For several years I’ve written a summer reading post around the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to the summer season, but the Fourth is the heart of it. This summer in New England has been particularly aggressive – a brutal heat wave that’s started earlier and lasted longer than we usually see around here. And so I should probably offer you some light, breezy reads that you can bring to beach and promptly forget about. But I’m nothing if not a contrarian, so instead I’m going to offer two pieces of fiction to make you think, and one cookbook to lighten the mood and because I’m personally going to use it a lot this summer with my new ice cream maker.
Have you been to the Comicazi Cookie Clash? Before we get into what you might have missed this year, you can get a little history on the event in this past post.
This year, the Clash’s 7th, saw 15 bakers, both teams and individuals. Each team submits 3 entries: a chocolate chip cookie, a bar cookie and a baker’s choice entry. With at least 2 dozen of each cookie submitted, let me tell you, that’s A LOT OF COOKIES! It’s really actually pretty fantastic to see.
On occasion, it’s appropriate to step back from raptor questions, book reviews, and opinions about movies and just talk about a random assortment of things we really love. All the odds and ends that don’t quite fit into a properly themed post, but are worthy of mention all the same. So here, in no particular order, are some things that are making me happy lately – maybe they’ll make you happy, too!
I’ve written a bit before about my love of running – it’s been a passion of mine for about a decade now. For years I focused my training on increasing my distance, but after running more than one marathon it was time for a new challenge, so I’ve been working on getting faster. There are many tools out there for tracking your progress, but Smashrun is the one I like the best. It syncs with whatever fitness tracker you use – I have a Garmin watch – so you don’t need a new piece of hardware or even to download an app. You just connect whatever you already use to the website, and it will import all of your data. Then you can look at what pace, cadence, mileage, and elevation you did for any particular run – but also over time. That information lets you know what conditions work best for you and what you need to do to get faster. It also rewards you with badges for certain distances or goals that accumulate from the date you sign up. They’re silly and fun but oddly satisfying to achieve – I recently accumulated the total miles from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia. Who knew?
Finally, it breaks down the calories burned for each run by telling you the equivalent in both a healthy and unhealthy food, which is a great, tangible way to really understand what you burned, since most folks overestimate. Last night’s track workout got me the equivalent of a bagel with cream cheese, not shabby!
I guess a lot of people get happiness from homemade bread, but my joy has been coming from baking it, rather than eating it. For the past two years I’ve baked a loaf or so every single week. It started as a way to use up a pound of yeast I’d ordered by mistake, but it’s become so much more. It does all of the things you’d expect – provides food for my family, and is a healthier alternative to commercial bread, which is full of chemicals and sugar – but it’s also been a rewarding personal project. Much like my running, baking has provided a routine that allows me to grow in skill, to get better at each week. The early efforts were still useful, but I can track how far I’ve come, and see how far I can still go. At the same time, unlike some of my other hobbies, the product has a short life span. We’re not accumulating more stuff with this project, and in fact have been able to reduce the amount of bread we buy. If you’re interested in trying your hand at bread, I recommend this English muffin recipe from King Arthur (my flour brand of choice.) It’s pretty easy, and so much better than Thomas’ that you’ll wonder why you never tried it before.
The tagline for their website is “A New Boogie for All Mankind” and I am here to tell you, darlings, that the hype is real. I first discovered this band through the tune-yards – Merrill Garbus performed backing vocals on “Little Queen of New Orleans” and shared the video on ye olde Facebook. I gave it a listen and was instantly smitten. I bought Hi Honey, the album it came from – the band’s third. This was quickly followed by the entire back catalog and waiting obsessively for the band to come to Boston, then dragging Mr. Menace to one of the most heartfelt live shows I’ve ever been to. This is old-fashioned rock and roll at its finest, complete with saucy lyrics and co-founder Adam Weiner’s forceful piano. The keys haven’t been played this hard since Jerry Lee Lewis, and the result is the perfect soundtrack for some summer fun. Grab the tunes and bring ’em to your next barbecue – you won’t be sorry.
I’ve written about the works of Patrick Ness before , and he’s gaining some recognition in the larger fantasy/sci-fi circles as the man behind the upcoming Doctor Who spinoff, Class. Since that show will be set at the Coal Hill School, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which revolves around a group of friends in their senior year of high school, is the perfect introduction if you’re curious about his work. Lighter in tone than A Monster Calls (the crying book) or his fantastic Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us still brings plenty of depth. It’s about the kids who aren’t the chosen ones, but who are surrounded by those who are. While the indie kids are battling vampires, zombies, and fairy queens, Mikey and his friends are just trying to survive the madness they bring, go to prom, graduate, and maybe get a date. I loved reading a story about what happens to everyone else while someone is saving the world, and I loved the little snippets of the chosen ones’ story that were the intro to each chapter. If you’ve ever had to find the extraordinary in being ordinary, you’ll get a kick out of this.
You may be wondering why I’m recommending the Instagram feed of a library located in Rochester, NY, a city 8 hours away from where I currently reside. And to be honest, if a very dear friend didn’t work there, I’d probably never have stumbled on this particular gem. But luckily for me and you, she does and I did and now I’m sharing the good fortune with you. This is a list of things that spark happiness and this feed has it in spades. Do you like our Fashion Raptor posts? Check out Henrietta’s whole Dinovember series (which we are totally doing this year.) Like a bit of whimsy? (and what are you doing here if you don’t?) Look for the photos of the Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, who swallows various resources around the library (cleverly letting you know that they exist.) The feed makes me happy with its content, which is funny and charming and sweet, but also because it’s such a stellar example of a library showcasing its relevance in the modern world. It’s also a great example of the power of social media when it’s done well – the folks behind it also run workshops for other libraries on how to use Instagram effectively. And they have a turtle named Cooper wearing a Batman balloon, which I think is pretty great.
So that’s what’s been bringing a smile to my face lately – what makes you all happy?
So you may have noticed that we Ladies like to cook. Smalerie has a whole blog devoted to the art of bento. Tiny Doom shared her love of infusions and fantasy-related cookbooks, and of course I have nearly 150 posts on the subject of food and cooking. We are comfortable in a kitchen, is what I’m saying. And that’s good, because in a couple of weeks Comicazi is hosting an event that annually puts our love of the oven to the test.
In fact, the event started a few years ago as sort of a joke between Tiny Doom, myself, and one of the proprietors of the shop, one Michael Burke. The details are lost to the hazy mists of memory, but the gist was that TD’s cookies are made with hate, while mine are made with love, or some such nonsense. A bake-off was suggested, an epic clash between bakers to determine who had the one cookie to rule them all. It was a joke…until it wasn’t.
And so, the Comicazi Cookie Clash was born! Now going into its third iteration, the event swiftly approacheth, and people are baking like fiends. Far larger than Tiny Doom or myself, last year 19 bakers produced 6 dozen each of some truly outstanding treats. This year we’re hoping for another amazing turnout -I know that some of contestants have already begun baking test batches in an effort to cover themselves in glory. Each baker (or team of bakers, if that is how you roll) bakes 2 dozen each of chocolate chip, bar, and their specialty cookies. Then our teams of expert judges vote on the winners. Competition is intense!
However, this event isn’t JUST about baking cookies – it’s also about eating them. If you live in the Boston area, we would love to see you at the event! It’s going to be held on November 3rd at 7 pm, and for a mere $6 you can hang out at Comicazi and eat as many cookies as you like! The best part is that all of the money raised goes to a charity near and dear to my heart, Boston Partners in Education. Boston Partners supports struggling students in the Boston Public Schools by providing them with academic mentors from the community – and now you can support that simply by eating cookies! What’s not to love? We’ve also got some very cool judges lined up, including last year’s Chocolate Chip winner, Linda from The Chocolate Tarte, and Inn at the Crossroads/Food Through the Pages‘ own Chelsea Monroe-Cassel. If you like comics, fantasy, or food, this is going to be the place to be.
So if you’re in the neighborhood on November 3rd, stop by and see us! We’d love to see you, feed you some cookies, and talk about the role of ladies in comics.
And unrelated to cookies, did you check out our Who’s Who page and our new logo? They were designed by the amazingly talented Sara Franks-Allen! Sara is the original lady of Comicazi – she was the first lady customer back when it was a wee baby store, just starting out in the world. Now the store is a big boy of 12, and Sara is a vital member of the community, participating in book club, hosting Muppet Trivia with Smalerie, and generally bopping around being awesome. We are hoping to feature some of Sara’s serious knowledge of animation and Muppets one of these days (hint, hint Sara) but in the meantime are overwhelmingly excited about the super artwork she did for us! Thank you, Sara!