Friday, May 9, 2014

Torture Via Whitney Houston

Hello everyone! I hope you have all had splendid weeks!

This week I found myself at the mercy of one of the most baffling customer service experiences of my life.

Everything started out innocently enough. I went to buy groceries, as my alternative was once again eating a peanut butter and jelly tortilla. Only, when I went to pay for my groceries with my bank connected credit card, which is the only card I had on me at that moment, it didn't work.

No, I wasn't denied. The machine just refused to read my card at all. I might as well have been attempting to pay with a slice of swiss cheese, which was one of the things I wanted to buy with my nonworking card.

After apologetically digging out a check, amidst grumbling noises from the other people in line, and paying, I did what any rational person would do; I called my bank to order a replacement card.

Now keep in mind, having worked customer service jobs I know they are not easy. These jobs are an endless stream of frustrated people, oftentimes who are angry that you cannot magically solve a problem they probably caused. This is why I always try to be nice to people on customer service lines. Usually, this works for me. Some days, though...

I navigated the automated instructions and waited through several minutes of the same six bars of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" in a constant loop broken up by advertisements for services I did not need. Finally, a service representative joined me on the line.

I verified my name, address, birth date, last four numbers of my social security number and ultimately got my chance to say, "So, my card has stopped working..."

Before I could continue the representative, in her super perky voice, said, "Oh, let me send you over to fraud!"


It was too late. I found myself listening to more crackly Whitney Houston.

After a few minutes someone from the fraud department picked up. I verified all of my information again and the fraud representative looked over my account, "Miss Hawn, there doesn't seem to be any fraud on your account, and your card has no active balance. This must be a problem with your card, I'm going to send you back to member services."

"AND I WILL ALWAYS LO --- Did you know that you can pay your bills online? Our automatic bill-pay is really the bees knees! It's the greatest invention since Al Gore invented the internet! --- VE YOUUUUUUUU!"

When I was again connected with a customer service rep, I verified my information and said, "Fraud sent me back here because my card isn't working, and---"

"Oh, that's a question for our fraud department, I will connect you with them now!"

And round and round and "I will always love you" round we went.

So True
Representative number four asked me if I had accidentally swiped the wrong side of my card, or perhaps tried to swipe the narrow edge. Sighing I said, "I was born at night, it wasn't last night, though."

"This must be a job for the fraud people!"

By the time I verified my information with company representative number five, I was truly terrified that Whitney was going to always love me because I would never be free of the phone.

By person number six that picked up my call I had hit the customer service breaking point. At this juncture it was seven in the evening, I had been working all day and hadn't eaten anything since my peanut butter and jelly tortilla at lunch. I believe the adjective that aptly described my state of mind at that moment would have been "hangry" (so hungry that you're angry), which is perhaps how this happened:

"Hi this Bob! How can I help you!"

"Okay Bob, my name is Allison Hawn. I live at [insert address]. The last four digits of my social security number are [insert numbers]. You aren't supposed to ask a lady her age, so don't. I am 5'3" tall if I'm wearing tall shoes, blonde, am currently wearing a red bra because it's the only one I have clean, hate the slang word "totes," will admit to having used the same knife in both the peanut butter and the jelly today out of pure laziness and regularly change the oil in my truck. Am I verified yet, or shall I continue?"

There was dead silence on the other end of the phone for a full ten seconds before the customer service rep said, "I think I wish I lived in Spokane."

Suddenly realizing that his boss could very well be listening, Bob quickly switched to, "How can I help you today?"

I took a deep breath and said, "Alright, I am going to say words. Do not act on these words until I am done saying them. Do not transfer me. Do not make me listen to Whitney Houston on a loop. Do not assume that I am an idiot who does not know which side of the credit card makes the magic happen. I will let you know when I am done speaking and then you can have your turn. Are we clear?"

The representative on the other end of the phone let out a nervous chuckle, "Yes?"

"Alright. My card doesn't work. It isn't fraud. It isn't user error. The card is broken. I need a new card. I need a card that allows me to buy groceries without having to dig out my checks and pay for food like I am 82 years old. I am now done explaining and you may suggest further action now. Go."

There was a beat of silence before the guy on the other end of the phone asked, "How many representatives have you tried to tell this to?"

"More than I should have."

"Fair enough."

I now have a new card and I think I learned some important lessons while I was at it:

1. As Mick Jagger so nearly sang, "You can't always get what you want, but if you get hungry/angry enough to start talking like a crazy person into the phone, you might get what you need."

2. Apparently mentioning your bra color to the customer service representative on the phone speeds up the process. As this was my first time trying this tactic I have no scientific proof that it works, but as further experiments continue I will report my findings here.

3. Whitney Houston will always love you.

Don't forget I have a book signing for "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus" in Boise, Idaho at Hyde Park Books on June 13th!

As always, you can follow my constant adventures on Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Goodreads!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

At the Hop!

We interrupt your normal weekly schedule with this random post. Since I cannot make that emergency broadcast sound I have turned to 90's cartoons for a little help.

This week I was drafted into participating in a little blog-hop by fellow author (and Spokanite) Su Williams (whose books you really should check out). The point of this little shindig is to promote and support other authors. So for today's random mid-week post I have three authors to spotlight for you!

B.S. Johnson

B.S. (Barbie Sue) Johnson grew up in rural towns in Northern Georgia. She has an incredible love for animals, enjoys the outdoors, the water, and spending time with family.

Her works include a free e-Book available on Smashwords, "Being Kind In An Unkind World", several poems and short stories published in Literary Magazines, "Maters, Taters & Grits", which is a non-fiction, and a poetry book called "Rhymes From Darker Times", and a few others in the pipeline.

With hopes to one day have her own Animal Rescue facility, and possibly write a book about the endeavors involved with that, Ms. Johnson has just completed a Certification course in Animal Behavior/Canine Obedience.

Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin is a fantasy lover turned author, and he writes the stories he would love to read. 

Growing up as a third-culture kid gave him a broader insight into the world around him, an insight he tries to weave into his books. 

He debuted his first novel, "In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent," in 2014, and plans on writing many, many more.

Rebecca Scarberry 

Rebecca Scarberry was born and raised in Southern California. She has retired, and writes full-time. She lives on a very secluded farm in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas with her husband and five cats. She has devoted her time to writing fiction since 2009, and has self-published six books in four different genres. Writing for children is her passion.

The books she has published are: "Jumper," "Jumper Bounces Back," "Jumper Meets Bouncy," "Messages from Henry," "Rag Doll," and "Where Love Takes You." The script for one episode of her Jumper series of children’s books is now in the hands of her editor. Television producers are waiting!  

If you're looking for a new read, you might consider one of the above authors! 

A quick reminder, if you live in the Boise area I have a book signing on June 13th at Hyde Park Books

I now return you to your normal week's schedule. 

If you need further life interruptions don't forget to follow me on FacebookTwitter (@AllisonHawn) and Goodreads!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Excitement and Dinosaurs Squared!

Hello Ladies, Gentlemen and any Mayan gods that are currently feeling neglected by their followers! I have so much exuberantly exciting news for today that I am literally doing a butt-wiggle of happiness in my seat as I write this!

I actually have no idea which of these things I should start with, so I guess I will go in chronological order.

On June 13 (yes, Friday the 13th), I will be at Hyde Park Books in Boise, Idaho for a book signing! The event will be from 7 pm until... well, whenever you all stop arriving or disastrous meteor shower whichever comes first.

The address to the shop is:

1507 N. 13th St.
Boise, Idaho 83702

I would absolutely love to see you all there, chat and write fun things (and possibly draw what passes in my world as pictures) in your copies of "Life is a Circus Run by a Platypus."

If that wasn't enough excitement in one blog post for you, then I invite you to keep reading. This past week I signed the publishing contract on my second book "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor!"

Yes, you read that right, "Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor!"

I'm afraid I don't have any further details, not even a release date to give you all, yet. However, I promise that more and more news will be headed your way.

To stay up to date make sure you follow me here, Twitter (@AllisonHawn), Facebook and Goodreads!