Time for a change

Recently I wished, for the umpteenth time, that I could stop using the internet. Then, later, I revised that statement – I wished I could give up social media.

I’d thought it over. Email would be a good way to keep in touch with people in place of Facebook, G+, and Twitter. I would hate to give up the educational aspect the internet as well, especially considering how crucial research is to writing novels. Then there is the entertainment factor of blogs, YouTube, and Grooveshark, which I don’t have problems with using. They can be very helpful, too.

No, I thought. I don’t want to give everything up. My problem lies with social media.

I hate how dependent I feel. I hate that I have the compulsion to repeatedly check Facebook and Twitter. I had the same problems when I used to use message boards years and years ago. I feel like because the computer is on, or if I’m using it already, I may as well check and see if there’s anything new. And the more dead the place is at the time, the more I check.

They say Facebook, and Twitter, and everywhere else are places to connect. I don’t believe that’s true. I have never felt less connected. I don’t have any meaningful conversations; I never get to ask anybody how they’re doing. I don’t hear what’s going on with them aside from what they choose to share. There is the obvious problem of none of us going out of our way to really talk to people, but I think that’s what social media does. It gives the façade of connection, so you feel no need to ask, “How was your day? What did you do? What did you see?”

And then there’s me. I won’t say the cliché that I feel like I’m not being myself. But I feel like I’m being less of myself than I want to be. I often choose not to say what I’d like to, because I will either tick someone off, or people won’t really care, or the wrong people will see it and ask stupid questions. I feel like I would know people much better if I had emailed, called, or visited them instead of bumming around the internet most of the day.

Being on the internet so much – and even a few weeks ago, I was on the computer much less than I used to be in the message board days – makes me feel a certain disconnect from reality. My head is in the clouds. The days go by too fast. I could be reading, or drawing, or writing, or any number of things instead of checking Facebook for the fourteenth time that day. It gives the feeling of squandering my life away when I could make it count.

I felt the same way about video games last year. I wondered, “What is the point of this? Sure, I built a pretty sweet castle in Minecraft. But I didn’t really accomplish anything.” I couldn’t play them after that. I tried. They just felt like a waste of time.

I asked myself a similar question after the idea came for dropping social media from my life. “What am I getting out of social media?” I thought about it. I couldn’t think of anything.

I would love to give it up. I really would. But as always, things are easier said than done.

Instead of cutting it all out at once, and no doubt failing miserably, I’ve been limiting my time progressively for the last two weeks. Soon, I won’t use social media at all. It will be a sweet relief.

I have been searching Pinterest far and wide for even more ridiculous foods. I was not disappointed. Here are some of the things I found – with commentary!

Cake batter smoothies (I had hope for this one. I was sorely let down when I found out it’s literally cake batter, from a mix, sans eggs. Better yet, ice cream gets added! I feel the need to point out that these ingredients mean it’s a milkshake, not a smoothie.)

Funfetti cake batter dip (Only three ingredients. You know it has to be good!)

Cake batter truffles (Think cookie dough with cake mix thrown in. SO MUCH BUTTER.)

Cake batter bark (Chocolate bark with a teensy bit of cake mix thrown in. I’m sorry. What does this accomplish? . . .)

Cake batter pancakes (I . . . It’s . . . I’m going to go cry now.)

Easter Egg Cake Batter Rice Krispy Treats (Come on, guys. Putting cake mix in everything does not make it cake batter!)

No-bake brownie recipe (More facepalming. They were in the shape of cookies, no less.)

Cookie dough shots (OH FOR THE LOVE OF–)

Deep-dish cookies (Chocolate chip, naturally. Made in ramekins. There are no jars in sight! I am shocked! Call the Internets Police!)

*Healthy* chocolate frosting shots (Made from coconut milk that has had time to separate, you then pour off the watery bits and use the thick, fatty leftovers to make this “frosting.” I fail to see how this is healthy.)

Lemon brownies (This is pretty much a shallow, lemon-flavoured cake. These aren’t brownies, guys.)

Orange brownies (Am I the only one who understands that the “brown” references brownies being a chocolate-based treat? I guess so, since these also have no chocolate.)

Red velvet waffles (Everyone seems to have a strange obsession with red velvet. Everything that can be red velvet is made into red velvet.)

Red velvet pull-apart bread (See? What did I tell you?)

Jargaritas (Margaritas in a jar!)

Beer-garitas (Beer margaritas in a jar! Though I am pretty sure making this with beer instead of tequila means it’s not a margarita! But who really cares SO LONG AS IT IS BOOZE IN A JAR!)

Oreo Cookie spread (Looks like pre-chewed Oreos. The recipe involves adding heavy cream and oil to the cookies, and then putting it all in the food processor. Delish.)

Crock pot sugared pecans (My mom’s reaction sums it up: “No. Just NO.”)

Apple pie peanut butter (Um . . . Ew?)

Corn dogs in a jar (. . . LOL.)

Pringles brownies (We’ve tried Potato Chip Bars before. Don’t bother.)

Pie crust dessert nachos (Okay. Why would you do this with pie crust?)

Pie crust cookies (I think it’s about time for people to start eating mayonnaise straight from the jar at this rate.)

Strawberry 7-Up cake (Why? Why would you do this?)

Cheeseburger and fries casserole (Served with the usual condiments and everything.)

7-Up crockpot chicken (And I quote: “This meal has only 5 ingredients and can be thrown together in a matter of minutes!  The 7UP makes the chicken so moist with a hint of sweetness!”)

Balsamic strawberries (I didn’t start crying until I saw that it was made with Splenda. Then my body was overcome with sobs of agony.)

Sour patch grapes (I knew these couldn’t be good. According to the pinner in question, you cover some grapes with a packet of lime Jell-o powder. Kids LOVE it!!!!)

Cupcake waffles (I . . . I have nothing left to say.)

I’ve been thinking of developing a recipe for all you food bloggers out there. It’s going to be a rainbow velvet cake in a jar, that is baked in a slow cooker, then topped with bacon and raw cookie dough icing (which will, of course, be nothing like actual cookie dough). I will smother the whole with more chocolate, some peanut butter, and maybe a splash of booze. I will of course sweeten it with fake sugar, thereby making it a healthy dessert!

Me and my mom were discussing why it’s always chocolate chip cookie dough. I mean, what about peanut butter cookie dough? Or gingerbread? Even better – whipped shortbread. I think the first time I made whipped shortbread, I ate half of the batch before it was even cooked. It’s that good. That’s the sort of raw cookie dough consumption I could stand behind. Even better, you don’t need to horribly mutilate I mean, modify the recipe, since there aren’t even any eggs in whipped shortbread to begin with. I have seen peanut butter cookie dough recipes, although those are hardly true to life, either, and don’t come along as often as chocolate chip.

Anyway. I think maybe it’s time for me to stop using Pinterest. It just makes me sadpants.

Sometimes, I weep for humanity.

I joined Pinterest a couple of weeks ago. I have gotten in the habit of browsing the Food & Drink section purely out of the desire to find bizarre recipes or trends that should never have been invented.

Take food in jars, for example. First it started with cake-in-a-jar a while back. I thought it looked cool, and all, but it bothered me how all the icing was at the top – thus, more than half of your cake would be icing-less. I didn’t worry that it would become popular; after all, it’s completely impractical.

But I should have worried. Oh, yes. Now, food-in-jars is an epidemic, I tell you. It’s everywhere you turn. This post demonstrates just how far this obsession with food in jars has gone.

Layered dip, guys. In a jar.

In. A. Jar.

The words I have for this?

You’re doing it wrong.

So many of these foods have no right being in jars, okay? That pie might look nice. But how are you supposed to really get the side/bottom crust and the filling at the same time without having to work for it? And am I really supposed to want to put extra work into a meal so it can be eaten from a heinously impractical vessel?

Oh, sure. If you’ve got really short jars, well, that’s okay. But everyone’s using tall Mason jars. Or – shudder – jars with a smaller neck than the rest of the jar. The further I went down the list, the more I wanted to find a nice, dark corner, and sob quietly.

I mean, really. Layered dip in a jar?

I could go on about food-in-jars. I really could. But there’s more, folks. There’s more.

I will never deny that raw cookie dough is delicious. In fact, when I used to bake (I no longer do except for special occasions), I often enjoyed eating the raw dough more than the cookies that were baked.

But food blogs have taken it a step further. They’re not just eating the cookie dough. They’re putting it on top of things, they’re mixing it in other stuff; it’s just everywhere. I can’t scroll through Pinterest for five minutes without seeing something about raw chocolate chip cookie dough (or something in jars, for that matter. That just gave me a brilliant idea! Raw cookie dough in jars? Genius!). I’ve even seen Cookie Dough Marshmallows.

The other day, I saw brownies. These, however, weren’t ordinary brownies; they were chocolate chip cookie dough brownies, complete with an inch of raw cookie dough on top. In fact, there was more cookie dough on top than actual brownie. It was truly a sight to behold. Since the internet is the internet, all of the comments were fawning over how delicious it looked. I just gagged a little.

Might I just add how every post – every single one – says, “You don’t have to worry about raw eggs or salmonella in this recipe!” The problem with this? Everyone making this has probably eaten raw eggs in baked goods plenty of times. Why would they start worrying about the risk now?

Back to the recipes. There is also a recipe called Cookie Dough Dip that is sweeping the nation. My problem with it is not the dip itself. It isn’t even in a jar – though I am sure if I looked hard enough, I would find someone who has put it in a jar. My problem is that this dip isn’t anything like cookie dough. It’s cream cheese icing, more or less, with brown sugar and chocolate chips thrown in.

I even came across Brownie Batter Dip this afternoon. It’s pretty much cream cheese icing that’s chocolate-flavoured. But don’t worry – the blog in question assured me that it was as close to the real deal as you could get. *Sarcasm*

My next peeve comes from those who call their recipe something that it is not. I first came across this phenomenon of people not even understanding what it is they were truly making when I saw the words, “Low-carb hummus (bean-free).” Intrigued, I went to the website, wondering how hummus – which is a dip specifically made of chickpeas (Don’t believe me? Check Wikipedia.) – could possibly be made without chickpeas. I was horrified to find the watery-looking dip was made with zucchini – yes, really! – instead of chickpeas! And they called it hummus!

Another instance that is a strange combination between cookie dough and hummus was a recipe where the dip in question was cookie dough dip, but hummus based. Complete with chickpeas. As my mom would say, “Honey. No.

This morning, it was Earl Grey jam, or something like that. Anyway, the ingredients included milk, sugar, cream, and a bag of Earl Grey tea. They were cooked together for a while until thick, and the recipe suggested sweetened condensed milk could instead be heated and steeped with the tea for the same result.

Yum, yum, yum!

Things I Can’t Write

When I was younger, I used to love YA novels – the ones my mom considers “fluff”, such as Gossip Girl, the Georgia Nicolson series, Meg Cabot books, and generally novels that didn’t explore much beyond going to high school and finding a boyfriend. I used to even want to write these fluffy books. But now, I can’t enjoy reading these books at all – much less think of even writing one.

I’m not sure when this began to change. I think it was more noticeable last spring, and even more so in the last couple of months, when I just couldn’t understand why. Why would anybody write about this? Why? Why do girls going to high school and finding boyfriends need to read books about going to high school and finding boyfriends? Why, I tell you? Even I, someone who has never gone to school and never had a boyfriend, finds this almost uninteresting. Sure, some of them have twists, like Meg Cabot’s books, where someone is a princess, or a mediator, or saves the president. Sure, some of them are the exceedingly popular “girl gets into trouble with parents/gets shipped off to some relative she barely knows for the summer so she can get a seemingly boring, yet infinitely rewarding job/magically finds her One True Love”.

But are these books really any good? Are they written well? Are they moving? Do they really have any sort of message that means anything? Do they make a difference in the world? Are they suspenseful and imaginative, with characters that you can really admire?

No. They are none of these things. Sure, they’re good. Sometimes. But they’re never great. And being great matters.

I shouldn’t single out these sorts of YA novels specifically. I also think romance novels are just as bad, if not worse – sorry, Mom. Plenty of books that are published nowadays, in every genre, are just plain trash. I think so many industries – movies, music, TV, books – are so hungry for money, they just don’t care if it’s really good or not. They just want to make money. Only a small portion of authors are really good at what they do, and they can be hard to find among the massive amount of bad ones.

But what are great books, you ask? Ones that aren’t ordinary. Ones where things that will never happen in real life do happen. And, of course, they’re well-written, imaginative, suspenseful, moving; they have great characters, a message, and they make a difference. I’d like to think I could be great author, though I’m not sure everyone feels the same after I wrote my first failure of a book – but knowing I have something to prove only makes me more motivated to be great.

What will make my books great? Daran is about a strong and determined girl whose parents have gone missing, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to get them back – including going to another world and risking her own life. The Outsiders is about a dystopian society that has gone to extreme lengths to control the world’s population, even going so far as to drug the populace so they no longer feel love or desire. It’s about one girl who has lived in that world her entire life and escapes, hoping to join a rebellion where she can take down the corrupt government and save her family. Another book I have put into my line-up is about an old man who dies, only to be cloned hundreds of years later into a younger body that cannot be destroyed and with his old memories intact. This reborn man is only one of a race of superhumans, including a lost love from a past lifetime who has also come back from the dead. I don’t know yet what else will happen in the book (or it could be a series), but I know it’ll be great.

How do I know these books – which I haven’t written yet – will be great? Because, unlike some authors, I care. I care, and I want to be great at what I do.

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