And the Oscar for Best Snack Goes To…

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertainment, Food, Food & Drink, Movies, Pop Culture, Recipes, Snacks, Television

Oscar night is my favorite night of television. For as long as I can remember, Kirsten has come over and we settle in on the couch for a long night of eating, drinking, and yelling at the television.

I love seeing all the beautiful dresses on the red carpet while I’m in comfy clothes on the couch with my dog in my lap. I was lucky enough to go to the Oscars once and, while it was a spectacular evening (Faye Dunaway cut in front of me in the bathroom line), it was super stressful.

As much as I love watching the show, (The monologue! The winners! The montage!) I look forward to our snacking tradition just as much. Every year it is the same: champagne (natch) and popcorn. And not just ANY popcorn…Oscar-worthy popcorn! Yes, friends, this snack should be on every table at the Governor’s Ball. Heck, if they gave out this popcorn in a gold-plated bowl instead of the Oscar, I think there would be zero no-shows.

So, set your DVR for Live from the Red Carpet, chill your champagne, and make yourself a big bowl of this game-changing snack that will make your microwave* variety popcorn as boring as the Price Waterhouse portion of the Oscars ceremony.

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½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels
2 Tbsp. canola oil
½ stick salted butter, melted
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. (or to taste) Tabasco sauce

Get out your big pasta pot and heat canola oil on high heat until shimmering. Swirl it around so it coats the bottom of the pan. Add popcorn and put the lid on the pan. Once you hear the popcorn start to pop (this will take a few minutes), turn heat down to medium high and shake the pan a few times. When there are several seconds between pops, remove from heat. There are usually some kernels that don’t pop. That is O.K.

While popcorn is popping, melt the butter and mix in the Tabasco.

Put the popcorn in a big bowl and toss with the butter/Tabasco mixture. Add the parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste, then toss again until mixed well.

Immediately start the second batch of popcorn, because the first bowl will be gone before Giuliana Rancic asks Greta Gerwig who designed her dress.


*Note from Kirsten: Kirsti has always insisted on making stovetop popcorn, which takes a little more time and effort than using the microwave, but which makes a HUGE difference. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried popcorn popped in hot oil on the stove. Don’t take shortcuts with pre-Oscars popcorn!

Second note from Kirsten: for those who don’t like spicy foods or want to put a different spin on this recipe, replace the Tabasco with 5-10 drops of liquid smoke.



Na Nanaimo, Na Nanaimo, Hey Hey Hey, Good Bar

Author: Kirsten K., Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Recipes, Sweets

For the past two weeks, I have vicariously skated, skied, and slid across the ice and snow in PyeongChang from the comfort of my couch. Over the years, my Olympic training has given me the ability to get through a 5-hour telecast in 1-2 hours (I could medal in speed watching), and I like to reward myself for this feat with a sweet treat. In the spirit of the games, I decided to go for the gold and seek inspiration among the top medalists, but while the Norwegians may have set the bar, the Canadians have perfected it.

There is much debate about exactly when the Nanaimo bar made its debut (likely sometime in the early 1950s), but in the years since, this no-bake dessert has achieved cult status in Canada. Named for the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia, there are many variations on the recipe, but all involve three basic things: a brownie-like crumb base, creamy custard filling, and chocolate icing. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

I first heard of these bars from my boss, who makes them each Christmas. When she was a showgirl in the ’70s, one of her fellow dancers shared the handwritten recipe, which she labeled “Nanimo Bars,” and which my dyslexic boss calls Namino bars(!). Despite the confusion, I was able to find various recipes and information about Nanaimo bars online, but since I’ve only tasted my boss’s version, hers has qualified for this post.

In her recipe, vanilla pudding powder is used in place of the traditional custard powder, which can be more difficult to find,* but they can be used interchangeably. If I’m to be the judge, the custard is what sets these bars apart, but the combination of chewy base, creamy filling, and rich topping makes them a 1-2-3 sweep.

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games will come to an end this weekend, but you can whip up these bars in record time, so take a break from sofa spectating and go all “oot” to celebrate the world’s greatest athletes—and sweets!

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Illustration by Melissa Elliott


1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
10 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups graham crackers, crumbled
2 cups coconut, chopped fine
1 cup chopped nuts

Place butter, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and eggs in a bowl that is set in boiling water (i.e. double boiler). Stir until mixture resembles custard. Blend in graham crackers, coconut, and nuts. Press evenly into a greased 8×8” or 9×9” pan.

½ cup butter
6 Tbsp. milk
4 Tbsp. custard powder or vanilla pudding powder
4 cups sifted powdered sugar

In a small bowl, combine milk and custard (or vanilla pudding) powder until powder is dissolved. In a larger bowl, cream butter, milk/custard mixture, and powdered sugar. Spread filling on top of base and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

8 baking squares of semi-sweet chocolate, OR
1¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. butter

In a medium sauce pan, melt chocolate and butter together over a low flame. Pour the warm mixture evenly over the filling and return bars to fridge. Once the icing has hardened, cut into squares. Makes 1-2 dozen, depending on size of squares.


*Custard powder can be found at World Market and many high-end markets and specialty foods stores.

Variation: replace semi-sweet chocolate chips with milk chocolate chips for the icing, as in the top right picture above.


Note: Kirsti went to see Bananarama in concert this week, and I couldn’t resist riffing on the chorus from one of their hits for the title of this post. 😊


Poppin’ Mad

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Savories, Snacks, Sweets

When popcorn lover Josh Chaney mastered his great grandmother’s secret 100-year-old vegan caramel recipe, he got a crazy idea: what if you made caramel corn…and froze it? The result was an extra crispy treat that could be stored in the freezer and remain fresh-tasting indefinitely. Along with his partner Sulmaz Rahimpour, the “Mad Popper” began experimenting with a variety of sweet and savory combinations, which culminated in the opening of California Frozen Poppers.



The whole ShaBang: cheddar, chile and lime.

The first thing you notice upon entering is the large chalkboard that lists the shop’s profusion of popcorn choices. I was given a chilly reception—in this instance, a good thing—with samples taken from a case typically used to serve ice cream. Spicy flavors like ShaBang, featuring cheddar cheese with chili and lime, are equally enticing frozen as candy-coated versions like Caked, a colorful confection that lets you freeze your cake and eat it too.


“Let them eat Caked!”

Josh told me that his corn is air-popped and contains no oil or water, so only the topping freezes when it’s put in cold storage. This means that the popcorn can be thawed and refrozen a virtually unlimited number of times and will still taste crisp and delicious. When I asked how long the popcorn would last in the freezer, he didn’t know, because he’s had a batch on ice for six years and counting that continues to taste as fresh as the day he made it.


“Like, OMG!” You’ll like OMG!

California Frozen Poppers sends its popcorn all over the country, but no special shipping or cold packs are required. It can be enjoyed at room temperature, or frozen upon arrival for an icy indulgence that will—theoretically—far outlast your restraint. In fact, your primary predicament will be choosing from their overabundance of offerings, including sweet, cheesey, nutty, and seasonal flavors. Standouts are Hefty Melons, which tastes like a spicy watermelon Jolly Rancher, and OMG!, a jaw-dropping medley of chocolate, caramel, sea salt, and peanut butter M&Ms that is NSFW (Not Safe For Waistline).

With specials and samplers, vegan and gluten-free options, and a constantly evolving lineup of flavors, you’d have to be mad not to pop over to California Frozen Poppers and get a taste of this cool concept.

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California Frozen Poppers



Grapefruit Loop

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Recipes, Spirits, Wine

rose-pamplemousseToday is officially the last day of summer, and even though I view the hottest season of the year with dread, I find myself wondering where the time went. Back in April, Kirsti sent me a link to an article about grapefruit wine and how this rosé pamplemousse was all the rage in France. Envisioning the two of us enjoying summer sunsets on her balcony with a bottle of the citrusy spirits, I bookmarked it as something to explore—and possibly post about—in early summer.

On the day the season arrived, I saw a segment on Nightline about the “rosé lifestyle,” a craze primarily among millennials that has spawned the hashtags #yeswayrose and #roseallday. Deciding to blend the trend of those who #drinkpink with the French penchant for grape juice and pamplemousse, I scoured wine shops and liquor stores for grapefruit rosé, but couldn’t find a single bottle. An online search uncovered a few brands for sale from a handful of retailers, but the shipping was two-to-three times the price of the wine. When I contacted two local wine shops about ordering rosé pamplemousse in the States, neither was able to do it, so I shelved the idea.

very-pamp-rose-pamplemousseIn late summer, it suddenly occurred to me: I have a friend living in France! I’ve written a number of times about Mika, who currently calls Lyon home, so I contacted her and asked if she’d seen any grapefruit wine around town. Despite everything I’d read about the French passion for pamplemousse, she hadn’t heard of it, but she returned mere hours later with two bottles of Very Pamp from Maison Castel. She drank each “without fanfare” (her words) and didn’t seem too impressed, but the next day she found three more brands and reported back:oh-my-pamp-rose-pamplemousse

“I am having the Oh My Pamp. It is really good! Very interesting notes all around. Lots of play on the palate and much more in the nose. Yes, it’s sweet, but not too sweet and not flat at all. It actually has a small hint of ROSE flavor to it! I don’t know why, but it TOTALLY works. Super low alcohol, so after I enjoyed half a glass I added a tiny bit of vodka and it’s still smooth and delish. Rosé and grapefruit might be my new flavor combo this year!”

summer-water-rose-wineThree bottles later, what may have started without fanfare had ended with a fan there, but that didn’t help me at all. Unwilling to put her to the trouble of shipping me a bottle of alcohol, but wanting to stay in the grapefruit loop, I decided to take the advice of one blogger and simply mix grapefruit juice with grape fruit juice, so to speak. Since both grapefruit wine and rosé have become synonymous with summertime, I purchased a bottle of Summer Water rosé for this experiment.

Pink grapefruit juice and rosé wine make such an obvious pairing that it’s difficult to believe this marriage has only been recognized for the past few years. With each displaying a shy blush and demure sweetness that tempers a tart acidity on the tongue, this fun and and flirty couple captures the “spirit” of the season. It may have taken me until the end of summer to figure this out, but with local temps predicted to reach over 100° by the weekend, it’s refreshing to know that there’s still time to fall for this fad.

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grapefruit-rose-wineGRAPEFRUIT ROSÉ (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup rosé wine
½ cup fresh pink or Ruby Red grapefruit juice
Ice (optional)

Mix wine and grapefruit juice in a small pitcher. Serve straight or over ice. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit, if desired. Serves two.

Variation: omit the grapefruit juice (or not) and add Monin Ruby Red Grapefruit Syrup, to taste.


You can purchase Meadowsweet Rosé Wine with Grapefruit (from Arlington, Binny’s, and Jericho), Ruby Red Rosé Wine with Natural Grapefruit Flavor (from Amity, Shop Rite, and We Speak Wine), and Pulse Rosé with Grapefruit & Peach online, but be prepared to pay around $20 to ship a $5-10 bottle of wine.


When a Costume Comes Along, You Must Whip It

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertainment, Music, Nostalgia, Pop Culture

DEVO 1I think most of us have a pivotal moment where we are living our young lives, oblivious to everything except Saturday morning cartoons and making sure your mom bought Hostess Fruit Pies for your school lunches. And then one day it happens. You realize there is something more out there, that there is a whole world filled with movies and music, art and culture (and, better yet, counter-culture). For me, music was the thing that woke me up, made me take notice and understand there was something great and magical outside of my Valley suburb. Music made me realize I was alive.

I remember the day it happened for me. The year was 1980. MTV had not launched yet. I was listening to KROQ (back when they really played alternative music) and “Whip It” by DEVO came on. I stopped what I was doing and stared at the radio, unable to move or breathe. I’d never heard music like this before. I felt crazy excitement—a buzzing inside my body that made me want to run through the streets and be wild. I felt free. I felt like I had found my tribe. I also felt a little afraid, as if, in this very moment, my life was changed forever and I could never go back to the way it was.


The first time I actually saw what DEVO looked like, I was babysitting and they were on The Merv Griffin Show. I knew I liked their music, but when I saw them, my jaw dropped and I gasped. What was going on with the weird red hats (called Energy Domes) and the jerky dance moves? Why are they all wearing the same outfits? What are those noises they are creating that I’ve never heard before? And—holy crap!—is that guy playing a keyboard like a guitar? I was swirling with questions, but there was no Internet to ask. I was giddy with delight, but there was no Instagram to document my happiness. I was alone in a strange living room with all this excited emotion and I didn’t know a soul who would understand how wonderful and important this moment was to me.


“Whip It” good in this DEVO costume from Atom Age Industries.

These days, I have a DEVO poster framed in my office and a DEVO action figure on my desk, and when I wear my DEVO t-shirt, I can’t help but feel happy. Recently, I found out that Atom Age Industries is making a fully licensed “Whip It Outfit and Energy Dome.” Not only can I be the uncontested darling of ANY Halloween soirée, I can look incredibly cool walking my dog and freaking out my neighbors. If they ask me what’s up with my outfit, I’ll just say, “We are DEVO. D-E-V-O.” That should put them right at ease. And the entire delicious ensemble comes in a super cool retro box that you are going to want to keep out in plain view for others to covet. At $40 for the whole shebang, I’m going to stock up. If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, I’m sure they will pass me over, because they will understand that I’m just way too awesome to gorge on, and they will probably want to come over and listen to some of my records. Atom Age Industries also has a RAD Booji Boy mask and many other trinkets and baubles to help you Devolutionize.

I still feel that buzzing inside whenever I hear a DEVO song. It is a good reminder that I am alive. If you need me, I’ll be the one in the red Energy Dome running wild through the streets.

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DEVO “Whip It” Costume



Tie Yourself Up in Scots

Author: Kirsten K., Books, Entertainment, History, Literature, Pop Culture, Television, Travel

Outlander 1As I mentioned in our Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide (that thing keeps coming up again and again and again), I went to Scotland in 1997 with Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, which has been developed into a popular television show on Starz that will begin its second season this Saturday, April 9th.

At the time of my Highland fling, I worked for an audiobook company that did business with Romantic Times magazine (now RT Book Reviews). I was already a huge fan of the Outlander books—a genre-bending series that defies categorization—when the magazine announced that it was organizing a trip to Scotland led by Diana Gabaldon in which the author would take readers to the places she’d written about in her books. So, 19 years ago today, I hopped on a plane to spend a week in the land of kilts and bagpipes with one of my favorite authors.*

Outlander 2

Flushed from too much Scotch whiskey with Diana at the Stakis Grosvenor Hotel in Edinburgh.

Looking back, I’m not sure why Diana agreed to do it. If I was an author, being trapped in a foreign country with a bunch of fangirls would be my worst nightmare, but she was gracious and accommodating, making herself available to sign our books and answer our endless questions about the series. Her fourth novel, Drums of Autumn, had just been released, so the trip doubled as a book tour of sorts. Walking into one store, we were amused to see Diana’s novels displayed with other “Books by Scottish Authors,” since she is an American who had never set foot in Scotland prior to writing the first book in the series.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Outlander, the novel is told from the perspective of Claire Randall, a British World War II combat nurse who, while vacationing in the Highlands of Scotland with her husband after the war, is transported through a circle of standing stones to 1743. There, she encounters her husband’s ancestor—a sadistic Redcoat—and a band of Scottish clansmen that includes Jamie Fraser, a man who will force her to choose between two different lives and two distant centuries. The series is enthralling, with its combination of historical realism, eloquent prose, pulse-pounding adventure, and passionate romance.

Outlander 3

With Diana at Clava Cairns near Inverness, April 14, 1997


Back in 1997, Diana accompanied us to Clava Cairns, a prehistoric burial site near Inverness surrounded by stone circles that inspired Craigh na Dun, the fictional circle through which Claire travels back in time. We also visited Culloden field, site of the definitive battle between Scottish clans and British troops that, within the space of an hour, brought an end to the clan system and changed the course of Scotland’s history. There was a tangible sense of grief pervading the area, making us aware that the characters Diana wrote about in her books had flesh-and-blood counterparts who shed that blood on the very field beneath our feet.


Outlander 4During the trip, a few of us formed a group of friends, one of whom let us in on a little secret. Back in the states, she had done research on contemporary silversmiths in Scotland, trying to locate someone who could recreate the wedding ring that Jamie gives to Claire in Outlander, described as “a wide silver band, decorated in the Highland interlace style, a small and delicate Jacobean thistle bloom carved in the center of each link.” She found a woman in Stirling who employed 18th-century techniques to fashion silver jewelry with Scottish motifs. On one of our free days, we met with this woman to discuss the ring and place our orders. Her final design was more rustic and had larger elements than the ring described in the book, but I still treasure it as a memento of the trip and an authentic piece of Scottish artistry.


Outlander 5Twenty-three years after its publication, I was thrilled to see that Outlander was being made into a series for television. Like most fans, I worried about casting and changes to the story, but everyone involved in the production did a fantastic job of bringing Diana’s first novel to life. Season One is out on DVD (in Volumes One and Two) and available for streaming, so there’s still time to tie yourself up in Scots by setting your DVR to record the new season as you catch up on the previous one.

With the series currently standing at eight full-length novels (a ninth is in progress), two novellas, one short story, a graphic novel, and a spin-off series (more of a “sub-series”), the producers should have plenty of material to keep the show going for years. And with some of the highest viewership in the history of Starz, that’s not an outlandish assumption.

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Outlander – Books
Outlander – Television


*Technically, I hopped on a plane to New York City on April 7th in order to meet up with part of the RT group on the 8th. We flew to Iceland for a two-day pre-tour in Reykjavík before flying to Scotland on the 11th to join the rest of the group.



In the Starz adaptation, Jamie gives Claire a wedding ring made from the iron key to the front door of his home, Lallybroch. It may have been a sentimental choice, but it is not a particularly attractive one.



Author: Kirsten K., Modern Art, Pop Culture, The Arts

Last week, as a follow-up to my ASMR post, I convinced my good friend Stephanie—who does not experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response—to accompany me to the Pacific Design Center to view Julie Weitz’s Touch Museum at the Young Projects Gallery. Unsurprisingly for a weekday afternoon visit to an exhibit inspired by an obscure and recently identified phenomenon, it was a ghost town, but the artist was there to welcome us into the space. She allowed us to wander at our leisure through dark rooms (assuring us that our eyes would adjust) in which video screens displayed scenes ranging from hands caked in cracking mud to scissors cutting through netted fabric. All the while, beautiful and slightly eerie music by Los Angeles composer Deru filled the air.

Touch-and-Go 1

I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t “get” modern art. In 2000, Kirsti dragged me to a Paul McCarthy exhibit at MOCA and I still haven’t forgiven her. But as I walked through the Touch Museum, I began to understand what Julie was up to. My first clue came while watching a scene in which a pair of muddy hands runs over a length of metal chain. I instantly felt the sensation in my palms. Observing a video of hands caressing sculpted heads and being able to feel every groove of the carved hair under my own fingers, I experienced how this exhibit—comprised of little that is tangible beyond a series of two-dimensional screens—is, in fact, ALL about touch.

Touch-and-Go 2

Since feeling physical sensations in response to observing touch is not unusual for me, I didn’t think much of it until I consulted Stephanie about her experience. Looking at another video of hands running down a curtain of hanging chains, I asked her what she felt. She said that she had an impression of cold, but that was it. “You don’t feel the chains in your hands?” I asked. “No.” As an adult of a certain age, I’m still brought up short when presented with how differently we all experience the world. We tend to assume that most people see and feel things in the same way that we do, so it’s a surprise to suddenly realize that something we’ve taken for granted our entire lives may not be the norm. As we watched a video of mannequin hands petting a wig of thick, wavy hair, the sensation of the strands passing through my fingers was strong, but Stephanie felt nothing.

Touch-and-Go 3

After walking through the exhibit, we entered a room with pillows on the floor and two headsets facing a screen showing an ASMR video that Julie created for her YouTube channel. Stephanie and I sat down and put on our headphones to watch, but there were a couple of people talking loudly in the hallway outside the gallery and I wasn’t able to get into the relaxed mode necessary for me to experience the tingles of ASMR. I caught the barest sense of them from listening to Julie’s soft voice, but the video contained images of a model brain with long pins sticking out of it, so I felt the uncomfortable sensation of having my skull poked with hatpins—not conducive to producing tingles.

Touch-and-Go 4

Julie mentioned that she is interested in the work of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, a neuroscientist specializing in behavioral neurology whom I happened to write to in 2012 about my experience with synesthesia. She is drawn to his studies of mirror neurons and how they relate to empathy, dovetailing with her art and the way in which observing images and actions can evoke a physical response.

If you don’t experience ASMR, I’m not sure that this exhibit will have much to offer you, other than some boldly-colored images and atmospheric music. I myself did not get any tingles as I watched the videos, despite feeling the physical sensation of touch. But to those on the leading edge of this movement, which is still in its infancy, it presents a doorway to fresh avenues of inquiry and a new way to experience art. As a number of people who signed the guest book expressed in one way or another, “I was touched.”

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Julie Weitz’s Touch Museum


The Touch Museum will be on view at the Young Projects Gallery in Los Angeles through February 22nd. All photographs in this post from the Julie Weitz Touch Museum.

The Art of Asking, or Why I Want to Spoon with Amanda Palmer

Author: Kirsti Kay, Books, Literature, Pop Culture

The Art of Asking 1Sometimes a book sneaks up on you—one that wasn’t on your radar, but sprinkles a thousand juicy gumdrops of pure delight into your unsuspecting consciousness, renewing your faith in humanity. This is how I felt about The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Yes, Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls…Amanda Palmer of the million dollar Kickstarter…Amanda Palmer of the notorious eyebrows…Amanda Palmer whom I’d like to spoon with.

I was never an Amanda Palmer fan. I thought her band, The Dresden Dolls, was cool, but I never bought an album. I was curious about those eyebrows and thought she was super rad to snag Neil Gaiman, but that’s about it. Then I listened to an interview with her on Tim Ferrisspodcast, and as soon as she started talking, I was in love. I felt giddy with joie de vivre. She was so wonderfully open and honest and filled with joy. She made me want to play the ukulele! She made me want to make art! She made me want to spread her message across the land!

I immediately watched her TED Talk and then downloaded The Art of Asking on Audible. I highly recommend the unabridged audio version of the book. It is read by Amanda and also includes music—a delightful surprise, which sets the tone and makes the experience even more personal. Her reading style is relaxed and conversational. I didn’t feel like I was listening to a book at all. I felt that someone was talking to me, entertaining me, confessing to me.

The Art of Asking 2Don’t be fooled by the title, this is not your typical self-help book. It’s mainly a memoir filled with outrageous and delicious stories of Amanda’s life. She recounts the early days when she performed as a living statue, known as “The Eight Foot Bride.” She talks about The Dresden Dolls and how she amassed an armada of loyal fans by creating a symbiotic relationship of trust and reciprocation. She tells the sweet story of how she met the author Neil Gaiman and, yes, she explains the eyebrows.

She also gets into the whole Kickstarter controversy (Amanda was the first artist who crowd funded a million dollar campaign and a lot of critics accused her of ripping off her fans). She is not afraid to ask for money for her art, but in return she will come to your house, eat food with your aunt Fran, hang out with your friends, and play a show in your backyard. It’s a pretty refreshing concept. The Art of Asking is a simple formula: Give and the world will give back. Hug and the world will hug back. Love and the world….well, you get the picture.

In a world that so often feels disconnected, selfish and unfriendly, it’s reassuring to know Amanda’s out there, reminding us of the importance of creative expression and human connection.  I would say yes to anything she asked.

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The Art of Asking


The Art of Asking is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The audio version can be downloaded from Audible. For book-related extras, including a playlist of songs from the book, visit Amanda Palmer’s website.


Note from Kirsten: Kirsti was so moved by this book that she bought me the Audible download and included a note saying that she really wanted me to listen, but I didn’t have to and shouldn’t feel pressured or obligated. Despite these assurances, I knew she was anxiously waiting to find out if I would listen and enjoy it. When I finally told her that I was loving the audiobook, she said, “Ohhhhh, so glad you are listening! I wasn’t going to ask!” We are both now fully aboard the Amandatrak train and excited to see where it will take us next.

Like Kirsti, I believe this book is best enjoyed on audio due to Amanda’s engaging narration and the inclusion of music, which sets the stage for key moments in her story. On a scale of yawn to swoon, this audiobook gets five out of five smelling salts. Listen to it!!

Smelling Salts 5a


Author: Kirsti Kay, Food, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Snacks

If there is a zombie apocalypse, my office is the place to be. I am a snack hoarder. There, I said it. You want salty? I got it. You want sweet? Well, please let me know if you prefer dark chocolate, milk chocolate, gummy, minty or caramel. I have fruit—fresh and dried. I have nuts—raw and roasted. I also have enough bottled water for a week and even a bottle of wine. The problem is, I never want to eat my own snacks. If my co-worker Jenny is eating some Cheez-Its, I must buy some too, and then they sit in my drawer until Jenny comes in and asks if I have any Cheez-Its.

MMMPop 1A few weeks ago, I did a Costco run during my lunch break. I get very giddy at Costco—so many snack choices for my drawer! On this day, one of the free sample ladies was giving out tiny paper cups filled with Skinny Pop popcorn. I smiled and continued down the aisle. I love popcorn, but have never liked packaged popcorn. I like my popcorn cooked in oil on the stove with lots of melted butter. When I came back up the aisle, the free sample lady looked so pleadingly at me, her hair net askew. I felt bad for her, so I took the tiny cup, and thus my obsession began.

I’ve never been a fan of anything labeled “skinny.” It is usually code for gross. This product, however, is a revelation! A snack fantasy! Total deliciousness in popped form! It is also:

  • cholesterol free
  • zero trans fat
  • preservative free
  • dairy free
  • peanut free
  • gluten free
  • non GMO

and only 39 calories per cup, so “guilt free” can also be added to that list! The only ingredients are: popcorn, sunflower oil and salt. The salt-to-popcorn ratio is absolutely perfect and the popcorn itself is fluffy and light and completely addictive. It is actually a snack I look forward to every day. It takes the edge off and stops me from eating a handful of peanut M&M’s. The fact that it’s also healthy is almost superfluous, so tasty is this snack!

The biggest test of all was my husband, Aaron. I brought some home and told him it was called Skinny Pop. He looked dubiously at the bowl. We turned on Game of Thrones and soon he was shoving handfuls into his mouth. He commented that the butter and salt were perfectly proportioned and was incredulous when I told him there was no butter. I got wrapped up in the fate of Jon Snow, and when I went to reach for some popcorn, the bowl was empty. A sheepish Aaron said, “This popcorn is my sun and stars.” I couldn’t agree more.

MMMPop 2

Skinny Pop popcorn is available in 4 flavors: Original (which is what I tried), Black Pepper, White Cheddar, and Naturally Sweet.

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Skinny Pop


Skinny Pop is available at Costco, Whole Foods, Target and many grocery stores.