• All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    A Chicken & Dumpling Recipe So Easy…

    How easy it?

    So easy even your 5-year-old could do it. For the busiest of bees or if you want to introduce cooking to your young ‘en or anyone with a fear of cooking, this is the recipe. It’s foolproof, easier than pie and mmm, mmm good!

    IMG_0420

    You just need a crockpot and the following ingredients:

    1.5 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breast (is there any other kind?)
    2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup (no water, just the regular condensed soup)
    1 can chicken broth
    2 cups frozen carrots/peas*
    1 onion diced
    2 tablespoons of butter
    1 can of Pillsbury biscuits

    Place the chicken, butter, soup, broth and onion in a slow cooker. Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on Low. Then, about 90 minutes before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. I dunk them and then about 45 minutes into cooking the dough, I dunk and stir them again. So, total cook time about 6.5 to 7.5 hours. If you don’t want to wait that long then, I’d cook it for about 3.5 hours on high then another hour or so for the dough.

    Serve in a bowl on a cold winter’s day and let this stick-to-your-ribs meal warm you from the inside out!

    *Optional, but definitely don’t bother with celery. I didn’t think it added to the flavor or texture and only watered down the meal.

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Ginger Carrot Dressing Recipe

    For lunch today, I finally worked up the nerve to try out my food processor that I bought specifically to make Ginger Carrot Dressing. It was delicious and easy. Honestly, if I had known cooking was so easy, I may have tried it years ago.

    I used this recipe found on Epicurious.com:

    • 1/2 lb carrots (3 medium), coarsely chopped
    • 1/4 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger
    • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
    • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/4 cup water

    Pulse carrots in a food processor until finely ground (almost puréed). Add chopped ginger, chopped shallots, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt and pulse until ginger and shallots are minced. With motor running, add vegetable oil in a slow stream. (I have never done this. I don’t even know that I can because my machine’s safety function requires the lid to be on and locked.)

    Add 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Thin dressing with additional water if desired.

    Makes about 2 cups that will last up to about two weeks in the fridge.

    UPDATE: I’ve made this twice since this original post. Christian thinks it could use a little more “kick” or “tang”. Vinegar perhaps? I’ll tinker with it. That said, we’re in our 40s and our tastebuds have been burnt off to worthless nubs. The recipe is perfect as-is, he’s just looking for a boost. Perhaps we’ve had a bit too much in too short a time and he’s growing bored. Is this a reflection of our marriage? Should I seek counseling or just add more vinegar? Hmmm.

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Chicken Pot Pie Filling

    I made some yummy and easy chicken pot pies using my Chicago Metallic Pie Mold. For pie crust, I got a box of Jiffy & followed the instructions. I rolled out the dough and using the plastic mold, I cut out four sections to fill the pan wells and four for the tops.

    For the filling, here’s the recipe I used/tweaked. Note that this made enough filling for about 7 to 8 pies. So, next time I make it, I’ll probably cut the portions in half.

    Ingredients: 
    1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cubed
    2 cups frozen carrots and green peas
    1/2 cup sliced celery
    1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
    3 springs thyme
    1/3 cup flour
    1/3 cup butter
    1/3 cup onion, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1 3/4 cups chicken broth
    2/3 cup milk

    Instructions:

    Pre-heat oven to 425.

    Add chicken, carrots, peas & celery in a pot & fill with enough water to cover. Boil for 15 minutes, drain & set aside.

    In a separate saucepan, cook onions in butter until translucent. Add in flour, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. Carefully stir in chicken broth and milk. Let mix simmer on med-low heat until thick. Remove from heat.

    Pour the chicken mix into pan wells then top with the hot, creamy mixture. Cover with top pie crust and seal edges.

    Bake for 25-30 minutes until filling is bubbly and tops are golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Panera Egg Souffle Knock Off


    For two years in a row, Christian (new comedy special debuts 4.15.14!) and I haven’t swapped gifts in the traditional sense. But last year he did get me a rolling pin and this year the Chicago Metallic Pie Mold I’d been dreaming of. (Update: that pie mold is no longer sold, but here’s a link to a set of 4 individual pans.)

    If you’d told the 20-something-year-old me I would’ve wanted these as gifts, I would’ve beaten you with said rolling pin and made a nice meat pie out of your innards to bake in my new pan. Lo! How times have changed.

    In a recent post, I talked of my latest obsession is how to recreate Panera Bread’s yummy egg soufflés while at our cabin, since there is no Panera within a hundred miles or so.

    I found a few knock-off recipes online and pulled the basic common elements and made my own. I’ve made ham & asiago, goat cheese & spinach, sausage and cheddar, and cheese blends with and without onions & jalapeños. They were all amazing!  Since Christian doesn’t like eggs, I made a few with just sausage, onion and cheese for a hearty meat pie.

    Ingredients
    1 8-ounce tube Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough (I suppose you could make your own dough. Go for it!)
    7 eggs, 1 reserved*
    4 tbsp of half & half (or  2 tbsp heavy cream & 2 tbsp of milk or half & half…really just 4 tbsp of whatever milk/cream concoction you want or have on hand.)
    3/4 cup of shredded cheese (any flavor / mix of flavors you like)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup of diced ham, sausage, or bacon or whatever meat or veggies** your little heart desires.

    UPDATE: I’ve used Pepperidge Farm’s puff pastry sheets for dough and like it much more. A little lighter & flakier and uses less dough for each pie.

    Directions
    — Preheat oven to 375F.  or 400F if you’re using puff pastry

    — Unroll the crescent dough but do not separate the pairs of triangles. Instead, pinch along the perforated seam so the 2 triangles become a square of dough. So you’ll wind up with four (4) squares. Roll out each square of dough a couple of times to make a 6″ x 6″-ish square. (For puff pastry, 1/3 of a sheet rolled out & cut in half makes two pies.)

    — I spray the pan with non-stick spray and put one square of dough in each compartment.

    — Mix 6 eggs, milk, and heavy cream in a microwavable bowl. Egg yolks should be completely broken and mixed in. Add shredded cheese and salt and mix again.

    Filling the dough

    — Microwave the egg mixture in 30 second increments on high, stirring after each increment until you have a sort of solid, slightly runny scrambled egg mixture. (About 4 times-ish in a 1,000-watt microwave.)

    Basically you’re cooking the eggs just enough so the dough at the bottom will cook, and the dough at the sides and top won’t fall in.

    — Stir in your meat or veggies. For veggies, I sauté them a bit before adding.

    Ready to bake!

    — Fill each pie with your mix.

    — Fold dough over the egg mixture.

    * Optional – Break and whisk the remaining egg and brush over dough before popping it into the oven. This makes the dough brown to shiny, golden color. Pretty and makes it look “done”, but totally not necessary. So if you wanna save an egg and aren’t trying to impress anyone, feel free to skip this. I’ve included photos of what the difference looks like below.

    — Bake for about 20 minutes (15 for puff pastry) and then it’s bon appetit time!

    **I made a spinach and goat cheese soufflé and added both ingredients after the microwave process.

    Pictured from L to R:
    Puff pastry after baking with no egg wash,
    Crescent rolls with egg wash (egg soufflés in top pans and chicken pot pies in lower ones),
    Christian enjoys his sausage, onion and cheese concoction, and
    A cross section of his meat pie. Heh.

    Puff Pastry   

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    Happiness Is…

    During Spring 2011, our first at the Rock House, I worried to Christian:

    “I think something’s wrong with me. I find myself staring into the woods for long spells. I’m not even thinking of anything…just staring at birds, squirrels, trees, leaves, nothing. For hours.”

    “You know what that’s called?” He asked.

    I stared blankly at him.

    “Happiness.”

    Rock House in Winter

    Hmph. Interesting.

    I guess I would draw the old “Happiness Is…” naked cartoon characters here in this photo.

    For multiple reasons, we usually travel over the Christmas holiday. In fact, we had just returned from an amazing trip to Peru when we signed the papers on January 4th, 2011, to purchase our little cabin in the woods. But for our first Christmas as homeowners, we wanted to spend it in no other place. We got a tree, made sugar cookies from scratch, and played tons of Scrabble and Monopoly. It was perfectly peaceful and simple.

    The year 2012 proved to be exhausting –in a good way– for both of us. Between my book tour and Christian’s TV and stand up work, we found ourselves traveling more than staying home. So, again, we wanted nothing more than a couple of weeks in the woods at our Rock House. We were so lazy, we didn’t even put up a tree (we did hang fresh pine garland, stockings and some twinkle lights) or swap gifts.

    Instead, we bought this mini pie pan (two egg soufflés and two chicken pot pies I baked are pictured at left) and stocked up on a bunch of new games like Mystery Rummy (Jack the Ripper), BlokusMr. Jack in New YorkCarcassonneMexican Train dominoesLost Cities and new jigsaw puzzles.

    Are we humbugs? Not really. It’s just that every morning waking up in the Rock House –no matter what the season– is like Christmas morning. There is a feeling of lightness here. The freedom to do nothing. I don’t have to be anywhere. I don’t want to be anywhere. This is it.

    Since we’d no place to go, I sang, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

    Three was the magic number it seems. I enjoyed three snowfalls for 12+ inches of snow, three jigsaw puzzles, three seasons of Cheers, season three of “The Wire”, and three books (The Other Wes Moore, Hands of My Father, Just Kids).

    Over a week of being disconnected (I didn’t post a thing on Facebook, didn’t read the news & contemplated closing my Twitter account) and not being able to come up with a single goal for 2013, I finally updated my status to say, “Stick a fork in me.”

    I’m done. I have nothing to look forward to, to work towards, to want or need. Will this feeling change? Probably. But until then, I’m left to wonder how and why I tried so hard at anything.

    So perhaps the cartoon should read:

    “Happiness is…

    a terrible thing for ambition.”

  • All Blog Entries,  Travel

    Grand Rapids is Grand!

    Either middle-aged, middle-management white males of Grand Rapids aren’t getting laid enough or I’ve found a new target demo. I am HOT in GR! Like “grown men walking into poles” hot.

    I checked into my room at the Amway Grand Plaza (yes, the Amway. I haven’t heard of them in years but they’re inescapable in GR.) which is grand, like the name implies and like everything else in the city, and sprawling. They really need to install a map kiosk like in a shopping mall. Even after two nights there, I got lost trying to find my room.

    I was a sweaty mess in my jogging clothes after having gone for a run and had a confused look on my face. A man who worked at the hotel (I assume as he was wearing maintenance type clothes but no name tag) cut his conversation short on the house phone and offered to help direct me. But he wouldn’t just tell me exactly where the main lobby was. He gave short vague answers like, “You’re headed the right way,” and kept asking where I was going. “The main lobby, just tell me where the main lobby is.”

    At one point he asked for my room number. Now, I’m sure to him he knows the hotel like the back of his hand and having my exact room number would tell him which tower (yeah, they had towers, like we’re all Rapunzel or something. Crazy big!) I needed to be in and which elevator bank within that tower would take me to my room. But, dude, here’s the thing: No matter how nice you are, how helpful you think you are being and how innocent you know you are, if you have a penis don’t ask a woman who is a stranger to you for her room number. I said I’d trace my steps and start over and thanks anyway and left him standing there. I’m 99% sure he was not a rapist but that 1% is what keeps us ladies always on guard. I can hear his argument at the imaginary rape trial now, “I thought we had a date. She gave me her room number…”

    Eh, you know how the victim-blaming story goes. So, anyway, back to Grand Rapids! The hotel gym had a full size pool, hot tub, tanning beds, tennis courts and, my lordy, I wanted to move in! My room had a balcony with an incredible view of the river (What river? Why the Grand River, of course.) and the gorgeous fall colors. I was so happy to be traveling all over the midwest & northeast during peak leaf changing season. This picture just doesn’t do it justice. I could also see native golden boy Gerald R. Ford’s Presidential Museum which I decided I needed to visit simply because of how close it was to my hotel.

    My first day there was to give a speech at Grand Rapids Community College as part of the Diversity Lecture Series. I had a quick breakfast and returned to find that housekeeping had left me a note and a voice mail. I had the “do not disturb” sign on my door but apparently they couldn’t believe that I didn’t want service because they called again! I’d been here one night! What could possibly need to be cleaned?! So I said sure, I needed service and had the housekeeping lady zip up my dress instead. Now THAT’s useful!

    Sidebar: don’t kill anyone in a fancy hotel. They do wellness checks and just won’t leave your room alone, “do not disturb” sign be damned. I’d recommend the Best Western on Highway 105 in Montgomery, Texas. I stayed there five nights and not once did they call. There were no security cameras, lights, nothing. That is SIX days of getting to Mexico time, people!

    Dress zipped, I met my host from the college for an early dinner and to go over the itinerary of events. The speech itself was held at the gorgeous Fountain Street Church. I’m not a religious person –I think most organized religion is a little too cult-like and abhor anyone who selectively uses Bible passages to justify vilifying and/or discriminating– but I could see myself attending this church. It’s non-denominational and reading their mission made me want to hug an evangelical and say, “It gets better.” That’s me pictured on the left sitting in the preacher’s (? preacher, minister, I dunno what you call them) chair and a big rainbow stick. Not sure what that’s for but it made me happy the way rainbows should.

    My host said I was joining a distinguished list of speakers of the series and warned me not to get intimated when I saw the church’s green room. I thought she was pulling my leg until I laid eyes on the photos of Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Gerald Ford (duh) and so many more. I was almost embarrassed to add my name to the list. Almost.

    The church was filled to the rafters and the speech was an A- (a technical glitch where the laptop with my PowerPoint suddenly died prevents me from giving it an A+ but it was pretty fun). I met some truly remarkable people, especially those working with the college and the diversity series. They love their jobs and make a difference and dammit to hell I’m getting choked up again!

    I’m so glad I elected to spend an extra night there because it allowed me to take in some sights and sounds of this lovely riverfront city.  I visited the lecture series’ corporate sponsor Steelcase (WOW! I want to go to design school just so I can work there. The building and people were amazing!) and gave a short presentation and Q&A. Afterward, I had the day to play tourist.

    I ate a quick burger at Flanagan’s Irish Pub. I’m sorry to say I didn’t try out more local-centric restaurants in GR like I did in Madison, but I wanted a greasy fat burger and pubs are good for those. They didn’t disappoint. Happily stuffed, I walked to my first stop, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).

    The GRAM had a special exhibit called Real/Surreal which compared works of realism vs. surrealism with most of the paintings on loan from NYC’s Whitney. DOH! Along the way, I caught a glimpse of this building reflected in another. I don’t know if they planned it this way but it looked like a life-sized, glued together puzzle picture. I couldn’t get over how perfect and real it looked. Talk about Real/Surreal!

    But they also had on display some of the winners of this year’s ArtPrize. Man, did I luck out on seeing these. Without these pieces, I think I would’ve felt the museum trip to be a bit of a bust. Instead, I was bowled over by “Elephants” by Adonna Kharea giant penciled mural overwhelming with it’s detail and humanity and, my lord, how does one person possess so much talent?! Please, please check her and her prizewinning piece out. You won’t be sorry.

    Excited to learn about ArtPrize and in love with “Elephants”, I asked the security guard where I could find more winners. He directed me to “Origami” by Kumi Yamashita. This gem tricked me at first. I was directed to find it and walked passed thinking it was just a bunch of square papers on a wall. Oh, how wrong I was. It’s so clever in its simplicity and very thought provoking. I thanked the guard and laughed with him how I thought it was stupid at first.

    Then he asked, “Did you see me?” Wait. WHAT? He’s one of the origami pieces? GENIUS. Click on this link, and you’ll understand what I mean. So cool.

    Thank you to GRAM and ArtPrize for introducing me to these talented women artists. Never in my life have I left an art museum so excited to share my experience with anyone. If you have a chance to go before December 31st when the ArtPrize pieces will no longer be exhibited, I highly recommend it.

    Finally, my last stop on the grand tour was of the aforementioned Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. It takes only a few hours in Grand Rapids to realize that they looooooove Jerry. He is the pride and joy of this town. His name is plastered on everything. I’m surprised there’s not a Ford Fun Park or a burger named after him. After learning about our 38th president and getting a free ruler with my gift shop purchase, I, too, loved Jerry. He seemed like a really nice guy. I guess it is his museum and burial site so what are they gonna say? I couldn’t tell you since I’ve not been to Nixon’s. I started openly weeping at the section covering his death and funeral.

    Sidebar: Is crying a lot a sign of perimenopause? Because if you haven’t noticed, I’m crying or getting choked up at everything?! That said, I found myself transported to my early youth. I remembered vividly watching news reports of Nixon’s impeachment and Ford’s ascent to the highest office. I love our country, and the process, while flawed, does work.

    I left the museum feeling immense pride and even more grateful that our country wasn’t created and founding fathers didn’t live in the late 60s/early 70s or else we’d forever be barraged with its clothing. Egads.

     

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Travel

    Happy Madison

    Beefeaters and company. Not a euphemism. Holy mother of god, you guys. I need to buy a pair of stretchy XXL pants and move to Madison, Wisconsin already. Every meal is a gastronomical orgasm! I even ate a pickled turkey gizzard, y’all! It look like the wrinkly vagina from a cadaver, but I’ve eaten tripe so figured this couldn’t taste much worse. It wasn’t. It tasted like dark meat. Who knew?
    [Picture at right: Beefeaters and company. Not a euphemism.]

    My first day in town began with breakfast (cheese & sausage quiche & Wisconsin Amber from Capital Brewery) at Marigold Kitchen. Afterward I took my shuttle driver’s advice to use the Wisconsin State Capitol as a shortcut to get to my destination, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. I breezed in and wandered the halls.  “Huh,” I thought. “Haven’t they heard of terrorism and mass murderers? Where’s my full body cavity search? I demand to be delayed and felt up by a stranger! Someone touch me in the name of security!”

    Governor Scott Walker

    As I meandered aimlessly, I heard a voice echoing but couldn’t make out the words in the cacophonous stone and marble building. It sounded like someone giving a speech, so I followed the disembodied voice’s direction until I found the source. A man in full marine dress blues was speaking in the rotunda to an audience filled with others in military dress uniforms. I did what anyone should do: I acted like I was invited, grabbed a program and took a seat. As it happens, it was a ceremony in honor of Veterans Day and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the keynote speaker.

    It’s not often one finds themselves inches away from a state leader, and stranger still that never once did I go through any security checkpoint. Given how hated the Governor of Wisconsin is in Madison (and the whole state?), I found this doubly surprising. I guess with all the soldiers around us, he was purportedly safe.

    The governor gave a thoughtful speech in honor of the Wisconsin veterans that have served this country. “163,” he noted. “The number of Wisconsin men and women who paid the ultimate price in service of their country since 9/11/01.” We had a moment of silence, which made me start crying. If you’re not choking back a lump in your throat during any moment of silence I have to wonder how silent are you being, really? Shut out everything and think –truly think– about what the men and women before us have done to give us the liberty and justice we have come to expect. Like I said: Lump in throat.

    I watched as First Sergeant Timothy LaSage was honored and Larry Stanczyk was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the Vietnam War on July 11, 1969. Then as the crowd dispersed, I took photos, shook the Governor’s hand (his real hand! What if I were a spy?! Don’t spies go to Wisconsin? How about UNION spies?!) and left for my original destination: the Veteran’s Museum. How apropos.

    After the museum, I enjoyed a pint of Hopalicious by Ale Asylum at  The Coopers Tavern where I flirted with my bartender, a Jeffrey Dahmer doppelgänger. I always thought Dahmer was kinda cute, but I guess no guy would take it as a compliment so I kept that part to myself. After settling the tab, I visited the Wisconsin Historical Museum. It was okay. I was a little tired at this point and museums start to be a bit of a drag when you’re by yourself. Sharing a learning experience is part of the fun. I was surprised at just how many inventions and pop culture things got their start in Wisconsin. That’s all I took away from that. Oh, and there’s a huge section on Native American stuff which is in every museum ever so I kind of skimmed that and now I have more White Guilt than before.

    After that, I shopped along State Street where I stocked up on postcards and nerdy writing/journaling stuff (!) at Anthology (bummed I was missing their free workshop the next day where they planned to make these fun travel/adventure folder thingies. Yes, that’s exactly what they called them.) & dark chocolate covered cherries & salted caramel (!!) at Kilwins. I finished my jam-packed day with an organic burger (!!!) at Graze where I met Christian Finnegan‘s buddy from his NYU days. More amazing farm-to-table culinary delights, friendly people, affordable prices and lovely experience had me trying to figure out how to move to Madison without ruining Christian’s career.

    Then, as I waited for my hotel shuttle, I saw this sidewalk sign (see left) for a jeweler and thought, “Gross, Madison. You almost had me but this is really gross.” I wish I’d had my Sharpie with me, dagnabbit.

    The next day was not as packed since I had to perform that night as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. It started out with breakfast at The Old Fashioned. I’d heard they were good for fried cheese curds and more than one person said they’d de-friend me if I didn’t try them while in Madison. I ordered ham and eggs with a side of fried curds and a bloody mary to start. There was so much food in my drink, I wasn’t sure I’d have room to eat much else.

    But then my plate arrived, and I vowed to get fat in the name of GOD and AMERICA. Wow, wow, wow! I was only three bites into my meal when I decided that I would eat here again before I left for NYC which meant within the next 18 hours or forever hold my peace.

    Cheese curd needs to work on its PR/marketing image. Curd sounds repulsive. I eat cottage cheese but “curd” makes me think of discharge from an infection. In reality, fried cheese curd is like miniature mozzarella sticks only made with better, different kinds of cheese. They’re pictured on the lower portion of my plate in the photo at right.

    Around this time is when I befriended an ex-Marine (’73-’76) named Peter who was celebrating the Marine’s 237th birthday by drinking a gallon of Beefeaters. He was recovering from prostate cancer, on his way to visit his daughter, bought me a bloody mary and introduced me to turkey gizzard (again, not a euphemism).

    After we parted, I wrote a bunch of postcards and wandered the largest farmer’s market in America where I loaded up on fresh, homemade jerky which was the only thing I could expect to stuff in my suitcase that wouldn’t reek, rot or take up too much room.

    I got to the hotel and posted the above photo of my eggs & ham touching off an Internet storm (okay, a slight breeze) of people warning me that being fat is not good and to change my dieting habits. Ummm… SCUH-ROO YOU! A little tipsy from my two bloody marys I made a video about how you should not be fat because that, apparently, is the worst thing you can be EVER. Here it is:


    Don’t Be Fat!

    I napped, sobered up, showered & dressed for my main event: a 45 minute presentation at the Rotunda Room of the Overture Center. If I may bitch a little (more), I was pretty annoyed at the onset. I got to the venue to meet with tech early per instructions since I was going to have a slideshow. The Overture Center’s cafe was closed even though there were three shows going on, my books weren’t available for sale at the “book store” and they didn’t even have it on the list. ($@#%^*& !!!!!!!!!!???????)

    I was also directed to the wrong floor, so was annoyed, hot and winded after running up and down three flights of stairs when I finally found the Rotunda Room where the tech person wasn’t there. So I said F this and went outside to literally and figuratively cool off. I spotted a bar across the street and downed a glass of Pinot Grigio and headed back to muscle through what I was now expecting to be a huge waste of time.

    Thank whatshisface I was wrong. Tech showed up (I was totally fine to go without the slides, but nice that it worked out), a few minutes before showtime a man from the book selling company showed up with books that they promised to add to the pop-up store for the remainder of the festival, and there was a huge, SRO crowd. The event itself went swimmingly though I do think my being overheated and annoyed affected me. I’d give myself a B-minus.

    The best part for me was meeting Facebook-turned-in-real-life friends Stu Gilkison & his wife Jessica. They graciously treated me to a post-show drink & snacks (again, the food here is crazy good. A simple appetizer of stuffed olives had my eyes rolling in the back of my head.), and even gave me a ride back to my hotel. As we walked to their car, we passed Coopers Tavern where they are regulars. Luckily, the Dahmer doppelgänger was tending bar. They agreed: total twinsies.

    Bonus:  We made a pit stop to view Holiday Fantasy of Lights, a cheesy, drive-through Christmas display. Sure, I suppose it’s a “fantasy” if what you dream of includes five minutes of looking at a Lite Brite. The world needs to legalize marijuana before this can be considered entertainment. Priorities, people!

    If you turn your radio dial to a pre-set AM station, there’s holiday music to accompany your “tour”. The fact that it was only November 11th and Thanksgiving was over two weeks away kind of made the whole thing surreal. Seriously America, it’s okay if you enjoy Thanksgiving first. Everybody just RELAX for a GODDAMNED MINUTE!

    And though I snark, it was fun. A wee bit too much fun, in fact. The next morning I was hurting but happy dreaming of a white Christmas. As I packed, I got weepy (again) at the thought of leaving. (Why can’t I live everywhere and do everything?) I mean, I cried watching a clip from Saturday Night Live as Anne Hathaway & the SNL cast sang a parody of “One Day More”. Seriously.

    Farewell, fair Madison. Till we meet again…
      

      

      

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Random,  Rock House

    “P” is for “Possibilities”

    Since my book tour and promotion is coming to an end, I’ve been a little bored and wondering what I should do next with my life. I’ve been a publicist, producer, paralegal, paraprofessional, promoter…so obviously something that starts with “P”. But I’ve also been a writer, blogger, actress, teller, data entry clerk, vice president of a bank’s commercial collection department and a secretary. Basically, I’m up for anything and keeping myself open to possibilities which, hey, that starts with “P”!

    For a brief moment, I thought, “I should take a cooking class!” Then I remembered I’m not a Meryl Streep character. If anything, I’m more like Diane Keaton in Baby Boom minus the baby. (Hmmm….maybe I should adopt or inherit a kid?! Okay, someone take away the bottle, because clearly I’m drunk for even thinking that.)

    But as the daughter of a carpenter and having dwelled in the woods, I have more intuition and practical skills than Ms. Keaton did in that movie. My only bonehead mistake thus far is flashing an old man my “flower” and not holding one nostril as I attempted a farmer’s sneeze yesterday as I stacked my wood pile. This resulted in a jellyfish like blob that dangled from my nose which I wiped off with the sleeve of a sweatshirt. No worries, it was Christian’s so I was fine with that. (Hey, Christian, you might want to wash it before you throw it on again.)

    Meanwhile, I am enjoying cooking at the cabin. Time in the woods means I must plan and cook meals for myself since takeout isn’t an option and restaurants are pretty far and expensive. Plus, I have a lovely kitchen that I’m getting to know how to use. My crockpot has been a good friend (1 pot for cooking + cleaning = brilliant!) and grilling in nice weather has been equally delightful. But after two years, I’m starting to spread my hot glued Martha Stewart wings and try new recipes.

    My latest obsession is how to recreate Panera Bread’s yummy egg soufflés since there is no Panera within a hundred miles or so. I found a few knock-off recipes online but the problem is how to cook them. So now I’m salivating over this Chicago Metallic Pie Mold. I can make the Panera soufflés, chicken pot pie, individual dessert pies and who knows what else?!

    Add to my Christmas wish list along with a wood stove steamer. It took me three winters to discover that I could add moisture to the air by heating a pot of water on the stove. I threw in a few cinnamon sticks for aroma and now want to make tea with the cinnamon water. I don’t even drink tea but that’s what this place does to me! It makes me open to “P”ossibilities!

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Rock House

    Confucius say: Dog may be man’s best friend, but pussy not far behind.

    Down to my last few logs leftover from last winter, I dialed a number from a roadside sign advertising firewood. A few hours later, seventy-two-year-old Max showed up in his big honking monster truck at sundown and drove off the edge of the driveway. Any further, and we’d have a big problem. I stepped into my rubber boots, grabbed a windbreaker and raced out of the house. I flagged him down and said he could park right where he was since we would be unloading the wood on the bottom level of the house.

    He wanted his truck facing the opposite direction, so I looked on helplessly as he plowed his way to the top of our driveway, turned around, came barreling back down, and skidded to a stop.

    Watching him behind the wheel reminded me of when I was eight-years-old, and I drove my cousin’s four-wheeled All-Terrain Vehicle way too fast with skinny little arms steering it. ATVs –like Max’s truck– are unwieldy in the wrong hands! Dad had plopped me on to the ATV with no protective glasses or helmet, just a quick lesson on how to make the thing go. I had shot out of the yard like a funny car drag racer and three very blurry seconds later Dad was disentangling me from a briar patch. After a quick inspection revealed no damage done, Dad apologized for neglecting to teach me how to stop. He showed me the brakes, and off I was again flying through trails till I ran out of gas.

    Max had simply graduated from an ATV to a two-ton truck that he drove way too fast with arms too frail. As he backed the truck off the edge of the gravel drive, the very wet earth gave way. I hollered that he should stop. “Let me just get the truck level,” he insisted. Back and forth he rolled, “leveling” the truck and tearing up the edge of the drive and making deep ruts in the mud. As if he sensed my anxiety he said, “Don’t worry, this is a 4-wheeler. I can get this in and out of anything.”

    Ya know what Confucius should also say? “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This is my yard, dill weed!

    Using a cracked plastic paint bucket as a step, he hoisted his old, arthritic body on the third try into the back of the truck and proceeded to unload the half cord of firewood at the end of our long walkway. (See photo at left to give you an idea.) The last load of wood we’d had delivered came with two young bucks carrying arms full to a pile they neatly stacked outside our basement door. Max was not a young buck and probably could not handle such strenuous activity. I would have to haul the logs to the house and assemble a stack on my own.

    I took a deep breath and reminded myself that he’s elderly, the damage is nothing a shovel won’t fix, and I could use the exercise. So rather than leave him out in the quickly darkening sky without help, I stood in my thin windbreaker and dress, and chatted with Max as he unloaded one. single. log. at. a. time.

    When one log went errant, I squatted to pick it up and quickly realized my mistake. In my haste to stop Max from getting his two-ton truck stuck in my ditch, I had run out of the house without putting on my leggings. Showing an old man your snatch has got to be Step #1 in the woman’s version of the book How To Win Friends and Influence People. It happened in a nano-second but I’m sure that even in the dusky night with the eyesight of a seventy-two-year-old, a heterosexual male’s brain is able to compute in a fraction of that time the image of a lady’s beaver. And after spending a week in the woods, a beaver is probably what my gal looks like.

    His eyes darted back up faster than I stood and we went along chatting away as though we were none the wiser. Among the things discussed:

    — He and his wife just returned from spending the night at Mount Airy Casino where she played the slots and he played poker. The casino puts them up, gives them steak dinner and they have real games unlike the closer Monticello Raceways.

    — He has three sons and a daughter. Of the four children, only one bothers to call or have anything to do with him. “They can’t be bothered.” [Insert sound of my heart breaking.] The daughter has three children (a 12-year-old and 9-year-old twins) and is the only one divorced. She and her cop husband split because she cheated.

    — A recent Kinsey study shows that women cheat on men far more often than previously reported because people lie on surveys.

    — Estrous cycles of animals rule their sexual appetite. Because a woman is almost always in estrous, her sexuality is much more fluid. Take deer for example…(I tune out a little at this point because I know about the sex lives of deer and a few logs went bonkers, and I didn’t want to flash the gash again.)

    — He “very much believe[s] in God” and he believes in Evolution “because you’d have to be a moron not to. I mean, it’s just common sense when you look at everything.”

    — Since humans think we should all live no matter what and so true evolution can’t exist, genocide has served as a man-made thinning of the herd. On his theory he said, “I can’t talk about this stuff around these parts or I’d be run out of town, but I feel like I can share this with you.” [SEE! I told you I should consider running for office!]

    I helped Max turn over the metal crate holding the last few logs and he packed up his bucket to leave. He was headed home to his wife whom he’d left sleeping in her rocking chair. Usually she prepares a three-course meal (salad, dinner, dessert), however, the trip was so exhausting and they ate so much at the casino, they were having an early supper of a simple bowl of soup.

    As he hopped back behind the wheel he said, “You have my number. Call me if you need any help and if you’d like to join me and my wife to a trip to the casino, you’re welcome.”

    “As long as you’re not driving,” I thought.

    Max continued, “I know that we’ve just met, but I feel like I’ve made a new friend.” [Step #1 is #1 for a reason. Friend WON!]

    Max was gone and my previously broken heart was mended and filled with love.

    This morning, I was tempted to call Max to say, “Hey, you offered to help. Well, can you help me load the logs into a pile?” I would’ve been joking, of course, but I didn’t want to make him feel bad. So I put on my big girl panties (literally and figuratively ) and got to work. Here is the result of my morning’s labor.

    ~Kambri 
    Always listen to your mothers. Always wear underwear. Never mind the clean part. Just wear underwear.

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC,  Random

    In the Papers

    I feel like today’s NY Post should have it’s own exclusive “In the Papers” segment with Pat Kiernan.

    The cover is a heartwarming story of an NYPD officer Larry DiPrimo buying socks and a pair of $75 boots for a homeless man. So touching, right?  People all over the country have been so incredibly moved by his selfless gesture that the Post devoted the cover and two full pages to the story. All I can think is, “Giving a shoeless homeless man pair of boots is very kind, but the man is probably mentally ill and still on the streets…but go ahead and put the bandaid on open gash.” Pfft. I know I’m being a buzzkill but I can’t shake the cynical, pessimistic thought. Luckily the bum seems harmless unlike some of the lunatics that roam city streets. But, yeah, kudos to the officer. Nice job, dude. I hope they enjoy their fifteen minutes before the Post digs up some salacious info on one or both of them (hope you never sexted anyone, bro!) and rips them apart.

    Then there’s an article on Lindsay Lohan‘s latest run-in with the law. Oh LiLo, did Britney not teach you anything? Nothing surprises me here. That the Post would devote two full pages to the once promising actress’ ongoing trouble tornado (Officer DiPrimo, take note! Nothing pleases the Post more than to tear down what it helped build.) or that Lindsay socked a lady in the face. What would be a surprise is she actually had to serve time. It helped straighten up Paris and Britney. Girl needs help. Incidentally, the precinct where Lindsay was taken is the same one I picked up ArIes Spears from when he *allegedly* forcibly touched a lady at the comedy nightclub Comix.

    Finally, there is an article covering a bizarre incident during the sexual abuse trial stemming from charges that a 12-year-old girl was molested by a leader in the Hasidic Jewish Satmar sect. I’ve always found Hasidic Judaism stranger and more cult-like than other religions which are all pretty strange and cult-like when you slice and dice them. Hasids are almost as strange as the time I saw one of my Dad’s extended family writhing around on the floor of a church moaning and crying and panting like she was being shtupped by the Holy Ghost. And, ladies, let me tell you, the Ghost had found her G(lory) spot. I felt the same way watching it as when seeing a clip of a hidden camera show or celebrity sex tape and thought, “I shouldn’t be seeing this.” Shudder.

    Anyway, back to the case. The case is full of twists and turns and stunning revelations worthy of gang or mob trials like witness intimidation and that the girl’s father secretly recorded his daughter having sex and other creepy stuff. Today’s report is that four Hasidic men were charged with photographing the unidentified girl and posting it on social media sites. One of the accused photographers? His name is Lemon Juice.

    LEMON JUICE.

    If every news cycle were this interesting, Kiernan could have his own national talk show.

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC,  Random

    What’s Wrong With This Picture?

    New York, I’m very disappointed in you. This subway ad has remained unmarred for three whole days.  I might just have to take my Sharpie and show you how it’s done. For educational purposes only, of course.

    Sincerely,
    Kambri Crews — Giving new meaning to “twisty moustache” since November 2012.

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC

    Average Tuesday Night

    Last night I accompanied my friend Larry to Donna Karan‘s loft / studio space to see the world premiere of some musician I’ve never heard of and doubt you ever will either. The space was incredible, with an art exhibit featuring the work of Stephen Weiss, Donna’s late husband. He was a talent for sure and seems to be very much loved and missed by his family. There was an outdoor garden with a giant felled tree turned into a beautiful bench, free & yummy cocktails provided by the Russian Tea Room, and a notable guest…some guy named Sir Anthony Hopkins. Just your average Tuesday night.

    Ummm, yeah, it was a fun “only in New York” night watching how the other half lives before we left to enjoy something more our style: Burgers & bangers & mash at a nearby pub.

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Holy Guacamole!

    I made some out of this world guacamole using a recipe I found online and tweaked a bit. It’s so, so good I wanted you to have it. Hey, why not pair it with my Chicken Tortilla Soup!

    • 3 avocados
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
    • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced. But I actually use the equivalent of one small Jalapeño pepper from a jar because my hillbilly grocer never has fresh japs.
    • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
    • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic (or one clove if you’re mincing it yourself, which I don’t know why you’d do that!)

    In a large bowl place the peeled, seeded and scooped avocado and lime juice. Toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve. Enyoy!

     

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    Thanksgiving 2012

    Without friends and family, Thanksgiving is just a fancy, fattening dinner with an inhumane amount of cleanup. So I’m thankful to have shared the holiday weekend with Christian and his stepbrother & sister-in-law at our Rock House. As y’all know, I’m not much of a cook but hot damn! I have yet to mess up a turkey. I cooked my fourth one (Ever! In my whole life!) and it was the best one to date. So juicy, so perfectly browned, so delicious! Christian got a fancy electric knife and surgically removed every possible ounce of meat with the precision of a serial killer. (Turn on!) Monopoly, charades, antiquing and a lot of food and drink equaled a sublime time. I hope your Thanksgiving was equally fun and relaxing.
    Billy Ray Cyrus & Kambri on Set
    We returned to NYC today to a full DVR. So the episode of  Are We There Yet? in which I appeared as a featured extra was bumped off the playlist because of 8 million recordings of Too Cute.*  My stepsister in Fort Worth happened to catch it live which is how I discovered it was on in the first place. Hopefully it will re-air some time, because you wouldn’t want to miss me staring into the back of Billy Ray Cyrus‘ perfectly coiffed head, would you? You would? Fine! Oh wait! What’s this? A still photo of the very scene? Lucky you.

    Walking Dead, Survivor, Dexter, 30 Rock & I Love the 1880s (the new History Channel Show that Christian is on) survived the Too Cute massacre so my dance card is full tonight. Especially after you add the eleven — ELEVEN — seasons of Cheers that are streaming on Netflix. I watched Season 1 over the long weekend and laughed out loud and harder than I have at anything in a very long time. I love me a good set-up / punch.

    So, I’ll see you after some zombies attack a pregnant woman, an 80s child star masterminds a coups, and Dexter and his sister do it. Yeah…it. You know, the usual.**

    ~Kambri

    *One guess as to who scheduled that series?

    **Now I know why I’m loving Cheers: It’s simplicity is refreshing.

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Forget Spinach! Try Watergate Salad!

    You’re thinking, “It’s Thanksgiving eve, shops have run out of Twinkies and the eBay price gouging has me down. What’s a girl to do?”

    Or, maybe you’re wondering, “What can I fill my plate with that has the word salad in it but isn’t salad because GROSS? Who wants healthy stuff on Thanksgiving?!”

    Never fear! Watergate Salad is here!

    It’s a salad and a dessert. It’s green but sweet. And it has all the nutrients you’ll miss after suffering from Twinkie Shock Syndrome.

    Hifalutin types probably think any dessert with main ingredients of Cool Whip or Jell-O is low class. And they’d be right. But they’d also be missing out on the glory that is Watergate Salad. It’s so easy to make, I assigned it as a task for Christian nine years ago on our first Thanksgiving. (Read that blog entry here. The fluffy, white-looking stuff on our plate is the salad. In real life, it’s mint green. I’ll add a new photo of mine when I make it in the morning.)

    He didn’t own a bowl back then so, yeah, it was like telling a ring bearer to go count the number of flowers in a church during a wedding to make him feel important and keep him out of the way. (Sorry, Christian. It’s time I told you the truth.)

    Okay, back to the “salad”. Here’s what you need:

    1 8oz crushed pineapple
    1 box instant pistachio pudding
    1 cup miniature marshmallows
    1 cup chopped pecans
    1 9oz cool whip

    Here’s what you do:

    Mix pineapple and pudding mix first then stir in other ingredients. Let it set in the fridge until you’re ready to stuff your face. It gets better with age, so if you have the time make it a day or two in advance. Put down the remote and make it already!

    Bone apatitty!

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC,  Random

    Extra! Extra!

    I have been two degrees from Kevin Bacon since 1997. Today that all changed. I was an extra on his new television show The Following which premieres in January. I was in a very, very short scene –think 5 lines and ten seconds– with some guy named Shawn Ashmore and a lady (Ann? Anne?) from Law & Order (though her character on that show {an ADA?} was killed off).

    It’s unlikely you’ll even see me, but what a fun day with awesome food and people. A guy got “stabbed,” there was blood everywhere, and I got paid!

    Tomorrow I’ll be pretending to walk my dogs in the park and having lunch with my husband.

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  NYC

    Home on the Grange

    In my last post, I mentioned the rooftop farm across the street from us. It’s worth mentioning again because it’s so incredibly resourceful. The operation is run by Brooklyn Grange and the Long Island City, Queens  location is its flagship farm. Produce is harvested six floors up on top of the Standard Motor Products building, which houses the namesake American car parts manufacturerJim Henson Studios, and Coffeed, the new restaurant which uses the produce to prepare the items on its menu. The Grange’s produce is also sold at farmer’s markets and pop-ups and to restaurants.

    Check out where to find Brooklyn Grange products here and check out the video below for some wonderful photos of the operation.

     

  • All Blog Entries,  NYC

    Hurricane Sandy & Volunteering at City Harvest

     I’m a big fan of thinking globally, acting locally but, day-ummm, this is a bit too local! When Hurricane Sandy hit, I was on my book tour in Texas and Christian was stuck in West Palm Beach where he’d headlined the Improv. While we were safe, our dogs were still in harm’s way. They were boarding at Camp Bow Wow in Long Island City. As you can see from Google Maps, they’re just steps away from water that leads from the East River. The kennel owner, Steve, stayed overnight with the dogs and had an evacuation plan that involved moving all the dogs to the 6th Floor. Luckily, he never had to implement the plan as water never flooded the building. There was lots of debris, a broken window and the billboard that used to be on the roof is now in the alley.

    Christian finally made it home Thursday after the hurricane, flying to Atlanta to Scranton where he rented a car and drove to our Rock House to check on it and get a few hours of rest. Thankfully house was fine save for some downed trees and branches. He drove back to Queens and picked up our beloved “babies”. I flew home Friday after a whirlwind, exhausting two plus weeks. But I couldn’t rest knowing my city was in pain.

    Rather than move hell or high water (or waste precious gas) to get to Staten Island or the Rockaways, Christian and I responded to an urgent request for volunteers  in our own neighborhood at the City Harvest headquarters at the Long Island City waterfront Saturday morning. They’ve delivered over 42 MILLION pounds of food to New Yorkers this year alone. They deliver food Every. Single. Day. So, they’re obviously set up to handle an operation like this. Sadly they lost a lot of trucks from water damage (their lot/building is on the same exact trail of water that didn’t hurt Camp Bow Wow), but their operation was still in full swing.

    We jogged there at 9:30 AM and joined the assembly line and proceeded to bag food and water. Final count at City Harvest at the end of the day: 64,668 pounds and 5,389 bags of non-perishable food items heading to Red Hook today.

    Exhausted, we walked home, and passed a ridiculous set of lions in front of a home (So Queens-y. So klassy!), and another home that had a bench, fake lawn and garden gnomes (one holding a miniature bottle of Smirnoff) inviting anyone to sit on it.

    We continued on past 5 Pointz where I snapped pictures of two new pieces that I really liked (see below) and stopped by Coffeed, the new store across the street from our apartment which is on the ground floor of the building that houses the a rooftop farm run by Brooklyn Grange.

    I got back to my apartment at 4PM. I’d been back in Queens for less than 24 hours. Working with our neighbors for a good cause then walking home surrounded by the quirkiness and talent and ingenuity that makes NYC so special reminded me that broken or not:

    There’s no place like home!

        

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Frozen Chocolate Treats

    You guys. Seriously. Try this. Here’s whatcha wanna do:

    Get some fruit. Freeze it. Dunk it in some melted chocolate & coconut oil. Lick off all the chocolate that has “accidentally” dripped everywhere. “Clean” the chocolate covered dish with your index finger. Lick. Repeat.

    Okay, for real, here are the uber-simple instructions:

    — Stick a plate of fruit (sliced if needed like in the case of kiwis, bananas and such) in the freezer for an hour.
    — Melt 1 bar of dark chocolate and a tbsp of coconut oil. (For the dark chocolate bar, use Hershey’s or Cadbury or the like. I’ve tried fancy stuff like Jacques Torres with yucky results. A larger 3.5 oz bar is perfect. Save a square or four to pop in your mouth while working and it’ll still be fine.)
    — Once melted and blended, let it cool to room temperature. (I never have patience for this with fine results. That said, there’s always a surplus of oil at top and chocolate at bottom, so maybe I should wait next time.)
    — Plunk the frozen fruit in the melted mixture using a popsicle stick, toothpick or, in the case of my raspberries, a skewer.

    Because the fruit is frozen & the plate chilled, the chocolate will dry quickly so it’s not even that messy and it’s MMM…MMM….GOOOOOOD!

    Refrigerate or re-freeze the final product. I prefer them chilled in the fridge rather than frozen solid because, ouch, my teeth!

    *For larger servings, keep this ratio: 1 tablespoon coconut oil for every 1/4 cup dark chocolate. Also, if you’re not a coco-nut (heh) use a refined coconut oil. Also, I use sugar free chocolate because sugar is the devil.

    All in all, it’s a quick, easy, affordable, delicious, healthy treat. Basically, you’re gonna want to invite me to your parties so I can treat you to some chocolate covered fruits.

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Recipes

    Easy Chili

    Not wanting to make a trip into town for supplies, I made chili with stuff I had around the cabin. Writing it down for future use as it was super easy and MMM, MMM GOOD!

    * 1 pound of ground beef or turkey
    * 3/4 cup diced red onion
    * 4 heaping tablespoons of Mrs. Renfro’s Green Salsa
    * 2 teaspoons of chili powder
    * 1.5 teaspoons cumin
    * 1 jalapeño diced (I chopped up a heaping tablespoon of canned, sliced ones because I didn’t have a fresh jap.)
    * 1 green bell pepper diced
    * 1 can beans drained (We had a can of red kidney beans which is optional, of course, as is everything else.)
    * 1 & a 1/2 tomatoes (just what I had…mix and match with diced tomatoes and tomato sauce based on what’s in the cupboard.)
    * 22 oz of tomato sauce (I had a 14 oz and 8 oz can in the cupboard so used what I had)
    * 8 oz water (I filled the empty 8 oz can of tomato sauce but didn’t need to.)

    Brown the ground beef in a pan then add to the crockpot with the other ingredients. I actually sautéed the onion & green pepper with the beef because I thought we’d be eating it in about 2 hours. Ended up cooking it on high for about 4 hours.

    Topped it off with shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream and some crushed tortilla chips. Delicious and easy and cheap!

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Mentoring

    Hour Children

    Hour Children is a non-profit dedicated to supporting incarcerated women and their children. Its founder, Sister Teresa has been nominated for a CNN Heroes Award. The group is also applying for a grant, so I wrote a little note taking a quote from my book and part of my blog entry Life is Fun to craft something new for that purpose. I wish I’d had more time to work on it, but here’s what I sent:

    When my father was sentenced to twenty years in prison, I was consumed by shame, fear, guilt, confusion and heartache. I grieved, I presume, as one might for a father who had unexpectedly died without saying goodbye. A father who had been unnaturally stripped away in a swift, deadly blow leaving his family to wonder what had been the last words said. When was the last, “I love you” and had they meant it? This was my father’s due, but I was devastated. Despite everything, I loved him.

    I had just turned thirty-one years old, a grown up seemingly capable of handling such a traumatic event. Ten years later, I spent my forty-first birthday with Jeaniah, my ten-year-old protégé from Hour Children, a girl whose parents have both been incarcerated.

    She and I were matched last March and have logged many hours together in museums, theaters, bowling alleys, aquariums, parks, zoos and, of course, Chuck E. Cheese.

    For my birthday, I took Jeaniah to the Spy Exhibit at Discovery Time Square Museum. The exhibit was interactive, educational and fun. We navigated a life-sized laser maze, took our photos & added wigs, glasses, facial hair and hats to disguise our images.  I was surprised that, in spite of all the amusing things, Jeaniah wanted to spend most of our time there reviewing a timeline of major world events. Using a touch screen, we selected a year, which then gave us dates to choose. One by one, we talked about events like the falling of the Berlin Wall, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Osama bin Laden and the Twin Towers.

    Overwhelmed by what she had yet to learn, I thought, “Man! Kids don’t know anything!”

    The history lesson led her to ask questions like just why had Osama bin Laden attacked us, followed by thoughtful discussions about various religions, tolerance and extremism. She’s a smart one this girl, quick and attentive. I don’t know how often, if ever, current events and such serious dialogue are part of her life, but I was glad to have been there to answer her questions with patience and honesty.

    Afterward, we meandered through Times Square where we saw all sorts of colorful characters: people in costumes, a guy with eight rats dyed a rainbow of colors sitting on his shoulders and a beautiful dragonfly that seemed attracted to me and Jeaniah.

    “This is the most fun ever,” she kept saying, and then would add, “Weird, but fun.”

    Kids might not know everything, but they know enough.

    In some cultures, it is believed that the dragonfly helps one let go of the past and if you see one in an unusual place, it symbolizes a transformation through a spiritual awakening. I’ve lived in New York City for twelve years and have never seen a dragonfly in a park let alone Times Square. It flew with us for over a block and even hitched a ride on J——’s arm.

    In my forty-one years of life, I’ve traveled the world, met thousands of people and learned a lot from them. Yet, I’ve never known a single person who also had a parent in prison.  Jeaniah is the only friend with whom I have this in common.

    Thanks to Hour Children, she and I can let go of our past and transform with each other. And, for a child whose life has been fraught with tumult, Jeaniah can have an occasional break, look around and decide that life is fun. Weird, but fun.

    ~~~~~~~

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Rock House

    Firestarters & Cabin Bedroom Wall Before & After

    For those of you with high testosterone levels, move along, there’s nothing to see here but more crafty, decoratey stuff.

    For the rest of you, here’s an update to my earlier post about my Mason jar addiction.

    It’s August, which in the Catskills means it’s campfire season! We had our first last night in the fire pit on our patio to keep us warm while we watched two episodes of “The Wire”. Cozy toasty and the smell still lingers in Griswold‘s hair, just another reason to snuggle my nose behind his ear. Anyway, while starting the fire with soggy kindling and newspaper, I was reminded that I wanted to make my own fire starters. I’ve saved egg cartons and leftover wax from candles all spring and summer precisely for this reason. Fire starters can be pretty pricey and why let all that wax go to waste? Bonus: scented candle wax gives added aroma.

    I stuffed cotton balls into the empty egg cartons, melted some wax (use leftover candles and Scentsy cubes that have lost their scent) in a makeshift double boiler (an empty can filled with the wax inside a pot of boiling water). Using a potholder & a pair of pliers to pluck the can out of the boiling water, I poured the melted wax over the cotton balls. Be sure to have wax paper under the cartons to save your counter, the wax will seep through. Use a toothpick to make sure the cotton soaks up the wax. Alternative materials to cotton balls are dryer lint and sawdust –they’re actually better but we don’t have a dryer or any sawdust piled up.

    When we start our fire tomorrow night, I’ll cut off one “egg”, light the carton paper and see if my homemade starter worked. Supposedly they burn up to 10 to 15 minutes each, as long as, if not longer than a store-bought starter.

    Now, onto the bedroom. The guy who restored the home from 2001-2007, didn’t put up drywall in the bedroom. It’s a style choice of his which we kind of like. We painted it a very light blue, but without drywall there’s no real way to hang anything. Then I had an idea! I got some 2x4s cut down to size which I painted & installed horizontally between the studs to create “shelves”. For extra security, I added a little “ledge” (like a dowel rod but not cylindrical) with some wood glue and two carpet nails. I thought it was a pretty good idea / solution. I placed some items on the ledges for picture purposes, but I’m not sure what will finally end up on the shelves. Whatdya think?

    Update: I forgot to include pictures of our fresh coat of paint (Sassafras Tea) in the kitchen & dining room and the new pot rack for the we hung above the stove. (Thanks to my in-laws for my birthday gift card to Crate & Barrel to help pay for it!)

    (Full Rock House photo set on Flickr.)

     

  • All Blog Entries,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  Family & Life

    A Wrinkle in Time

    I’ve always fancied myself a bit of a sleuth. In the mid-90s, during my days as a big shot banker, I collected on multi-million commercial dollar loans. To hunt down debtors, I searched all sorts of public records. The internet was still fairly new and most documents were not available online. I became somewhat obsessed with how much intimate information I could find out about a person from yearbook and wedding photos, past and current relationships, favorite restaurants and bars, you name it, simply by going to the library or the local courthouse.

    I was in a toxic personal relationship at the time and actually “stalked” a couple of people we knew (in the paper sense of the word) to hone my “skills” convinced I could turn my obsession into a money making business like being a P.I. for hire. Always the entrepreneur, I guess, but ultimately detective work is a tremendous time spent alone which is not my thing. Plus, it’s steeped in negativity.

    Fast forward to February 2012. My memoir was going on sale in a matter of days, and I needed something to occupy my thoughts besides the looming possibility of failure, criticism, and public shame. So, I joined Ancestry.com. Minutes gave way to hours that spanned into days of my pouring over legal documents and Google-sniffing out my mother’s family history. Finding a long lost document or a tidbit of news was exhilarating and poignant. For example, I found this article in the Emporia Gazette about my uncle Billy who was killed when a train struck the car he and several other deaf people were riding in. With just one click, I was reading an archived article, documenting the tragic accident. His name, his life and death, were summed up neatly in one sentence:

    Billy Thornton Fitzgarrald, 29, Tulsa.

    I burst into tears upon seeing it so plainly. I sobbed for the life cut short and for the pain his family —my family– suffered at the abrupt, violent and senseless loss. My emotions surprised me –I had never even met Uncle Billy– but seeing his name (misspelled) struck an emotional chord in me on a cellular level.

    My comfort was knowing that Billy’s story is still alive, like that of his twin sister, my Deaf grandmother Betty. She lives on through her letters I’ve saved and the stories and the book I’ve written. She will always be more than a simple sentence:

    Betty Mae Fitzjarrald Worth, 81, Tulsa.

    After a few weeks, I had reached the end of the family line; or, at least, tired of researching the same few people without results. Trips to government buildings will be needed to get any further. Bored, I considered what other things I could investigate. Then I remembered two postcards picturing the town where our cabin is located in the Catskills. Christian & I purchased them at an antique store in Liberty, NY, and I recalled there had been writing on them.

    One was in pristine condition and was postmarked November 18, 1910. The almost one hundred and two-year-old note reads:

    Miss Ida Martin 
    7 Vine Street
    Honesdale, PA

    Dear Ida I got some cards last night so will send yours did you get my letter?
    Hoping you are all well as this leaves me about sick in bed with a cold it is raining hard Harry has gone over home it was a journey. Over if it had of been a nice day. How is ___? Lula was looking for me last night but I guess she ____ come. Ha Ha. Ira is home. Good by. From Cora.

    My clues were rich. A complete address plus names including Ida Martin, Cora, Harry, Ira and Lula. I judged by the date of the postmark and it being addressed to “Miss” that Ida was a probably a young girl and, therefore, born after 1890. I easily found a census report listing Ida Martin, age 37, living in Pennsylvania with her widowed mother, Nellie Martin, age 57. Ida’s birthdate was approximately 1893 making her 17 at the time she received the postcard. Further searches yielded few details since it seems Ida never married or had children.

    I turned my search to Nellie. Combing through her records, I discovered her maiden name was Bishop and had sisters named Cora andLula and a brother named Ira! A jolt of adrenaline shot through me. I got antsy pants as I put dots together and searched Cora Martin’s records to find out who she married. Her husband’s name? Harrison. 

    Bingo! I had found them! Nellie’s siblings Cora, Lula, Ira and Ida were all actually around the same age as Nellie’s daughter Ida. I emailed the few Ancestry users that had the members in their tree and forwarded them the photos of the postcard. They all replied with overwhelming glee at the discovery of what probably seemed humdrum to Cora at the time. Seeing the names of family, the street where they lived, a simple day in their life and, especially, seeing the handwriting fade where Cora needed to dip her pen in a well to freshen the ink transported us all to another place.

    My efforts did not go unrewarded. One Ancestry user emailed me back to say that while researching Nellie (Bishop) Martin, she discovered an author named Clara Gillow Clark had written a book. It was a children’s book about her great grandmother named Nellie Bishop.

    I know. Right?!

    A lump grew in my throat and, again, I was struck with deep emotion. Nellie and her daughter Ida will be more than a simple sentence, too.

    The irony of this story is that the internet is at once the thing that allowed this to happen and the thing that is making precious documents like these extinct. Archived newspaper articles and handwritten letters serve as tangible wrinkles in time allowing us to travel across decades. One hundred and two years from now, will your great grandchild cherish your Facebook postings?

    ~~
    Kambri

    Cora’s card if she were to write it to Ida today:

     

     

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Rock House

    Step Away from the Mason Jar!

    I need an intervention to cure my mason jar craft addiction. In addition to turning a tiny jar into a sewing kit, I’ve made two mason jar match holders (simply stick a bunch of matches in a mason jar and hot glue some sand paper to the circular portion of the lid. But be sure to get strike anywhere matches) and mason jar salt container spout thingy. Lest mason jars have all the fun, I ate over a pound of cornichons so I could turn the empty jars into light fixtures.

    I’ve also been busy priming and painting wooden picture frames, a hat stand, a hideous lamp, a wooden plate shelf/rack and plain old 2x4s. The guy who restored the home from 2001-2007, didn’t put up drywall in the bedroom. It’s a style choice of his which we don’t mind. We painted it a very light blue, but without drywall there’s no real way to hang anything. So, I got some 2x4s cut down to size which, after the priming is dry, I will paint & install horizontally between the studs to create “shelves”. I think it’s a pretty good idea / solution. We’ll see!

     

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life

    Media Maven

    While rifling through boxes recently, I found a little “time capsule” I’d made myself the summer I turned twelve-years-old. I’d read the suggestion in a magazine and haphazardly filled an empty stationery box with cards, letters and handwritten notes on what movies I’d seen that summer and the current retail value of my library’s inventory.

    I thought it’d be fun to chronicle my summer of 2012 since I’m actually enjoying being in the audience again. See, in 2006, the comedy nightclub Comix opened and would exist for four years. My personal life did not. I lived, ate, drank, and slept there. Then I wrote & published a book, and I’ve since lived, eaten, drunk and dreamt about book stuff. Which brings us to present day. I started mentoring a girl and between tour dates cherished the R&R time. I’ve taken all of August off which might bleed into September and, holy mother, I’m making up for lost time.

    Below is a list of media I’ve consumed in the last couple of months in NYC. This isn’t comprehensive as I just now thought about chronicling my viewing and reading pleasures but will give you an idea of what I like. Please, please, please submit any recommendations in the comments below. Okay, here we go!

    TV

    • Olympics XXX!!! (I don’t have any television at the cabin but thankfully NBC has live streaming & full replays. O’er the land of the FREE! And the HOME of theeeeeeeeee BRAAAAAAVEEE! Man, I love the Olympics. Ever since Dorothy Hamill and especially because of the 1984 Olympics in LA. Deal. Sealed.)
    • The Wire (Currently on season 1, episode 4. Don’t ruin it a-hole. Yes, I realize I’m 10 years late getting started but, still, shut up with your stupid spoilers.)
    • Friday Night Lights (Waiting for the final season to be released on Netflix. Again. Zip yo’ lip, mofo!)
    • Breaking Bad (Christian is behind on season 4, but I’m not watching the final season live. So, feel free to ruin it for him. I’m good.)
    • Downton Abbey (PBS!!!)
    • Dateline (The husband did it!)
    • 48 Hours Mystery (The husband did it again!)
    • Forensic Files (The husband did it but they’ll show you how!)
    • Veep (Julia Louis-Dreyfus continues to be one of my favorite comedic actresses of all time. I can actually pinpoint the first time I saw her on re-runs of a a short-lived sitcom called “Day by Day” and made a point to tell everyone I knew that she was worth watching. Then Seinfeld hit and I was all like, “I TOLD YOU!”)
    • Arrested Development (Again. Worth it.)
    • Hatfield & McCoys (Not finished with this one but enjoyed the first part. I saw Mare in “Tribes” Off-Broadway a few weeks ago and was reminded that I didn’t finish it.)
    • Cheers (It holds up 20 years later. Classic!)
    • Louie (I feel like I should, ya know?)
    • The Walking Dead (Enjoyed the 1st episode so will definitely watch more.)
    • Sons of Anarchy (Wow. This is cheesy and awful. Smart people I know watch this show. I’m dumbfounded.)

    –I know I’m missing “Modern Family” on this list but Netflix only has it available on DVD, not streaming, so I’d rather wait till that happens or get it another way.

    Reality Game Shows*

    • Biggest Loser (Or, as Christian calls it, “The Fattest Fatty”. Hey, he was a fatty once, he’s allowed.)
    • American Idol (I’m not done with this one yet. Judges were lame, sure, but man…the talent was crazy good.)
    • Survivor (I remember seeing the first commercial for this when I was living in a penthouse in Cincinnati. I thought it sounded like the most incredible sociological experiment ever. It’s devolved into a kind of rote game show, but the characters generally keep it interesting.)
    • The Amazing Race (I usually forget about or lose interest in this one even though I so admire the logistical chess game that producing it must be. Also, I love that it shows all sorts of religions, races, disabilities, sexual identities, etc. {Wait, what is etc. in this case? I dunno…whatever}. But, flipping sports never fail to go long and ruin my DVR taping and pfft…I’m behind, not emotionally caught up and just say F it.)

    *I don’t watch reality TV and have no interest in it. But a good contest with genuine, heart, talent or strategy & I’m in!

    Movies

    • Ides of March
    • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
    • Reality Bites
    • Transamerica (Wow. Felicity Huffman deserved all the accolades she received for portraying a pre-op transgendered man. Picked up this DVD for 1.00 a that bizarre auction in Liberty, NY.)
    • Drive (Ryan Gosling! Gory murders!)
    • Sons of Anarchy (The pilot was really cheesy. We own the first season {I have no idea why or how. Maybe Christian bought it.} so I will probably end up watching more episodes, but, yeah…it’s bad.)
    • Far From Heaven (At the AMMI with a talkback & Q&A with director Todd Haynes, costume designer Sandy Powell & production designer Mark Friedberg. I’m so glad I didn’t see this movie when it first came out in 2002. I didn’t know it was a melodrama and am certain I wouldn’t have appreciated it as such. Amazing night.)
    • The Age of Innocence (Also at the AMMI introduced by Martin Scorcese himself. You know, Marty, the director? Another melodrama but a different age. Heh.)
    • Finding Nemo (Pixar owns my heart. Sigh.)
    • Brave (Well, okay, they don’t *own* it. This is my least favorite Pixar movie but still enjoyable. It was awesome to see a girl with skills and courage in a powerful role. Perfect for taking my protege.)
    • The Help (Loved it!)
    • Crazy, Stupid, Love (Loved this one, too!)
    • Easy A (Cute. Clearly was on an Emma Stone kick.)
    • Bad Teacher (Ridiculous at times, but fun. Cameron Diaz is irresistible to me.)
    • Stranger Than Fiction (Interesting attempt at a sort of alternate reality rom-com. Really great ending.)
    • The Strangers (A really, really, really terrible idea to watch this alone in the cabin. Worst night of sleep ever.)
    • Hugo (Meh. Not sure what the big deal is. Maybe should have seen it at the theater.)
    • Our Idiot Brother (Paul Rudd is also irresistible to me. He & Cameron Diaz should give me their baby to raise.)
    • Midnight in Paris (Lovely.)
    • Martha Marcy May Marlene (Meh.)
    • Take Shelter (Meh.)
    • Young Adult (Enjoyed it but, like Bridesmaids, there was a meltdown-in-front-of-a-group scene that is just not believable. Took me out of it for a bit, but I really liked it.)
    • Peep World (Meh.)
    • The Pirates: Band of Misfits 3D (Glad for the 3D part because my protege J had a hard time following the accents and foreign vernacular. But she did enjoy it and ended up learning about Charles Darwin, Queen Victoria & dodo birds, all three of which came up in subsequent outings to museums.)
    • Mamma Mia (Got this for $1.00 at a garage sale on 8.11 & watched the same night. I’d seen the musical on Braodway when it first opened & surprisingly enjoyed it. The movie was fun, too. It’s hard not to like Meryl Streep being fun, sexy & silly. I hope I get to be her when I grow up.)

    –Watching Moneyball & Drive this weekend.

    Documentaries*

    • Ken Burns’ The Civil War (Currently about half-way through. It’s dense and so I have to be in the right mood to really immerse myself.)
    • The Wild and Wonderful Whites (Wow.)
    • Being Elmo (Watched this after meeting Kevin & Elmo for a show I brought to the 92YTribeca. Loved him and so, of course, loved his doc.)
    • Prodigal Sons (Bizarre twist but I lost interest a few times.)
    • One Nation Under God (
    • TEDTalks (These are short & sweet so make for great viewing on the treadmill. I’m only a few in, but am enjoying them.)

    *I normally watch documentaries more than any other genre. Lately, I’ve run out of ones to watch but still love recommendations.

    Books*

    • The Long Goodbye (currently reading at super quick clip)
    • How to Be Black#
    • Guts#
    • Kasher in the Rye#
    • The Book of Drugs#
    • Have You Found Her#
    • Wild (meh)
    • A Piece of Cake (Amazing story of recovery & redemption but, crikey, she could’ve used an aggressive editor or hired a ghost writer. It’s a 325 page story drawn out to 480 pages. It starts out strong then gets really repetitive. It’s a fast read, though, and I skimmed through parts.)
    • French Lessons (Actually a book on tape that I won in a raffle. Fiction /romance which is definitely not my “thing” so can’t fairly rate it for someone who does like the genre. It did make the driving to & from the cabin more interesting and made me want to listen to more books.)

    *Most books I’ve read lately were written by friends & acquaintances indicated with # above and, therefore, unreviewed. I haven’t ventured out beyond that. (I prefer non-fiction, but love a good mystery / suspense tale.)

    Okay, so that is a pretty good summation of the last couple of months. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things and will continue to revise this post through Labor Day.

    ~~Kambri
    Oh! And museums & zoos & stuff! I’ve been to a crap ton! In addition to the dozens of things I’ve visited in each city I’ve tours, in NYC I’ve gone to The Spy Exhibit at Discovery Center in Times Square, The New York Aquarium at Coney Island, The AMMI (I’m a member, duh), American Museum of Natural History, The Central Park Zoo, Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest, and Chuck E. Cheese.

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Family & Life

    5 Minute Mason Jar Craft Project

    At my book launch party, Nichelle Stephens gave me a yummy little cupcake in a jar. I thought the jar itself was so cute, I hung on to it figuring I’d find a use for it some day. And the day has come! Mindy Raf told me about buzz feed’s 41 things to do with mason jars which led to a Pinterest wormhole which led to this. I had a cheap little emergency sewing kit in a case that always popped open in my junk drawer. I also happened to have some batting (don’t ask) and a scrap burlap sack that I got at a junk store for 50 cents and voila! A little sewing kit pin cushion thing:

  • All Blog Entries,  Comedy

    Magic Mike Sequel – Exclusive Photos!

    I have it on good authority that there is a sequel to Magic Mike in the works and have exclusive, never before seen photos from the set! If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read further.

    When asked about a follow-up, Tatum told Glamour U.K., “Yes, yes and yes! We’re working on the concept now. We want to flip the script and make it bigger.”

    The movie begins where the original left off: Mike, portrayed by hot piece of beefcake (okay, “actor”) Channing Tatum, has quit stripping and is languishing bored and broke. While scouring Craig’s List, he spies an ad for a tryout to join the U.S. Water Polo team. In a flip of the original, Mike is now the apprentice being trained by “Jake”, the seasoned but aging veteran star of the team whom the Olympics and gold medal have eluded, rumored to be portrayed by Colin Farrell.

    Underwater cameras catch plenty of tugging and pulling on tiny Speedos, man-on-man contact and gratuitous butt shots. Fans of Matthew McConaughey don’t fret. You will get another glimpse of his scantily clad taint when the polo team has a fun romp at Miami Beach for a round of volleyball and runs in to the strip club entrepreneur extraordinaire. Slow motion dives into the sand? Alright, alright, alright!

    Conflict ensues as the Olympic Games begin and the media gets wind of Mike’s scandalous former gig. The team suspends him as the controversy unfolds but when Jake is injured they pull Mike from the locker room. He rejoins the team and leads the U.S. team in an epic, come from behind (heh) win of the GOLD MEDAL!!! Jake has his long-awaited glory and Mike is featured on the boxes of Wheaties.

    Roll credits.

    Now, on to the honey shots:

      

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  PR & Marketing,  Travel

    Fall Dates

    I’ve had a whirlwind tour for my book Burn Down the Ground. My last out-of-state event in Cleveland for the regional conference of the National Black Deaf Advocates was amazing, but I’m happy to take all of August off to recharge. Dates booked for this fall are below and details are on my calendar. If you want me at your event or store –especially if it coordinates with dates already booked below– email me at kambricrews@Gmail.com

    September
    17 – NYC for Bare! at the PIT
    19 – NYC for That’s What She Said at Public Assembly
    26 – NYC for the How I Learned series at Happy Ending Lounge

    October
    13  – Portland, OR – Wordstock Book Festival
    13 – Cannon Beach, OR – Cannon Beach Library
    18 – Winstead, CT – North Connecticut Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
    20 – Cincinnati, OH – Books by the Bank Book Festival
    23 – Lansing, MI – Schuler Books
    24 & 25 – Grand Rapids, MI – Grand Rapids Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
    27 – Texas Book Festival (Free & ASL interpreted)
    29 – Montgomery, TX – Montgomery Middle School
    30 – Conroe, TX – Hauke Alternative School

    November
    1 – Austin, TX – Book Woman book store (Free & ASL interpreted)
    7 – Washington, DC – Bare! at Black Fox Lounge
    10 – Madison, WI – Wisconsin Book Festival
    14 – New York, NY – Administration for Children’s Services

    January 2013
    17 – 20 – Jefferson, TX – Girlfriend Weekend – Pulpwood Queens Book Club

  • PR & Marketing

    Author Kambri Crews at the Fort Worth Library

    Author Kambri Crews Coming to Fort Worth Library
    North Richland Hills Native to Read, Sign Books & Answer Questions About Her Memoir

    Fort Worth, Texas — The Fort Worth Library is pleased to welcome Kambri Crews, author of Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir (Random House) on Saturday, June 30, at 2PM. Crews will be signing books, taking questions from the audience, and reading from her memoir as part of the library’s Summer Reading Series. Crews will also appear at the Northeast Mall Barnes and Noble in Hurst, Texas, on Sunday, July 1st at 3PM.

    Burn Down the Ground is Crews’ powerful, affecting, and unflinching memoir about her unconventional childhood living with deaf parents in a tin shed in rural Texas (Crews is not deaf), and her attempts to reconcile that harrowing childhood to her present life—one in which her father is serving a twenty-year sentence in a maximum-security prison for attempted murder.

    A Texas native, Crews now runs her own PR and production company in New York City. A renowned storyteller and public speaker, she has performed in New York at The Moth’s Mainstage, The 92Y, UCB Theatre, and Gotham Comedy Club, and given speeches at SXSW (South by Southwest) and DeafHope, a nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic and sexual violence against deaf women and children.

    Crews’s memoir has received praise from esteemed publications such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, ELLE magazine, and Library Journal.

    SAT, JUN 30 @ 2PM – 3:30PM
    Fort Worth Public Library
    500 W 3rd Street
    Fort Worth, Texas

    FREE! Kambri will tell a story, read from her book, conduct a Q&A and sign copies of her memoir. Books will be available for purchase. ASL interpretation will be provided!

    SUN, JUL 1 @ 3PM – 4:30PM
    Barnes & Noble
    861 NE Mall Blvd
    Hurst, TX 76053
    817-284-1244

    FREE! Kambri will tell a story, read from her book, conduct a Q&A and sign copies of her memoir. Books will be available for purchase. ASL interpretation will be provided upon request. Email Kambri@KambriCrews.com.

    PRAISE FOR BURN DOWN THE GROUND:

    “Poignant and unsettling.” —Kirkus Reviews

     “A compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit.”—Booklist

    “Crews’ account (the title refers to lighting brush on fire to clear out snakes) is as well-paced and stirring as a novel. In her fluid narrative (she’s also a storyteller on the side, a gig that helped her develop this book), Crews neither wallows in self-pity nor plays for cheap black-comedic yuks. Instead, this book stands out for what matters most: Crews’ story, bluntly told.” —Elle magazine

    “Harrowing…A remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival.” —Publishers Weekly

    *Read a FREE excerpt *         *Read reviews & blurbs*      *View pictures of the tin shed*

    ###

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Mentoring,  NYC

    Life is Fun

    A 21st century birthday is like no other thanks to Facebook giving folks the heads up. Thank you everyone for the emails & comments & phone calls & texts. It never fails to overwhelm.

    Christian was headlining in Atlanta, so I chose to spend my 41st birthday with my lice-free, nine-year-old protégé “J” from Hour Children, a non-profit dedicated to supporting incarcerated women and their children. After two postponed dates due to “dem bugs” infesting her head, I took her to the Spy Exhibit at Discovery Time Square Museum followed by ice cream for dinner.

    During our subway ride she gave me a birthday card. She could hardly contain her excitement as I opened it and giggled and squirmed in her seat like she might pee herself. If she had, it’s the NYC subway so no big whoop. Pee on yourself all you want little lady. Here is the card:

     

    Man, you could have ended my birthday right then and there before we even got to DO anything and I would’ve been fine with that. What more could I get than the love, admiration and appreciation of a little girl? Tears, people. Gives me big ol’ crocodile tears.

    But, we were on the subway on our way to learn about spies! Taking a kid whose parents are in jail to an exhibit about all sorts of illegal activities and the consequences of such was either a bright idea or a really dumb one. But it was interactive, educational and fun. We took our photos & added wigs, glasses, facial hair and hats to disguise our images and there was a laser maze we navigated like Catherine Zeta Jones in “Entrapment”. But my derriere was less like this:

    And more like this:

     

    In spite of all the fun things, we surprisingly spent most of our time going over a timeline of major world events. Using a touch screen, we selected a year which then gave us dates to choose. One at a time, I educated her on events like the falling of the Berlin Wall, World Wars and Vietnam. Man, kids don’t know ANYTHING!

    I kept expecting her to get bored at the history lesson, but she wanted to know more. Especially about the capturing of terrorists, 9/11 and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It was his photo on the big screen that had attracted J to the exhibit.

    “I’ve seen his picture on TV!” She said as she ran over to the display.

    I trailed after her. “Oh, yeah, that’s Osama Bin Laden.”

    “Who’s that?”

    “He masterminded 9/11. Have you heard about that or the World Trade Center?”

    Nope. She hadn’t. She didn’t know about the buildings, the planes, nothing. She wasn’t even born. So with each event on the timeline I explained the whole thing. “I don’t like that man!”

    Yeah, me either, kid. Me either. All this talk led to more questions like just why did he hate us so much which led to thoughtful discussions about different religions, extremists, and tolerance. She’s a smart one this girl and quick and thoughtful. I don’t know how often, if ever, current events & such heavy dialogue are part of her life but I’m glad to be there to answer her questions with patience and honesty.

    As we meandered through Times Square, we saw all sorts of weirdos, people in costumes, a guy with eight rats dyed a rainbow of colors sitting on his shoulders and a beautiful dragonfly that seemed attracted to me & J. Let me repeat that: we saw a DRAGONFLY in TIMES SQUARE. I’ve lived here 12 years and have never seen a dragonfly in a park let alone Times Square. It flew with us for a block and even hitched a ride on her arm.

    She kept saying this was the “most fun ever” then added, “Weird, but fun.”

    I told you she’s smart. Life is fun. Weird, but fun.

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  PR & Marketing

    Birthday Wishes & Caviar Dreams

    I’ve never asked for anything from my friends for my birthday. UNTIL TODAY!

    Please buy my book BURN DOWN THE GROUND: A MEMOIR! Share it. Click “Like”. And, hey, while you’re there, maybe type up a quick review. Just a line or ten.

    Are you in DFW? Come see me at the Fort Worth Library or the Hurst Barnes & Noble.

    Easy purchase links: WalMartTargetAmazonBarnes & NobleiTunesIndie Bound or, for personalized copies, on KambriCrews.com

    For you fellow bookworms, rate it on GoodReads.com!
    As a big ol’ thank you in advance, here’s a fun fact followed by this year’s card from My Jailed Deaf Dad:

    I was born on June 22, 1971, the summer solstice. A June 22 solstice will not occur until June 22, 2203. That’s how motherfucking special I am! (Along with all the thousands of other people born that day proving that McCullough, Jr. dude right. I’m not that special.)

    And now for the pièce de résistance, this year’s card* drawn by My Jailed Deaf Dad: