Friday, June 24, 2016

Growing Up Ginger

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook a link to this article

and it simultaneously made me really happy, and really weepy and introspective.

It made me happy because, while I can not and will not even attempt to speak from the perspective of the target audience for this particular set of books, I can absolutely relate to being a young girl wanting to feel good about what grows out of her head, and any source of inspiration and positivity for young girls on that front is going to make me happy.

And it made me weepy and introspective because it reminded me how sorely lacking those sources of inspiration and positivity were when I was a young girl wanting to feel good about the mass of frizzy curly carrot-colored insanity that grew out of my head.

It looked like this

during a time when pop culture references for redheads were things like


A doll found when she was little more than a pile of scraps after having rotted in an attic for so long.  She was patched up and given eyes, but would forever remain raggedy.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: Even at your best, you will never be quite as good as everyone else.


A girl whose father thinks leaving her alone on land is a better option than taking her to sea with him, even though she loves being at sea with him.  The good (blond) kids next door like her because she’s weird, and liking her is an act of rebellion that drives their parents crazy.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: You’re weird, and people will only want to be around you if your weirdness is entertaining or useful.


aka The Little Red-Haired Girl from Peanuts, Charlie Brown’s true love.  She was never shown in the comic strip.  She was never shown in any of the animated programs.  She was never shown at any time, anywhere, at all.  She was referred to in passing, with longing, heard about but never revealed.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: Maybe there might possibly be beautiful red-haired girls in the world, but even if there are, no one will never see them.

And my personal favorite...


Resident of the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  She lived there along with a train that had square wheels, a bird that couldn’t fly, a boat that couldn’t float, etc.  Unlike the other characters on the island, whose traits outside the norm were presented clearly and obviously, nobody ever said what made Dolly a misfit.  But there were those of us who were pretty sure we knew.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: It doesn’t matter how cute anyone says you are, as long as your hair is red you’re still not as you should be.

By the time red hair became cool, fashionable, desirable, the damage was already done.  And it took me a really fucking long time to undo it.  I was well into my thirties before my false ginger bravado became a genuine fondness for what I can now see had been a blessing all along.

Which is why I get weepy and introspective at the thought of any little girl feeling like her hair is anything other than right, anything other than good, anything other than what it should be.

Which is why I get happy when I see books written specifically to convey that message.  Because every little girl should know she’s beautiful just the way she is.

Friday, June 17, 2016

How I Became a Doctor in 23 Seconds

A few months back, I was setting up a new iPad, and had to create an account in order to complete the setup.  They didn’t ask for terribly much information, but they did ask for one piece of information that I was not able to provide.

They asked for my “title”.  It was a required field, my choices were


and it would not let me continue setting up the account until I had selected one of those.  Which, for me, was a problem.

I am not a Mr. and I am not a Mrs.  I have chosen for decades to not use Ms. and I wasn’t about to start just for the sake of an iPad.  My preferred “title” when I absolutely have to specify one is Miss.  To me, that translates as “female child born to parents of this name whose marital status is none of your goddamned business”.

(What I’d really prefer is Ma’am, which to me translates as “female child born to parents of this name who is now old enough to both warrant your respect and not put up with any of your shit” but sadly that’s not an accepted honorific.)

So there I was, wanting nothing more than to read e-books and listen to music while working out and perhaps look up the occasional recipe online without having to kill a tree printing it, wanting to set up my iPad, and having a “required field” demanding I supply a piece of information from a multiple choice list, knowing that, no matter what I chose, I would be lying.

If I had to lie in one form or another anyway, I figured I might as well go big.  And just like that, I became a Dr.

(I then spent a good half hour on WebMD to validate my new credentials.  Pretty much everything is cancer, indigestion, or a virus nobody had ever heard of until it was trending on Facebook.  You’re welcome.)

Today, I saw this photo posted on a friend’s Facebook page.

And while I recognize and applaud the progress it represents, I still have a bigger question: Why is a “title” a requirement for anything?

Last time I checked, we each had a name.  Is it crazy to think we could just use those to address each other?  Almost like it would add a personal note to our dealings with each other as... personal persons?

You want to use titles?  That’s fine.  Call your doctor Dr. YourNameHere.  Let teachers be addressed as Teacher Chang or Teacher Wilson or Teacher WhateverYourNameIsHere.  Nurse Ramirez.  Attorney This and Accountant That and Postal Carrier TheOther.  Recycle Pro Anderson (who is actually fine with being called “Steve” but doesn’t object to you fancying it up a bit).  In situations where you want to keep a bit of distance, whether to denote respect for that person or simply to maintain your own mental personal space, by all means use a title.

And if you want to use Mx. or Ms. or Mrs. or Mr. to keep that same bit of distance, that’s entirely between you and the person you’re talking to.

But do not make the slapping of a label on myself a “required field” for anything.  And if you do, next time you’d damned well better supply a custom field where I can designate “Emperor”.

Monday, April 4, 2016

An Open Letter to Home Depot

Earlier today, a friend posted this photo on Instagram:

Now, the fact there is an Instagram that exists, on which my friends can post these things, that is found on the Internet, told me my initial suspicion was correct, but I glanced at the upper right corner of my 27” iMac just in case.  Sure enough, it’s the year 2016.

So I’m sure you can understand my confusion that there is a Man Card available for purchase, that men have earned apparently by virtue of being men, but no corresponding Woman Card that a woman could have earned by being a woman.

In case you can’t understand that, allow me to clarify.

Women make stuff.  We improve stuff.  We build stuff, and repair stuff, and turn stuff from the color the stuff was to the color we want the stuff to be.  And not all of those processes involve Bedazzling and decoupage and nail polish.  Sometimes, they involve lumber and silicone adhesive and power tools and the kind of paint that is found at the hardware store rather than the craft supply store.  Case in point, this:

That is the before-and-after of my most recent project.  That is my bathroom.  I did that all by my lil’ vagina-totin’ self.  There was no man in sight when it happened.  Truth be told, I waited until he was a few states over so I could be sure he wouldn’t get in my way.  Because I wanted to do it my way, I was capable of doing it my way, and I did it my way.

And when it was done, I took a nice bubble bath and gave myself a nice facial and a nice pedicure and bought myself a nice pair of new shoes to celebrate.  That is also doing things my way.

The point is, you are not only being more than a bit misogynistic and insulting by offering a gender-specific card for only one gender, you are missing out on a huge marketing opportunity.  On my friend’s original post, someone observed that there are gender-neutral gift cards available, but guess what?  I don’t want a gender-neutral gift card.  I don’t want a hardware store gift card that ignores the fact that I’m a woman.  I want one that embraces that fact.  I want to feel every bit as happy and comfortable with my femininity while shopping at Home Depot as I do shopping anywhere else.

And I know I’m not the only one.

So, here are a few suggestions for potential Woman Cards that we, as women, have earned by being women.

I look forward to being the recipient of one of these, or something much like them, in the very near future.


A woman who makes, improves, builds, repairs, and changes the color of stuff

Monday, March 21, 2016

Why Boaty McBoatface is a Really Good Idea

There are not many nice ways to say this, so I’m just going to say it as simply and directly as I can; science has a tendency to get a little up its own ass and consequently suck at PR.

Not to say that isn’t an understandable thing.  When your job is to figure out what could be, the tendency to distance yourself from what is becomes a necessity.  Case in point, Nikola Tesla.  When your head says “I know how we can pull electricity out of the air and make it free for everyone” while the world around you is saying “This person is going to die from a minor flesh wound because Neosporin hasn’t been invented yet” chances are good you’re going to fall in love with a pigeon.  There’s only so much the human brain can do as far as coexisting between The Is and The Possible before something has to give.

And what usually gives is the effective communication between the scientific community and the general public.

With Boaty McBoatface, we have a chance to bridge that gap.

It began as a joke.  In case you haven’t yet heard the story, the NERC is building a multimillion-dollar research vessel which they plan to launch in 2019 for the purpose of collecting data on conditions in the Arctic and Antarctica.  It’s going to have robot submarines and everything.  Many types and layers of awesome happening there.  They put out a call to the Internet to name the ship.  The current frontrunner, by thousands of votes, is the RRS Boaty McBoatface.

Some people are upset about that because they feel the Internet isn’t taking this whole business seriously enough.  The person who originally suggested that name has apologized for doing so.  The powers-that-be have made it clear that the Internet vote is only suggestions and will not determine to final name, strongly implying that, even if BMcBF wins the vote, it will likely not be painted on the side of the vessel.

Which to my way of thinking would be a huge mistake.  Because Boaty McBoatface is a big bright shiny stack of exactly what the world needs right now.

We are at a point in human history where it is absolutely crucial that science and citizenry be on the same page.  The world is kinda screwed, and science is our best chance of unscrewing it.  But a lot of people are scared of science because science has not put as much effort into PR as it has into making cool and necessary shit.

There are roughly seven billion people on this planet, all of whom need to eat.  Traditional agriculture methods will run out of both water and farmable land before it is able to feed them all.  GMO crops are a really good and perfectly safe way to feed a lot more of those people than we are currently able to feed.  But a lot of people are afraid of GMOs now because science didn’t start explaining them properly when it should have.  If your friendly mascots Gina, Molly, and Oscar had been around in the 80’s reassuring you that GMOs are really nothing more than a very precise (and as a result much less prone to unwanted side effects) method of achieving what agriculture has been doing in one form or another pretty much forever, and that scientifically speaking there’s really nothing you eat that hasn’t been genetically modified by human activity in one form or another anyway, they wouldn’t needlessly scare you.

(Remember that time you engineered an artificial ecosystem for the purpose of locally sourcing comestible output?  Except you called it “planting a pot of tomatoes in your backyard”?)

Vaccines do not cause autism.  Science has proven this completely, irrefutably, it is so not a thing.  But people continue to believe they might, and continue to not vaccinate, and continue to contribute to the resurgence of deadly diseases that were all but eradicated not long ago, because science continues to present itself as a cold and distant authority, throwing facts in our faces like a Knowledge ATM gone crazy, insisting it is imparting wealth while all most people see is a bunch of pieces of paper flying at our eyeballs.

Enter Boaty McBoatface.

Polar exploration of the type that NERC has planned will likely provide some answers to the question “Just how screwed are we?” on the subject of climate change.  That is a big scary question, the answer to which few people actually want to hear.  But we need to hear it.  Because hearing the answer to that question is the only thing that will give us the tools we need to even attempt to reverse some of our screwedness.  However, there are different ways in which answers can be presented.  So which is more likely to get a response?

“Dr. Reginald Upsbottom III today announced that initial results from NERC’s polar exploration indicate that hydrocarbon emissions are responsible for deterioration of the natural habitat of Aptenodytes forsteri.


“Boaty McBoatface and his buddy Emmy the Emperor Penguin say it’s a great day for you to give Mom a carpool break and walk to soccer practice!”

Is the second option overly simplistic?  Yes.  Is it somewhat childlike?  Yes.  Are either of those things bad things when presenting frightening information to an already frightened public?  Not even a little bit.

And in addition to PR, there is another very important benefit to the RRS Boaty McBoatface.  It will, through humor, through lightness, through the ability to say “We’re aboard the RRS Boaty motherfuckin’ McBoatface!” when things get strained, it will keep all who sail her in touch with the very people whose lives they seek to improve.

Boaty McBoatface will be the safe solid wall between obtaining knowledge and falling in love with a pigeon.

NERC, for all of our sakes, please make it so.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mason Jar Gifts For & From Guys

Last year, as I was putting together a few last-minute things for the holidays, these happened:

Yes, I jumped aboard the Mason jar gift trend train, whipped up a batch of just-add-water microwave mug cake mix, added some festive fabric and ribbon and a cute little instruction card, and just like that, three gifts done.  For women.

And that’s where I paused.  For women.  It is so easy to do this sort of thing for women.  We love cake that happens in 40 seconds.  We love cute.  We love the little glass Universe of infinite possibility that is the Mason jar gift.

So I said to my best friend, who happened to be nearby and happens to be a guy, “We should do stuff like this for guys.  Guys like stuff in containers, right?  We should do Mason jar gifts for them.”

And so, in this, the season of giving, we give to you a few ideas for simple, meaningful, from-the-heart Mason jar gifts for the guys in your life.

The holidays are a wonderful time to spoil the people in your life.  Just because they might have something every day, that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate you splurging a bit and letting them enjoy it in a new way.

The holidays can also be hectic for everyone.  A gift that makes everyday chores easier is, ultimately, the gift of extra time with family & friends.

Try to keep your friends’ specific interests in mind when selecting the contents of your jar.

Are they into a healthy and active lifestyle?  Perhaps they’d appreciate something to balance all the treats that appear during the holidays.

Or perhaps something that will allow them to indulge even more.

A nod to someone’s specific pop culture interests is always
a thoughtful gift idea.

As is something that helps them enjoy a favorite hobby even more.

Do you have one of those friends who is always so enviably organized?
Help him stay that way!

Or help him stay closer to the things he loves.

Or help him find them.

Skip the expensive colognes and grooming gift packs that all too often just gather dust on bathroom shelves, give them something
you know they’ll use!

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like gifts from the kitchen!

Who doesn’t love a sweet treat?  Especially one fresh from the oven.

Or one that takes you back to your childhood.

But perhaps not everyone on your list has a sweet tooth.
Consider a selection of savory gifts as well.

And don’t limit yourself to just Mason jars!
Any sturdy container can serve as an attractive base for your gift,
especially when a few thematic extras are included.

If you’re at a loss for ideas, just remember, your friends are your friends for a reason; you probably have a lot in common.  So you won’t go far wrong giving them something you would enjoy having yourself!

(All photos by Jerry Seeger.  For a more descriptively guy-friendly version of this list, check out his post here.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Drought-Friendly Beauty Tips

It’s no secret that California is in a permanent state of not-enough-waterness, but now, it has reached serious bad times.  Shit, as the kids say, just got very real.

The basics, from not watering your lawn and flower garden to wearing your clothes more than once before laundering and, to put it delicately, letting things mellow, are no longer sufficient to keep California running.

(And before you say “well I don’t live there, so it doesn’t matter to me” allow me to point out that yes, it very much does matter to you.  The California Central Valley, on less than 1% of the nation’s farmland, produces 8% of the nation’s agricultural output.  And 90% of the nation’s avocados.  So if you ever want to see your guacamole again, you’ll help us out.)

So today I’m going a bit beyond the basics of water conservation, with a focus on tips to keep you looking and feeling pretty while saving every precious drop of water possible.


- There are a lot of really good cleansing wipes available that can cut a huge amount of water out of your daily face-washing routine.  I personally use DHC Care Make Off Sheets, and recommend them without reservation.  But there are a lot of good ones out there.  Find one that works for you, and use it.

- Good old-fashioned cold cream may just become your new best friend.  Massage it into your face, and wipe it off with a tissue.  Done.  Ponds is a classic that has been around forever because it’s pretty amazing, but if you would prefer to avoid mineral oil, or just feel like being crafty, you can make your own.

- Use sheet masks or peel-off masks in place of cream and clay types that have to be rinsed off.  For sheet masks, I have four different kinds from Epielle, they’re wonderful, and DHC also makes some really good ones.  For a peel-off, Queen Helene Grape Seed Extract Masque is fantastic.

- Rather than powder to deal with midday face shininess, which will just put more stuff on your skin to be washed off later, try blotting sheets.  I use E.L.F.  They’re cheap and effective, and leave my face feeling super soft and non-greasy.


- If you’re fortunate enough to have the kind of hair that can be brushed, you have the drought-friendliest hair possible, because dry shampoos were made for you.  And before you think you have to spend a crapstack of cash and load your head up with chemicals, allow me to let you in on a little secret; the two best dry shampoos on the planet do not come from the drugstore, they come from your kitchen.  Cornmeal or finely ground oatmeal are all you need.  Take a handful, massage it into your scalp to pick up excess oils and break up styling products, and brush it out.  If you have a backyard, do your brushing out there, since these are completely compostable/biodegradable, and you won’t have to sweep up afterward.

- If you, like me, have the kind of hair that simply doesn’t tolerate being brushed, try a few spritzes of rosewater and some good scrunching in place of regular shampooing.  It smells nice, it’s antibacterial, and the moisture should refresh your curls and tame your frizz sufficiently to allow you to be seen in public.  It’s pretty cheap, but if you have access to a lot of rose petals, it’s also pretty easy to just make your own.

- Buns, ponytails, braids, generally any hairstyle other than “standing proud on a hilltop flowing in the breeze” locks will cut down on how often you need to shampoo.  Try some.  You might be surprised how much you like them.


- Swap your shower razor for an electric and shave whatever you need to shave before you even turn the water on.  You can get one for $20 or less.  It will be worth it.

- On the subject of showers, the time for delicacy is past so I’m just going to be blunt here: yes, pits & bits needs to be washed regularly, but is the rest of that epidermal acreage really as high-maintenance as you’re making it?  Do you really need to be showering every single day?  Obviously, if you have a sweaty/dusty/grimy job, then yes, you probably do.  But if you’re working in an air-conditioned shop or office, how dirty are you really getting?  Would a good sponge bath with a couple of body wipes not work just as well every other day?  And don’t even worry about wasting your money on specialty adult washcloths, I’ve tried them and most really aren’t worth it.  Use baby wipes.  They’re gentle, they’re effective, and they are MUCH less expensive.  You can get a huge box at Costco for around $24.

If you have any other beauty-related water saving tips, I would love to hear them.  Sharing is caring.  We’re all in this together, for the avocados.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

O (Miss) Canada

This morning, a friend posted a link to this article on my Facebook page, the whole point of which is, clearly, this photo of Miss Canada decked out all to hell and back for the Miss Universe pageant.

Enough people have voiced enough mixed opinions that I just wouldn’t be me, as a pinup, a woman with all the deepest respect for showgirls, and a hockey fan, if I didn’t chime in with my two cents.

First off, it’s the fucking Miss Universe pageant.  If you are looking for subtlety, understatement, or restraint, you clearly missed a memo.  That group meets at The Gap on Thursdays at noon.

Second, we wouldn’t likely be having this conversation in the first place if the rest of the universe were even trying.  It is not.  A representative from Earth has won every single year from 1953 right up to 2013, and I have absolutely no doubt that we will take the 2014 title as well.  I also have absolutely no doubt that with very little effort, Jupiter could knock the crazy crown right the hell off anything past Miss Universe contestants have come up with.

But back to the here, and the now, as I break down element by element my feelings about Miss Canada’s hockey-themed ensemble, starting at the top.


What the actual literal living breathing everfucking fuck are we being asked to believe here?  To paraphrase the great Guy Fleegman, do you guys ever watch the game?  Assuming it were somehow possible for the score in any game to be 20-14, it certainly wouldn’t be any game with only two penalties at the beginning of the third.  I get you wanted 2014 in there with bright lights and special effects, but do your research.


I am not going to lie to you, I now want a Stanley Cup tiara.

(Insert snarky you’re-a-Sharks-fan-you-want-a-Stanley-Cup-any-way-you-can-get-it comments here.  Now shut up, Paul.)

That headpiece is a thing of beauty.  The wig looks like snowdrifts, for crap’s sake, how do you not love that?  And much as some people may not want to admit it, the shape of the Cup lends itself beautifully well to inclusion in a full-blown showgirlesque headpiece.


Those shoulder and elbow pads are perfectly executed.  Big enough to make the point they’re meant to make, stylized enough to not take anything away from the fact that this is, after all, one of the most beautiful women in the world wearing a Miss Universe version of protective gear.


A certain Snidely McSnarkerpants likened this aspect of the outfit to “a crazy hot rod exhaust system.”  Well, sir, you might want to look a bit closer because, when you do, what you will see is a highly stylized and frankly really clever riff on the evermore-outrageous-every-season angel wings seen at the world-renowned Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  Those sticks are brilliant.


Yes, the original article was justified putting quotes around “jersey” in this instance because it is, after all, not a jersey, for two reasons.  The first being, the word you want is “sweater”, and second, again, it’s the fucking Miss Universe pageant.  So yes, she’s wearing a sparkly pageant version of the Team Canada uniform.  Do you know why?  Context.  Wearing anything even remotely true to the original, in this context, is what would have been truly ridiculous.

Third, have you seen the body on that girl?  She could have gone much further with that part of the outfit and accented every single damn one of her curves.  Instead, all she did was push up her boobs and keep the rest structured, somewhat blocky, more reminiscent of, oh I don’t know, an actual Team Canada sweater complete with protective gear underneath.  Something like that.


Truth be told, the net loses me.  I see what they were going for, but they didn’t get there, and I’m left reminded of Carol Burnett in Went with the Wind.  If they had framed it in a way that more closely mimicked an actual hipline, that would have been better.  Better still would have been to scrap the white satin and use the same net they used on the headpiece.  Better even more on top of that would have been to scatter a few Swarovski crystals over the whole thing.  Not a lot, just enough to keep it pageant-like.  And lose the pucks, they just don’t work.

Or, change the Team Canada corset to an underbust and throw in some puck pasties.  I don’t know exactly how much you can get away with at the Miss Universe pageant, that might be pushing it.  Or it might not.  Either way, now I want puck pasties to go with my Stanley Cup tiara.


And the boots.  I also want the boots.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why You Totally Need Facebook’s Newest Post Scheduling Feature

Recently, I noticed another round of the sluggishness, inconsistency in performance, and general nonfunctional bullshittery that always accompany Facebook working behind the scenes in preparation of rolling out new “features”.  Facebook’s definition of a “feature” is “OMGHOLYWOW new thing you didn’t even know you wanted until we gave it to you you’re welcome enjoy!” whereas the rest of us tend to define Facebook “features” more in terms of “major drawback and hindrance to basic functionality and could you seriously please just fucking stop changing shit on pages because you’re not doing anything anybody really wants done and this is not how you’re going to encourage us to actually start paying for this service okaythanksbyenow”.

But this new feature could very well be the best thing that has ever happened to anyone.  Because where last week you could only schedule things in advance to post to your page, now you can backdate things that you post on your page.

Yes.  Read that again.  No longer are you limited to merely posting random crap in real time, or blithely setting up your page features to post Monday through Friday at 9:00, 12:00 and 3:00 so you can go outside and interact with the real world.  No no no, baby bears, those days are far behind you now.  Because now you can make it look like you posted things before you really did.

This is the greatest thing since Time Travel Face BagAre you feeling the possibilities here?!

Someone has already laid claim to the right to backdate to 3000 BCE her post about having discovered gravity, so we’ll have to let that one go, but there are so many other potential applications for this technology.

You can post blasé excerpts from the review you wrote of Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out dated long before a single episode of Portlandia was even filmed.

In a status backdated to 7:30 a.m. February 1, 2004, you can make a cryptic reference to just not feeling right about Janet Jackson today.

Think of the stock tips you could share, the celebrity breakups you could predict, the people you could totally fuck with by posting spoiler alerts of their favorite shows before the episodes even aired.

Want to know who dies on Game of Thrones?  Okay, I’m pretty sure the answer is “everybody” but now you can list the deaths in order before all your friends!

The more I write, the more frightened I become by the power of this technology.  I retract everything I have said here.  No one should ever use this feature.

Seriously.  No one.  Ever.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Bourbon & Butterscotch Zombie Slayer Bundt

This is my fourth year observing National Bundt Cake Day by baking an original recipe cake, and as there has been in the three years prior, there is a near & dear emotional tie to the cake I’ve chosen.

The first year saw my Tiramisu Bundt, a farewell baking as one of the last things I made in the tiny apartment kitchen that was home for almost fifteen years before we bought a house.  The second year gave me the Avenging Dark Chocolate Bacon Scourge Bundt of Doom, vengeance for a wrong done to a dear friend by a food blogger during the previous NBCD festivities, and also to vent some of my frustration at the 2012-13 NHL lockout.  Last year, I honored through Bundt a precious girl who I only knew for a short time but who will live in my heart forever, Chiquita the Pitbull.

This year, I had no idea what I wanted to bake, so I put out a call on my Facebook page for suggestions, requests, etc.  And while I deeply appreciate every single person who takes the time out of their Internet life to stop by my page (seriously, you gals & guys all rock), I was particularly grateful that the first person who chimed in with a request was my dear friend Paul who, in addition to all his other amazing qualities as a human being, adopted Chiquita and gave her the best, most loving home she could have ever hoped for during the last stage of her not-always-easy life.

Paul requested a Bundtification of butterscotch pudding.  I added bourbon because I like bourbon and it goes well with butterscotch.  And I dubbed the end result the Zombie Slayer because this is Paul’s cover photo on his Facebook profile, a responsibility he takes quite seriously.

Paul, my friend, this is for you.  Because I love you even if you are a Red Wings fan.


The Players


1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp bourbon

1- In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt together with a fork until they’re well blended.  The cornstarch makes it really easy to spot & remove your brown sugar rocks, so do that.  You don’t want rocky pudding.

No rocky pudding

2- Split & scrape your vanilla bean into the brown sugar mix.  I once heard a rumor about some woman who waited to start working with her vanilla bean until her dairy was already on the stove and rapidly coming to a boil.  Her vanilla bean was just a smidge dry and decided to be stubborn, and things got really hectic really quickly.  So don’t be like that woman I once heard that rumor about when she was making this cake that I just made up today, okay?

3- Once your vanilla bean is added to your brown sugar mixture like a sane person would do it, add 1/4 cup of the milk to the bowl and stir until you have a loose paste.

4- Pour the remaining milk and the heavy cream into a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  While it’s heating is a good time to separate your eggs, beat the yolks in a small bowl, and stash the whites in the fridge for that superhealthy breakfast you’re going to have tomorrow to compensate for all the cake you’re going to eat tonight.

5- When the milk/cream mix is boiling, add the brown sugar mix, return to a boil and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

6- Remove the milk mixture from heat.  Quickly stir about half a cup of the milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper them, add the yolks to the saucepan, stir well, return to heat and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

7- Remove from heat.  Add the bourbon and butter and stir until the butter is melted.  Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for about an hour to cool it down before you start making the cake, it needs some time to thicken or it will slop all over the place while you’re trying to get it in a nice neat circle atop your cake batter.

8- Don’t even pretend you’re not going to lick the spoon.  And the saucepan.

mmm, pudding...


2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk, at room temp
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp bourbon

1- Preheat oven to 325, and prep Bundt pan by either greasing & flouring or nonstick-spraying, depending on how lazy you feel.

2- Combine milk and heavy cream in a measuring cup and set aside. 

3- Combine flour, salt, baking powder, cayenne, and Chinese Five Spice in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk until well blended, and set those aside too.  Set them near the dairy so nobody gets lonely.  Lonely ingredients are sad ingredients, and sad ingredients make sad cake.  Nobody wants that.  Do you want that?  No.  Nobody does.

4- Break out the mixer.  In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium until smooth.  Add the sugar about 1/4 cup at a time and, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, beat for about 5 minutes until it’s nice and fluffy.


5- Still mixing on medium, add the eggs one at a time, beat for about 30 seconds after each, then add the vanilla and bourbon and beat for another minute until everything is combined and smooth and delicious-looking.

6- Drop the mixer speed down to low.  Retrieve your dairy and dry ingredients from wherever you set them aside.  Nod and smile as they share all the wonderful topics of conversation they covered whilst on their set-asideage.  Assure them it’s all very wonderful but the time has come for them to become part of a larger whole.  Starting and ending with the dry mixture, alternate adding dry & dairy to the mixing bowl, beating only until blended after every addition, scraping the sides of the bowl and beaters as necessary.


1- Retrieve your pudding from the fridge.  It likely won’t be completely firm, but as long as it’s partially set, it will be fine for the purposes of filling the cake.  Pour it into a gallon-size plastic bag and close the top.  Have your kitchen shears or clean food-safe scissors handy, you’re going to have to work a bit quickly very soon.

mmm, pudding again...

2- Retrieve your prepared Bundt pan, and spoon slightly more than half of the cake batter into it.

3- Here’s where it gets interesting and you’re going to have to move faster than you have been (she says, after living the joys of pausing throughout this process to take pictures; I reeeally don’t recommend that.).  Using a tablespoon, create a trench for the pudding in the center of the batter.  You’re going to have to push the batter up the sides of the pan a bit to accomplish this, and all that wonderful non-stickery we opened the cake-making part of the recipe with is going to work against you as the batter tries to slide back down the side of the pan almost as soon as you’ve pushed it up, so as soon as you have a discernible trench, grab your plastic bag of pudding, smoosh the pudding away from one corner, cut that corner open, and pipe the pudding into the trench as quickly and neatly as you can.

4- You’re NOT going to fit all of the pudding into the cake.  You’re going to have extra pudding.   Probably about a cup.  Oh no.  Extra pudding.  You can cry about that later.

5- Once you have filled your cake trench with pudding, top the pudding with batter carefully by spooning batter around first the outside edge of the pan, then the center, blending it over the top of the pudding and making sure the edges of the pan are sealed while pressing down as little as possible.  Pressing down will cause the pudding to splort out of the nice little cake trench you put so much time and effort into making.  Don’t let pudding splort undo all the good you have done today.

Stages of Awesome

6- Put the cake into that nice preheated oven and bake for 60 minutes.  When it’s done, it will look like this, and smell even better.  Dear eight pound six ounce newborn baby Jesus does this smell good.  Just… stand there and inhale for a minute.

Smells. So. Good.

7- Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cake plate.

8- Realize that you really needed a more substantial pudding trench and slightly less pudding in it because the top of your cake has gotten saturated with pudding and disintegrated in the turning-out process.  Drop a few F-bombs, slam a few utensils, realize there’s nothing you can do about it now.


Or is there…?

We have a saying in my family: When faced with adversity, kill it with fire.


2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice

1- In a small bowl, blend all ingredients except fire with a pastry blender or fork until you have a coarse crumble.

Prepared to kill it with fire

2- Arrange the crumble atop your aesthetically-questionable but still awesome-smelling and going-to-be-great-tasting cake, adding a bit extra to the most pudding-hampered and structurally weakest areas.

3- Torch the shit out of it until it totally looks like this is what you planned all along, the flour is toasted, and you have brûléed enough sugar to reestablish sufficient structural integrity on the top of your cake to support a light layer of glaze.

Fuck you, adversity.

4- Let that all cool off a bit while you make the glaze.


2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp powdered sugar
3 tbsp bourbon

1- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

2- Add the powdered sugar, increase heat to medium-high and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture just starts to bubble.

3- Add the bourbon one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the mixture to get back up to bubbling temp after each before adding the next, and while NOT leaning over the saucepan at such an angle that you get a blast of bourbon fumes right up your nose when you add each tablespoon.  Unless you’re into that sort of thing, in which case absolutely do that.  When all the bourbon has been added, continue the bubbling and stirring until the mixture has thickened slightly.

4- Remove from heat and continue stirring until the bubbling has stopped, and then for about a minute more.

5- Drizzle glaze over the top of your rebuilt cake.  Let cool before serving.

All's well that ends well


All was far from lost here.  This actually tasted really good even if it did in fact end up looking more like a slain zombie than a tribute to the zombie slayer.  So, to perfect it next time:

1- You know your oven has been acting up.  You need to fix that ASAP.

2- The extra spices in the “killing adversity with fire” stage of preparation worked really well to balance the sweetness of all the butterscotch and bourbon.  Since we do not plan on repeating that step in future bakings, double the amount of cayenne & Chinese Five Spice in the batter to compensate.

3- Less pudding.  I really hate it when I have to put words like “less” in front of words like “pudding” but that’s just how it has to be.  I tried to put too much pudding in the cake and I paid dearly for my gluttonous greed.  Cutting the recipe by 2/3 will probably net the right amount of pudding.  Or make the full amount and have a lot of extra pudding.  Oh no.  Extra pudding.  Sadness now.

The End :)