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The best of times (Holiday Card Exchange 2016!)



Hello! How are you? Is that a new haircut? Damned you are looking good!

Somehow it’s fall. I’m not sure how that happened – the last several months have gone by incredibly quickly and now we’ve got a limited number of weekends before everything kind of shuts down for the winter.

Please indulge me in some whining for a moment: I’d really like to paint the front door.

Part of the hold up here is that I have no idea what kind of cool and quirky color will look good with our dark red brick house. Painting the front door will be at least a day’s worth of work, start to finish. Oh and hey, I never actually finished painting the laundry room – but I can finish the trim work when the snow starts flying, in theory. Before snow happens, however, my office is going to be dismantled because the skylights that the previous owner SWORE weren’t leaking? Guess what. They were leaking. So we’re getting them replaced, the trim fixed and with that, I have to paint my office – but by “I” I mean “I will pay someone” since I’m not really in the mood to fuck up the exposed brick, the 18 feet of French doors/windows on one wall and the entire wall of windows on the other wall, and the angled 20 foot ceiling. So again it comes down to picking a color – something that fills me with absolute anguish. It’s so permanent! Okay, I know it’s not really permanent, but let’s be realistic, painting is a PITA and I’ve never painted over something I painted in my entire life – once I pick it, it pretty much stays that way until we sell the house and the new buyers hate my color palette.

Complicating things: I got a job. I mean, I had a job before but now I no longer run my own business and have devoted myself to one company full time. That company is extremely fancy. I still work from home – because the office is in San Francisco – but I now work all the hours that ever were. To complicate things some more? I also agreed to teach one section of community college again this fall. Why? Because I’m stupid, that’s why. Okay, because I really like teaching, it turns out. It’s fun. Even with the plagiarists and the people who write like 7th graders yet are somehow in college and the people who are great except they never get their shit done in time and want exceptions to the rules. I especially like teaching in person, which they offered me this semester. I am probably going to have to make a decision about this, though, because I can’t maintain the kind of cadence required for grading – I spent probably 13 hours this weekend working through this week’s grading and I’m still only 2/3s done. That’s time I could have spent painting my front door (or at least sitting in the paint store whining about color choices).

Complicating things some more: Did you know that I’m an author? It’s true. In theory, it’s true. I have two novels, real actual novel drafts, that need second drafting. One is closer to the finish point, but there’s still miles to go before I sleep. I have friends who have completed full books – one, two or three books in some cases – during the time I’ve been sitting on my more-or-less-almost-there novel and my “I haven’t even looked at this” romcom treatment. And now I’m writing another one for NaNoWriMo — and I’m volunteering for them as well as Coldington’s been given its very own region, a thing I started bugging Sarah Janet about forever ago. File this under “Ways Wendy Is Her Own Worst Enemy.”

Maybe I just really love being up to my eyeballs in projects? Because clearly I need to sit down with myself and have a serious one to one chat.

Esteban frequently points out that I am afraid of something and that I keep filling my hours with things that matter less (like working 70 hours a week for my day job and then teaching community college kids that the period goes inside the quotation marks for quotes, for the love of god). Maybe he’s right. Or maybe working and teaching is just more fun than editing (this is true) or painting (so really fucking true).

Also, Weetacon 2016 is coming up! Okay, it’s not until March 4-6, 2016 but registration is open now! Right now! Check it out. I love Weetacon so damned much and every time I start to wonder about whether it’s worth all the volunteer time, I get feedback like this and remember that it actually changes lives. It is doing exactly the thing I try to do every damned day: Making the world a better place. So? Worth it.

Also! I am coordinating a holiday card exchange! Oh did you make it this far through the entry? This is your reward – the That’s My Bix! 2016 Holiday Card Exchange! If you want to join, sign up right here. Sign ups are ongoing until November 26th (Thanksgiving) at 12 noon CST because I plan to spend my morning on December 5th finishing my cards. Bwahahahaha, no I don’t, we have a holiday party that night and probably house guests too. Well, I’ll figure it all out.

Also, clearly I should blog more. In my minutes of free time, perhaps. This post has been in the works for about a month – pathetic. But at least it’s here now. Showing up — I’m finding that it’s 90% of the battle to doing everything that you want to do in half the time you’re allowed.


Dear Target,

No one “loves a good poncho.” There are exactly nine women on the planet that look good in a poncho — 7 of them are supermodels, one is a nine year old ice skating protege and one is Mimi from the Drew Carey show (and let me tell you, she looks FABULOUS).

The rest of us look like we are either like A) we fell getting out of bed and gave ourselves a concussion before attempting to get dressed in our duvet, B)Martha Stewart so happy to be out of prison that she’ll wear something she knitted to keep from going insane, or C) the misguided outlaw in a spaghetti western who gets shot by Clint Eastwood for stealing from the collection plate.

Stop trying to make ponchos happen. Ponchos will never happen.



Easiest and most delicious pumpkin cupcakes you’ll ever eat in your entire life

I get embarrassed by box mixes.

I was raised in a household that had a 500 square foot garden and basically lived off of The Moosewood Cookbook. We went an entire year without having white flour in our house — and we’re talking early 80’s wheat bread, people, not this kinder, gentler soft stuff that we have these days. We’re talking bread that you couldn’t eat without some kind of lubrication condiment like butter or jelly or ketchup, because otherwise it was quite possible that you’d be taken out by a well-meaning dry turkey sandwich on wheat. You could shingle houses with the toast made from that bread, or strap slices onto your feet to wear instead of shoes.

So no box mixes when I was a kid. And I always coveted them then, when I’d see totally perfectly normal families with moms making brownies out of their Pillsbury box mix on the television commercials. I swore things would be different.

And now that I’m an adult? We actually don’t cook with them very often, but I still fetishize them a bit. And let’s be real — box mixes are sometimes a facet of life. There’s no judgement here — if a box mix means that you have the chance to make a rice pilaf without spending more than six bucks buying a bunch of different rices you’ll never use up or maybe you can throw together that Shake N Bake that tastes exactly like your grandmother’s short cut Friday night chicken? Then yay for box mixes!

Yet my own personal hang-ups on box mixes are compelling me to preface this particular recipe with a big caveat: I know how to make a damned good cake from scratch. I’ve tried lots and lots of from scratch cakes, vanilla, chocolate, spice, and carrot. And with the exception of the one weird WWII chocolate cake that requires a strange reaction with vinegar to turn it into the moist and lovely tangy concoction, none of them — not a one– is better than the similar flavor available in a box mix. Not a one.

I’m not sure if cake mixes just have better stabilizers or were simply perfected by teams of food scientists while my recipes were maybe tried and true by a handful of cookbook writers and church ladies, or maybe the 70’s just trained me that cake love tastes exactly like the product of a Duncan Hines red box full of mysteriously pre-measured goodness.

What’s more — this cake recipe actually requires a SECOND convenience box — and it’s the secret ingredient. It’s the one that no one will guess but if you leave it out, blammo, these are no longer magic. The secret ingredient:  Instant butterscotch pudding. It sounds weird and yet, it’s perfection.

So, that being said, I actually tried to make this recipe from scratch once — with a pumpkin cake recipe that was very well regarded and a bit of butterscotch essence. And… underwhelming. So we stick with the tried and true formula.

I make this only once a year because they are controlled substances. It’s especially handy to use these magical pumpkin cupcakes as peace offerings, apologies, door openers or general karma earners because people will think you are some kind of culinary genius or something.

Usually I use regular canned pumpkin puree (which is actually any kind of winter squash puree, not what we think of as pumpkin, for real) but if you are diligent about putting up some sugar pumpkins from the farmer’s market, like Esteban did last year, you have a freezer full of 8 ounce baggies of roasted sugar pumpkin puree that you should probably use instead.

The original recipe is for a bundt cake and I tended to drizzle a vanilla glaze across the top so that it solidified, kind of like the glaze on a pumpkin crueller, but lately I’ve really been enjoying a classic cream cheese frosting. Sometimes I make it ginger cream cheese and garnish with some crystalized ginger (much to the surprise of my guests, who don’t expect that spicy BLAMMO when they bite into the ginger– I think they suspect it’s simply a gum drop… one way I prepare them for the evil deliciousness that is these cupcakes) but mostly I like to just throw some vanilla bean paste into the mixer while it’s whipping the cream cheese with the butter and powdered sugar. I also used cinnamon as the main flavor profile in a vanilla cupcake once and it was lovely and would likely work really well on pumpkin cupcakes too.

The recipe below makes just exactly enough for one dozen cream-cheese frosted cupcakes (and not an ounce more) so if you enjoy spooning entire ladles of frosting into your piehole (and if so, all hail, you clever person), make a double or a triple batch.



Pumpkin cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting


Super Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 1 package instant butterscotch pudding
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup water (you can also use carrot juice to amp up the flavor)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 t “pumpkin pie spice)*
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350. Using a mixer, beat the four eggs in a large bowl. Add the canned pumpkin and mix well, then add dry ingredients and water and oil. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds and then medium speed for at least two minutes, scraping the side of the bowl as needed.

Dish into muffin tins 2/3s of the way to the top and bake at 350 for 19-24 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Don’t overbake.

Let cool for at least ten minutes before inhaling because you can’t wait any longer because it smells like neverland in your kitchen. Wait at least 30 minutes before frosting with cream cheese or buttercream frosting, but a glaze can be done immediately.

*I don’t own “pumpkin pie spice” so I fake this with a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, ground cloves and a few hits of allspice. You can do that too and no one will notice, which is especially handy if you have food sensitivities to one of those things.



World’s Best Cream Cheese Frosting

The best part about this frosting is that if you are like me and already have butter sitting at room temperature in the butter dish on the counter, you don’t have to wait until the cream cheese softens — you can use it right out of the fridge.

This recipe originally was posted on Slashfood but then they removed it for some reason. Luckily I found the original on the WayBack Machine and here it is so that you don’t have to go through similar extremes (or in case they ever take it down). It’s modified by yours truly.

  • 8 ounces cold cream cheese
  • 5 ounces butter (regular/salted)
  • 1 Tsp good vanilla bean paste
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, SIFTED

Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla bean paste until pretty combined. While beating, add the sifted powdered sugar a spoonful at a time, letting each spoonful disappear completely before adding the next. When 3/4ths of the sugar has been added, start tasting for sweetness — it should not be overly sweet, but also shouldn’t taste like too much cream cheese.

I’ve found that 2 cups is pretty consistently perfect to go with the pumpkin cupcakes, but if you are making a sweeter base cake like chocolate or if you added carrot juice instead of water in this pumpkin cake recipe, you’ll definitely want to consider putting less sugar in the frosting.

Obviously, because this has cream cheese in it, it must be stored in the fridge and all resulting cakes should be stored in the fridge as well. Keeps for about 5 days under wraps.









Bix Beauty Blow By Blows five years later

Bix at 43

Five years and two days ago, I wrote about what I’m doing to keep the rosacea demon at bay. Five years and two days later, my skin is half a decade older, but in my humble opinion, looks no worse for the wear.

Here’s my current “Look at me! I’m 43!” rosacea beauty regime:


Ditching the wash cloth and towels – I only use my fingertips or those throw away face tissues to clean my face, and then a microfiber towel to pat it dry. Yup, no lie, my tests have proven that my rosacea gets worse when I even carefully pat with soft terry cloth, but of course, your mileage may vary. My towel is actually the same towel they recommend that girls with curly hair use to dry their hair. You can also just use an old cotton t-shirt to pat your face dry. Everyone’s got an old t-shirt lying around, right? Hack it up into a towel shape so that it doesn’t look like you’ve forgotten laundry in the bathroom and you’re ready to roll.

Micellar water: I still use this, but hold the phone! I’ve been using Caudalie cleansing water (which I wrote about in the last Bix Beauty Blow By Blow) but it’s Simple now makes micellar water at a fraction of the price! This is the entire reason I wrote this blog post! I haven’t actually tried this version yet, but as soon as my Caudalie is gone, I’m loading up with this bad boy. If you have shied away from Micellar water due to the price points, give it a try. It’s pretty eye-opening to use it on a clean face and see how much gunk ends up on your cotton ball after you swipe. This is what I use nightly before moisturizing on days when I didn’t wear makeup (which is most days).

Clarisonic with Sensitive Head: I can’t use this every day because my rosacea would seek revenge, but once a week, I hit it up Clarisonic style, particularly around my T-zone. Clarisonics are expensive and I only have one because they sent me one for free when they first came out (yup, I loved writing for a beauty blog seven years ago) so I wouldn’t run out and buy one of these – there are cheaper versions on the market now that do the same thing. I typically keep Philosophy Purity liquid cleanser around to use with this.

Trader Joe’s Organic Jojoba Oil and Vitamin E Oil: On days when I wear makeup or if I’ve been out in the winter elements, this is my nightly face wash. I use my fingertips only with this and a very lukewarm-to-cool splash to rinse. When I clean with oil, I don’t moisturize afterwards. Which brings me to…


Aveda All Sensitive Moisturizer: I’m still using this, even though five years ago I mentioned that I suspect I was mildly allergic to it. I think the itchiness I was getting was related to something else I was using or something in my diet, though, because I haven’t noticed any related itchiness in some time. Maybe I just powered through it and my skin gave up? This stuff is kind of spendy ($25) but it lasts a really REALLY long time. Five tiny pumps covers your whole face and your neck. I use this twice daily OR I use:

Simple Replenishing Rich Moisture: Simple has two kinds of face moisturizer – the stuff with sunscreen in it and this stuff. I use the one without the sunscreen in it, because I’m allergic to chemical sunscreen, plus I feel like the other one is oddly sticky for an hour after application, which I loathe. I switch out between this one and the Aveda. It’s slightly less moisturizing than the Aveda, so it’s good for summer or when you’ve got some pore clogging going on, plus it’s only ten bucks and goes on sale frequently at Target and Walgreens. Don’t be surprised if your gentleman caller steals this for his bathroom too.

Simple Soothing Eye Balm: Light, never clogs those little pores by your eyes (if you have tiny bumps by your eyes, whatever you’re using is clogging those tiny pores, so stop it) and it’s cheap as sin. It’s not quite as awesome as my gold standard eye cream, Kinerase Advanced Eye Cream, but it gets you almost there and at a 1/10th of the price? Almost there works for me. As far as I can tell, they don’t make this anymore, which is a TRAVESTY OF BEAUTY because it was awesome. The green Revitalizing Roll On is NOT THE SAME. You can still find it on eBay and Amazon. I like this stuff but now that it’s harder to find, I’ll probably rely more on:

Boots Expert Sensitive Hydrating Eye Cream: This is almost better than the Simple Soothing Eye Balm stuff but it does sting my eyes the tiniest bit (and other reviewers said it makes them feel like they’re going blind) while the Simple stuff doesn’t sting at all. However, the Boot’s stuff is also slightly more emollient than the Simple version, plus they still make it. Another cheapie, this one is usually around $7. Look for the one with the picture of the big brown eye on it – the other Boots stuff is more expensive and stings like hell if you rub some into your eye by accident. I alternate between these two and treat myself with:

Kinerase Advanced Eye Cream: This is so so so expensive but you know what? I don’t even care. I stretch it out by only buying one tube at a time and alternating between this and the cheaper stuff above. This is the gold standard in eye cream, almost on par with La Mer The Eye Concentrate (which is amazing, but holy shit, even I’m not going to spend $200 on eye cream) and the jaw-droppingly even-more-expensive AmorePacific Time Response Eye Renewal Creme. (Yes, looking at those prices does make me feel positively frugal for opting for the $50 Kinerase).


Aveda Outer Peace Cooling Masque: I still use this about once a month, sometimes more if I have a thing where I don’t want to go all red faced when I drink wine. Last time I wrote: Kind of a “fooled ya!” moment though when you remove the masque because the pressure of washing it off (you have to use a soft cloth, as it’s tenacious) makes you MORE red temporarily. Kind of a ridiculous green treatment like the Eucerin Redness stuff in the Loser pile but used probably twice a month in combination with the All Sensitive Moisturizer, I definitely had a reduction in redness the next day after application. Not advised for every day use but a must the morning of a party to reduce the wine flushes.” I now remove this with Yes To Cucumbers daily face wash wipes instead of the soft cloth and it’s still a bastard to remove.

Sunblock: Yes, daily. Even in winter. All the time. I can only use physical sunblock because of my allergies to chemical sunscreen benzones, so that means zinc oxide usually but the newest physical sunscreens now go on invisible and don’t do that chalky white thing that the old school zincs used to do. Here’s the thing: if you’re only relying on chemical sunscreens, you’re one step above the people who are going skin cancer commando but why go through all that effort if you’re not getting the job done completely? Scientific studies have proven that physical sunscreens are the way to go. Bare Minerals has a natural sunscreen element in its foundation, but it’s barely enough to get by for daily “walking from the car” or “sitting outside under a tree” exposure – I need a minimum of 30 SPF. Dermalogica has a super sensitiv 30 SPF sunscreen that is pricy, but it’s great. CeraVe has a broad spectrum zinc-based sunscreen with 50 SPF that I plan to try this summer in the pool, since it’s water resistant and way cheaper than Dermalogica. I also like Alba Botanicals Very Emollient Mineral Protection Sunscreen for kids. Of course, I also use a gigantic ridiculous hat, bug eyed sunglasses and long-sleeve surfer rash guards in the pool too. Investigating titanium full-body covering for the near future.

Tweezerman Skin Care Tool: In our house, it’s the “skin thing” and we have four of them because one time I took the sole skin thing with me to California, unaware that another resident of the Bix Proper was reliant on said skin thing and I received a phone call. A phone call that did not end well when I revealed that I had taken the skin thing on a vacation. Be warned: This is the one element of my skin care regime that my beloved Svetlana did NOT cosign — in fact, she was adamantly against it, but you know what? It makes my nose look better and helps the general state of my pores. If you’re careful and don’t go in there like you’re digging for treasure, you can gently apply pressure near your pores and out pops the sebum and clogged grossness. If you’re making a little loop mark on your skin? Ease off, baby, this isn’t a race. I should also mention that when Svetlana did extractions, she used two cotton swabs and said that it was the ONLY thing people with sensitive or aging skin should use. So there you go, forewarned. I personally think the cotton swabs hurt more and use more pressure, but again, I’ve got an extremely light touch with the skin thing and only ever use the small end.


Bix Final Word:

Looking back at that blog post five years ago, it’s interesting to see how much has changed and also, how little has changed. Sadly, my beloved Svetlana has moved back to Russia and I haven’t had my monthly facials in over two years, so it has fallen to me to keep up on the upkeep. We also now know that rosacea is caused by tiny dead skin spiders (I’m not making that up) so my unscientific tests about the relationship between diet and rosacea flare-ups actually may have some merit.

Here’s the thing, and it’s one of my biggest tips: if you’re in your late 30s or beyond, you have to change your routine. What worked for you when you were 34 just isn’t going to work for the long haul. If you could never use moisturizers before because it made you break out, maybe that was your 24-year-old skin, but your 39-year-old skin has a different story. It’s time to get serious because if you’re 40 or beyond, your skin is going to start losing its elasticity (aka wrinkles) its luminance (aka you look grey) and its tone (aka wrinkles).

And no matter who you are and what your skin story is like, you should be using eye cream twice a day without exception. I’m not kidding. Twice a day. I keep tubes of eye goop next to my bed, at my desk, in the bathroom, in my travel kit and in my purse. This is how serious this is. Your aging starts around the eyes. Head it off at the pass.

Make this your mantra: Eye goop every 12 hours. Try it for three weeks. When you realize that the past 42 applications of eye goop have de-aged you five years, you can tip your wide-brimmed sun hat to Ms Bix, who always has your back.







So cold

I’m sure everyone’s heard this by now, but the Midwest is going through one of those insane cold snaps. I haven’t been outside since Monday, when I only went outside because I had a meeting about 30 miles away and I couldn’t cancel due to wimpiness.

Garbage day was yesterday and our bins have been sitting at the base of the driveway since then because we’re both procrastinating the cold walk out to the street to haul two heavy and frigid trash bins up the driveway. It’s pathetic because every other neighbor on our street has managed to get their trash bins inside, and they all have the same long driveways that we do. Even more shame: I haven’t brushed my hair yet this morning because my brush is out in my car and I’m too much of a wimp to go outside and get it. Okay, I don’t actually have to go outside. The car is in the attached garage and it’s parked less than four feet from the door. But still, the garage isn’t really insulated so it’s cold as HELL out there (although it’s so long these days, it more or less always looks the same except for the bangs. But still. This is pathetic).

There’s a certain level of Midwest pride to carrying on despite ridiculous science fiction weather. One of my former employers hadn’t closed the Coldington office for snow for something like 45 years straight (and apparently the one closure happened when the office was under the command of a guy out of Florida). We don’t ever admit it to each other but yeah, this weather is fucking balls and we’d really all like to just snuggle in under wool blankets and wait until the temperature hits at least double digits again.IMG_2789

Despite the above, my bff Fern and I had a girly day together a few days before New Year’s, back when the weather was a much more reasonable 7 degrees. (I feel like you need some degrees to have weather. This negative degrees? That is stupid. It makes no sense. Release the degrees, I say!) During that time, we took not one but two quick walks along the water, one on the Bay side and one on the Lake Michigan sides of Door County. I wasn’t even wearing a proper coat, just a scarf, some fingerless gloves and a fairly thin Old Navy fleece sweatshirt. See above vis a vis not admitting to being cold. I was fueled by a belly full of Al Johnson’s Swedish meatballs, however, and people are prone to doing silly and frivolous things on such occasions. The photo below is Lake Michigan on that day, still open and gorgeous. Did you know the sand turns to concrete when it’s that cold outside? You do now.

Esteban and I have been cooking a lot out of our pantry because we’ve been finding a lot of expired things in there and clearly we need to be better about diving into the pantry and using up our stashes. Last night was a fake udon soup, using only fresh mushrooms and everything else was either from the pantry or the freezer. Felt like a hardcore win. Take that, Laura Ingalls Wilder! This morning I made oatmeal in the rice cooker (excuse me, “porridge” is what my rice cooker insists that it is) and it was pretty good, if not a little weirdly clumpy. Not in a bad way, just kind of like eating meatballs made of oats.

However, the oatmeal porridge this morning seems to have lulled my brain into a sense of sleepiness. I had a weird moment when communicating with a senior exec from the NFL, trying to lock down a date for a meeting at the end of January. “It’s a little busy around here that week,” he said.

For a second, I was so confused. Oh yeah, it’s not like I live in a football town with a team in the playoffs or anything.


Weetacon is coming up. Holy crap, you guys, we’ve been doing Weetacon for eleven years. ELEVEN. Weetacon is not only old enough to talk back but it’s old enough to start getting crushes. It’s old enough to want to stay up late and watch Game of Thrones. It’s old enough to make terrible attachments to really bad music that it insists on playing in the car whenever we go anywhere and no, I don’t want to listen to Izzy Azalea anymore!

(Speaking of Weetacon, we have a few spots left if you’ve always been Weeta-curious… this one is going to be good. Registration is still just $129 per person and hotel rooms are still only $89 per night which includes breakfast and wifi. With gas as cheap as it is, if you live anywhere near Green Bay, it’s a fun time for a pretty small investment, and if you don’t live anywhere near Green Bay, flying into Milwaukee and renting a car is very budget-friendly as well. Join us! Our theme this year is ROCK AND ROLL. I mean, come on, you know it’s going to be mind-blowingly awesome, right? Didn’t you make a resolution to do more fun things and have new adventures and make new friends? You can do all of those things at Weetacon! We make it easy!)

I’ve been hard core into my novelizing stuff this winter. I am bound and determined to get this stuff out to my agent before I lose momentum. As such, I’ve been remiss on short story submissions (although I do have a short story coming out soon about winter in Door County! Hey, look at that, we just came full circle) so I kicked my one remaining unpublished-and-publishable story out to a ton of lit journals last night. Welcome winter, now we can get down to business.

Yesterday, I turned down an amazing opportunity to be the editor in chief at a print magazine. They wouldn’t let me work from home… not ever, unless maybe there was a crazy snow storm or a zombie apocalypse or something massive. At first I was objecting to the commute and/or the inevitable move that would shorten that commute, but then I realized it wasn’t the drive. I just don’t want to work in an office. I didn’t want to lose all of the ways that my life has gotten better by working from home. I remembered that I actually voluntarily took a huge drop in salary when I left the corporate world to become a journo who worked from home… and it was totally worth it.

I have been trying to get my head around the fact that there was an amazing opportunity that was mine for the taking and instead I said, “You know, I think I want something better.” Or, in the word’s of Bridget Jones, “That’s not a good enough offer for me.” So instead I’m carrying on, cobbling together my career that is a patchwork quilt of media business, writing, teaching and doing everything but singing on a corner for dollars thrown into a hat.

It’s kind of amazing to be able to point to one moment in time and realize that it changed everything, but Esteban’s condition in 2013 really tweaked our heads in an interesting way. Two years ago, I would have jumped at that much money and power. Now? Eh. Instead, I keep thinking to myself “This is your time. Don’t blow it. This is it. Make it happen. This is all we get.”

And so we beat on.

Some of us with very messy hair and a hot bowl of porridge.


One way to enjoy pecan pie without the calories

Farmer's market selfie

If you ever want your house to smell delicious but don’t want the scent to be identifiable — the way bread or brownies would be instantly identifiable by aroma — bake a pecan pie. Pecan pies have basically all the sweet smells but the nuts throw you off.

That’s right. I’ll just leave “the nuts throw you off” as a gift to you.

(It’s this pie recipe, by the way… but I add a splash of bourbon too. Just a splash. I usually resent using PW recipes for some reason, and yet, they typically work — probably because the recipes are basically straight out of church cookbooks and are filled with love and butter. Which is as it should be during the holidays.)

Anyway, I have two pecan pies cooling in the kitchen right now and the house smells like family and happiness — or the kind of family happiness that Christmas TV specials would have you believe exists but that I’ve rarely ever personally experienced. The kind where you go back to some family compound straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie, the kind where there are numerous guest bedrooms piled high with plaid bedspreads and perfect soft lighting, the kind where there are fireplaces perfectly crackling all evening with seemingly no one attending to them, the kind where people arrive with giant gifts in hand, wearing not-matching-but-coordinated sweaters.

I’ve been radio silent because I’ve been teaching the young minds of the future, by the way! For real! Be very scared. Okay, most of them were not young minds — they were, for the most part, non-traditional students who have day jobs and are trying to get through their undergraduate degree on the side. Except I keep referring to them as “the kids” automatically, a throwback to when I was a TA at my own alma mater, where the sophomores generally were more excited about getting to drink legally in a few months, as opposed to the sophomores I teach now, who are mostly worried about their kids borrowing the car.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll probably have heard me complain mightily about the teaching gig — and let’s face it, the wages paid to professors are CRIMINALLY low considering how much money the students shell out to take that class — but coming out on the other side of the semester has changed my tune somewhat. It’s kind of fun to just talk about something you know so well — writing, in this case.  Unfortunately, there are some aspects of academia which are not quite as fun, but I think I’m going to give it another shot next semester. Unfortunately, only one of the two classes I taught this semester is offered next semester, but they did offer me a choice of two other classes to teach, so I’m probably going to take the one that looks like the most fun. Famous last words? Yeah, probably, but it hopefully will be much easier to grade those lessons than it is to basically copy edit 32 news articles while also EXPLAINING in nice professor terms why the sentence(s) syntax is balls.

Between finals (which just finished) and NaNoWriMo (which I’m one of four regional MLs for Wisconsin- Elsewhere), things have been pretty intense around Chalet Bix. Suddenly it’s the night before Thanksgiving? How did that happen!?

Which means one thing: Holiday Card Exchange!

I did announce this on Facebook already, but we’ll definitely be doing the That’s My Bix! Holiday Card Exchange this year!  Want to participate? Awesome. Read the FAQ and if you want in, add your info to this form.

I’ll send out the list of holiday card participants (notice that by “holiday card” that means whatever you want it to mean… we all have different beliefs and that’s pretty okay! The more diverse this exchange is, the happier I am, so if you like to send, oh, New Year’s cards, please don’t let that keep you from signing up… we love New Year’s cards!) by Friday, December 5th. That means that you need to get your name on that list by December 4th. Yeah, that’s not a lot of time, so go do it right now!

Got it? Awesome.

From that point, it’s up to you to address, affix stamps, seal and send those cards. Probably a good plan to get them sent by Jan 11th, but no one’s keeping track. This is for fun! It’s just a card and a stamp! Plus, we like real mail, yes we do.

The photo above was part of our “farmer’s market selfie” series that I insisted upon this summer. This was taken at the very last Coldington farmer’s market — it was raining and about 38 degrees, but we were stalwart in our task.

My pecan pies are cool enough to move, so I’m onto making pumpkin pies, with puree from sugar pumpkins we bought that day. Esteban went through the effort of roasting and pureeing those four sugar pumpkins, then freezing them for winter. It felt very Laura Ingalls Wilder at the time, but I’m glad he took the time to do it because now we’re going to have amaze-balls pumpkin pie for dessert tomorrow. Looking at that picture now, it’s hard to believe I took it only a month ago — it’s below freezing now and there’s already a few inches of snow on the ground, more like the photo below, which is more or less what my backyard looks like right now (the photo was actually taken last year because it’s too dark for me to take a photo right now but you get the idea.)

And I hope you’ll be glad you took the time to send a little bit of happiness out into the ether through the Holiday Card Exchange. You’ll reap back seasonal greetings to ensure that your holidays are a constant reminder that there are kind people in this world and that they want nothing more than for you to have a very wonderful day. What could be better than that?

The view from my office window today


Also, we need to talk about Serial. Can we talk about Serial for a second? Tell me your Serial theories in the comments.

What’s for dinner? Late summer cucumber salad

IMG_2053Summer slacker girl is in full swing.  I’ve been crazy busy with work stuff (and conversely, not very busy), but at the same time trying to really enjoy the summer. We eat totally differently in the summer — particularly in the late summer. We go to the farmer’s market a lot. We eat a lot of mushroom-based meals, because our mushroom vendor is amazing at the farmer’s market. Last month, Esteban decided that we really needed a Weber grill.

Personally, that’s the only kind of grill I ever had growing up, but his was a gas grill family, so gas grill we had for all of these years! And you know what? Charcoal grills are awesome. I’m glad that he deals with all the mucking about with the organic wood charcoal crap, though. Best of both worlds! He gets the fire stuff ready and then I come out with the various grillables, take over and then go back inside with the foods when it’s done, and then he takes care of everything else! Perfection.

And with grilling, you want something crispy and cool to go alongside whatever it is you’ve just grilled. I typically make this super delicious cucumber salad because it comes together in about five minutes and it keeps for several days covered in the fridge. It’s one of those things that just tastes good. Sure, it’s gluten free. Sure, it’s vegan. But you know what? It just tastes like summer. The toasted sesame oil gives it some body and tempers the rice wine vinegar — you need it.

You could use avocado oil if you’d prefer, but I really do think the magic of this salad is all in the sesame oil.

Just do it.


Insert summer here


Once a year, Esteban and his dad go camping with a bunch of our friends. Our male friends. I won’t even go into the reason why this is an all male weekend — well, I may if you and I ever find ourselves in a dark corner of a very loud club where I’d be happy to indulge your curiosity — but it makes them happy.

And that makes ME happy.

Esteban’s mom, June, and I have our own little weekend in their absence. We don’t “camp” per se– but we do a lot of swimming, eating and sitting around doing fuck all, so other than the lack of mosquitoes and chiggers, it’s EXACTLY like their weekend. Only we don’t rent a camper or drive four hours north to do it.


Sometimes our friends take that opportunity to visit and hang out with us, too, which is always extra awesome. So we drink all the wines, and also margaritas and sweet tea vodka mixers, and eat pretty much 10,000 calories a day.

It’s a good time, as you can imagine.

Also, we don’t discriminate by gender.


Zuzu’s condition, unfortunately, prevents us from doing any significant day tripping — Zuzu now requires a mid day dosing of her medication as well as the typical morning and before bed doses. I really don’t feel comfortable leaving her at boarding, where she could be having a seizure in some dog run without anyone realizing it.

So we hang close to home base, hit the farmer’s markets, go vintage furniture hunting and in general, do whatever whim strikes us at the moment. We decided the theme of the weekend was “follow your bliss”. I believe all of us managed to follow our bliss into a nap at some point during the weekend, so personally? That’s a damn fine weekend right there.

Did I mention the wine? Because there was wine.






(And sometimes when we had no more wine to drink, we drank Not Wine.)



As I’ve mentioned, it’s been over a year since I “ended my relationship” with my previous employer and hung out my own shingle. It’s still a bit of a mental transition to take vacation days. I don’t have to clear it with anyone, but I find myself declaring that I will be on vacation, but then still too worried about disappointing a client to actually stick to it. I managed to be “on vacation” without really impacting any of my clients, except for the ones that still owe me money for work I did months and months ago, so I don’t feel too bad about shutting off the firehose of awesome for a few days there. Still, it’s a weird feeling, knowing that emails were coming in and I don’t have any co-workers to pick up the slack and deal with it.

And so we beat on. Esteban had a fantastic time at his camping trip and came back smelly and with a million bags to unpack. Our friends went home. I have a ton of laundry to do, but other than that, we’re back to even keel. Until then, I have these awesome memories and images to remind me that sometimes quiet time is pretty damn important too.










What’s For Dinner – Ten Minute Rock Your World Asparagus



We’re headlong into asparagus season. A good life rule is that if you see really good looking asparagus, you should buy it. You know the stuff: where the stalks look perfect, not woody, and the buds are completely closed tight. With the advent of the Coldington farmer’s market, I’ve been scooping up a pound of asparagus every weekend.

I had intended to make a brie and asparagus omelet this week, but last night, Esteban made a fantastic mushroom risotto with king oyster mushrooms (which sliced into coins are very reminiscent of scallops) and it was imperative that we have a nice bright green asparagus pairing.

Since Esteban was occupied at the stove, in the ten minutes of risotto resting time, I could pull together my Go To asparagus recipe. Anyone who has ever eaten dinner at our house during asparagus season has probably eaten this dish, in one form or another, because it’s seriously the easiest thing in the world to make and everyone loves it, even the people who say they don’t like asparagus. This recipe has several delicious iterations that can please vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers alike.

I got this technique from a former coworker who is one of the healthiest eaters I know and the only person to ever visit a nutritionist who replied “Yep, you’re eating better than I do.” As it stands, it’s a vegan recipe. Of course, it tastes even better the less healthy you make it. The addition of the chevre option came from (I think) Tom Collichio but it might have been Nigella Lawson, and the addition of the bacon was inspired by another dish I had somewhere that featured big time chevre, bacon and artichokes.

You can make this in about ten minutes but it only takes that long because it takes five minutes for the broiler to heat up.


Rock Your World Asparagus


  • Asparagus (1 lb or so should do it)
  • Olive oil mister/sprayer or 1 T olive oil
  • Salt/Pepper to taste or spice mixture of your choosing
  • Optional: Juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • Optional: 1/4 cup crumbled Chevre goat cheese
  • Optional: 1/4 cup crisped bacon

AsparagusStep one: Preheat oven broiler to 500 degrees or “HIGH”. Wash asparagus and bend off the woody stems at the snapping point.


Step Two: Lay the stalks into a single layer with the thicker ends pointing out and the tender bud ends in the middle. This seems a little fussy, but it ensures that the stalks will cook evenly and you won’t overcook the tips. These little asparagus are going to be blasted under the broiler and burning can happen so fast that you really want to give them some attention before you stick them in there. This is the most annoying part of the recipe but the side benefit is that it allows you to scoop them off the pan and have them all facing the right direction on the serving platter later, which is uber impressive.


Step Three: Spritz asparagus spears with olive oil mister, or if you don’t have an olive oil mister, drizzle olive oil over the asparagus evenly. (You could also throw them into a bowl and toss with the olive oil, but that’s just another dirty dish and honestly, the olive oil is mostly to get the seasoning to stick to the asparagus and crisp up under the broiler so it’s okay to be a little slapdash about it.) Then sprinkle with your seasoning of choice.

A note about seasonings: You can really get away with anything here. I’ve done it with just salt and pepper with a little shallot salt. I’ve also done it with that crappy lemon pepper that you see for 99 cents at the grocery store or Mrs. Dash. My favorite scenario for this is something called Florida Seasoned Pepper from Penzey’s or The Spice House. It’s a salt-free seasoning that you’d swear has salt in it. It’s got a touch of garlic and onion powders in it, plus the expected peppers and citrus. It’s really killer on this recipe (and strangely enough, delicious on popcorn).



Step Four: Throw pan under broiler and DON’T WALK AWAY. It’s going to cook much faster than you realize. After about a minute, the stalks will start to turn bright green. Remove from the oven when you start to see darkening spots on the asparagus, which should be between three and four minutes. It will look like this:


See the darkening bits? See how the oil is just starting to sear the stalks with a little crispiness? That’s what you’re looking for. (BTW it was REALLY hard to take this picture because the pan was fresh out of the oven and my lens kept steaming up. )

Step Five: Plate and serve. By using tongs, you can grab one half of the dish, plate it, and then grab the other side, and plate it in the same direction as the other side, so that it looks pretty on the plate.

Asparagus and mushroom rissotto

OPTIONAL: Toss with the juice of half a freshly-squeezed lemon. I debated marking this as optional, because we pretty much do this every time. If you have the lemon available, trust me, just hit it up. (STILL VEGAN FRIENDLY)

OPTIONAL: Toss with 1/2 cup of crumbled chevre. The chevre will instantly melt and bond with the spices and lemon juice to make this amazing sauce. By doing this, you also create a future leftover asparagus salad that’s fantastic cold the next day. (VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY)

OPTIONAL: With the above, add crumbled cooked bacon. Suddenly even avowed vegetable haters will nom nom this dish because bacon. (BACON FRIENDLY)

Let me know what you think!




What’s For Dinner? KFC Crock Pot Chicken

Bix Brunch

After six months of subsisting on Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, once Esteban could finally eat regular food, he took a lot of delight in trying new recipes. He basically cooked All The Things over the last six months. Some of these things were super winners — his beef stew is one of my favorite dishes, but it’s so hard to pick, since his taco short ribs are TO DIE FOR. Some of them (*cough… tavi kosi *cough) never need to be attempted again.

Strangely enough, when you are trying lots of new recipes, you’re less inclined to want to go out to eat. That’s a side benefit, because with my irregular income and the double mortgage thing, I feel better with a little cushion in our bank account.

It’s not like I really understood that we were in a recipe rut before his surgeries and hospital stay, but we certainly had nights where the idea of another bowl of chili was pretty damned uninspiring.

Plus, sometimes I’d make something and it would be delicious, but then two weeks would pass and it would kind of fall out of our memory. But when Esteban started experimenting, he approached it like a true experiment and took notes. Lots of notes. He then encouraged me to start noting all of the recipes that live in my yed.

One of those is KFC Crock Pot chicken. Inspired by Stephanie O’Dea’s recipe, I have been dutifully noting and tweaking the ingredients until I’ve come up with something that might even be a match for Thomas Keller’s Per Se fried chicken — only healthy-ish.

Plus, you cook it in a Crock Pot, so it doesn’t heat your entire kitchen up. The only downside is that it cooks pretty fast (at least in our Crock Pot) so you can’t start this one before you go to work in the morning because it will be annihilated by the time you get through rush hour traffic.

I like to serve this with instant mashed potatoes and corn on the cob to complete the fake KFC experience.



(Makes enough for 6 chickens, or 3 chickens in brine)

2 T paprika

2 T garlic powder

1 T kosher salt

2 T onion powder

2 T sugar

1 T ground thyme

1 T dried oregano

1 T ground sage

1 T ground black pepper

½ T ground ginger

½ T  dried marjoram

½ T  celery salt

½ T  ground cardamom


Brine (Optional)

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup kosher salt

6 cups water

1/4 cup of KFC CRACK SPICE

One 5 lb chicken, whole.

Use a 6-quart slow cooker.

Brine the chicken (optional):  Place the chicken, breast side down, into a large ziploc bag (gallon size). Place the bag into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix brine ingredients together until the dry ingredients are dissolved, then pour over chicken. Refrigerate in brine for at least two hours, up to 24 hours. When ready to cook, remove chicken from brine and discard the brine.

Place the chicken into the Crock Pot, breast-side down. Rub 1/4 cup of the KFC CRACK SPICE stuff evenly all over the bird, inside and out. Don’t add any liquid. I know that you’re worried, but trust your bird. It will be fine. Cover, and cook on high for 2 to 2.5 hours or on low for 5 to 6 hours or until a temperature probe in the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees. Hotter than 180 will mean the breast meat will be dry and starting to get mealy.

The pan drippings are very flavorful and make a fantastic pan sauce. You can also throw it into your pot of boiling water if you’re making accompanying pasta.

A note on the spice mixture: I consider our spice cupboard to be pretty damned impressive and even we didn’t have everything we needed to compile this mixture. I doled it out the first few times but then I decided that we’d certainly make this again and again, so it just made sense to throw together a big batch and keep it in a sealed Mason jar. If you have to buy the spices for this anyway, trust me. You won’t waste the spices and you’re going to end up making a huge batch to keep around anyway, so just do it right away and save yourself the trouble down the road.

A note on the chicken: I’ve done this before with a chicken cut in half and that worked great. I also did it once with a quartered chicken and it was really difficult to position the pieces so that the dark meat was on the top, and also, it ended up overcooking the breast meat to a pretty high degree that way. So if you only have quartered chicken pieces, definitely keep an eye on that temperature probe because it has a tendency to overcook.

That’s it! Let me know if you try it and also, let me know if you like seeing recipes on this page. We have a lot of them to share, but I don’t want to be All Recipes, All The Time girl.






Wild. Life.



We fired our realtor this week.

Nine months with no real action on our house and it was time to let someone else have a chance. I get that we listed late in the year because of the realities of Esteban’s illness and that we then experienced the worst winter the Midwest has had in decades, but it’s been warm for awhile and still, nothing. Life would be a whole lot better for us financially if we could a) only pay for one mortgage instead of two; b) no longer pay to heat and cool an empty house; and c) free up all of that equity cash to, say, replace the leaking skylights in my office or paint, my god, paint every surface in this place.

IMG_0215Sometimes I miss Casa Bix. The photo above was our kitchen. This was my office, with the brand new sustainable cherry flooring that I  paid for with freelance money. I love my new office but I really really loved my old office. It’s cute, though, right? You’d think we wouldn’t have a problem selling it, right?

(Maybe it would be easier if, say, the realtor mentioned ANY of the great stuff in the ad, instead of using the word “updated” six times in the span of 50 words. Seriously, that’s a weasel word, right? When you hear “updated kitchen” on a 60 year old house, do you think “Oh, so they put in new cabinets in the 70’s and they’re horrible” or do you think “They put in new granite countertops and an undermount sink last year”? The first one, right? Words. This is why words are our friends.)

We met with a new realtor this week. She had an interesting spin on how to strategize and market the property. She’ll have her plan of attack next week, so at that point, hopefully there will be some forward movement on Casa Bix and we can put all of our energy toward maintaining and improving the Bix Chalet.

In other news, we now have baby bunnies living in our front bed. They decimated the heirloom lettuce I had planted in containers on the front porch. They’re lucky they’re so damned cute. They’re also lucky that I had already decided that the lettuce plants couldn’t possibly keep up with my summer lettuce demands, so I’d end up buying lettuce at the farmer’s market anyway.

They’ll also probably be unlucky soon. When we moved in last summer, we were surprised to not see any rabbits around the house. We had every other form of wildlife but no squirrels. Then we heard the owls. We have one owl living in a dead tree in our backyard (probably a barn owl) and another one living in the neighbor’s yard (probably a great horned owl). I’m trying not to get too attached to adorable tiny rabbits.

Also, a deer went into labor about 30 feet off our deck which was crazy. I think it was the mom of the twin fawns from last summer. I spotted the twins without their mom for the first time last week, so I suspect she gives them the boot when they’re about to be replaced. I’m hoping to share lots of baby deer photos in the coming months, because our yard is pretty much the mom’s favorite place in the world. Mostly because she’s slowly consuming the entire 50-foot circumference currant bush, limb by limb. Mmm... delicious currant bush. Fuck this hay shit.

Also, I haven’t seen or heard any turkeys in the last two weeks. I suspect that it’s brooding season for them. The cuteness that is baby turkeys will probably make my head explode.

Also, we have at least one toad living in one of the gardens. It seems contrary, but I super love toads. When I was a kid, they were the only pet I was allowed (aka I didn’t ask permission and just found toads, stowed them in containers for a day and then set them free after a long story about their new mission statement, which was to stay in school and live a good life). I would like to put a toad house in that garden bed, but Esteban has vetoed, as he is chief lawn mower, and doesn’t want to paint the lawn in toad guts. I believe toads are smarter than that, honestly, and lawn mowers aren’t exactly quiet. But then again, I managed to catch an awful lot of them as a five-year-old, so that doesn’t say a lot about the toad sense of self-preservation.




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