Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Advil Calendar 2013: INTERMISSION

At this point in your holiday, there's probably only one thing left to do.

SING. Sing, you motherfuckers - sing like you mean it, and dance.

BURN, BRIDGES, BURN - A Holiday Musical Spectacular (With Cocktails)

"Everyone's a Little Bit Spectrum"

We meet our 4 primary cast members (two married couples who are part of the same extended family), as they prepare dinner together prior to a large holiday gathering. Lots of oohs and ahhs as the group executes daring dance moves with knives while laughingly cataloging the quirks of each of their parents and siblings.
This upbeat comic number starts our show off on a cheerfully sarcastic note, and must be accompanied by a swinging retro-modern cocktail, such as this updated take on the Moscow Mule:

The Baltimore Donkey (from Maggie's Farm)
2 oz Tito's vodka
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz ginger syrup
dash of bitters
Shake with ice, strain into highball glass over ice. Garnish with lime twist.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Advil Calendar 2013 - GROWNUP GIFT GUIDE

Oh sure. I've bought presents. I don't believe in GOD and I have serious issues with CHRISTIANITY, but we do Christmas around here. There is currently a dead tree in my living room. I swear it's like taxidermy. Why people (my husband and children) think it's festive to watch a woody plant slowly desiccate inside is TOTALLY BEYOND ME.

But it's 10 minutes til 12 on Xmas Eve and the presents are wrapped and the pork roast is brining and I baked an apple pie that I suspect is basically raw on the inside and my husband made me a Negroni and Annie Lennox is on the iPod so... ok. Christmas.

Hey speaking of atheists who bake, did you read the Dan Savage review of the Sarah Palin book? You should. I can wait.

The really great point that Dan Savage makes here is that assholes like Sarah Palin are the ones who are ruining Christmas. Godless Dan Savage, baking cookies and taking them to his Jewish neighbors, keeps Christmas better than relentlessly god-bothering Sarah Palin, who buys her loved ones GUNS for Christmas.

So just in case you are a present-giver at this time of year, I have a few suggestions and observations.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


What's Jack Donaghy doing here? He's having a Nancy Drew (white
rum, diet ginger ale, lime). "For men, it's called a Hardy Boy," says Jack.

Last week I got to wondering, in a post I titled "Nancy Drew Turns 21," what some of my favorite children's book characters would drink once they were old enough to drink. I made fancy cognac cocktails for Maddie and Verity from Code Name Verity, took Claudia Kincaid drinking at a swanky joint in Manhattan's financial district, and shared a chamomile toddy with Mrs. Frisby.

But there are more. MORE.

I put the question to a few friends: "What children's book character would you most like to have a drink with once he or she has grown up?" And EVERYBODY - er, just about everybody - answered "Matilda" right away. Let's go get squiffy with Matilda!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Ok then. Finally recovered from that frightening debacle on TV last week and don't you think it's just about time to talk about some of our FAVORITE things from this year? Yeeeeess. Unfortunately for you, sometimes my FAVORITE things are kind of horrendous and/or weird. Maybe inappropriate.

So let's dive in with a really nice one, kind of the best one:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advil Calendar 2013 Day It's All a Blur: COOKIE SWAP KEY PARTY EDITION

We do crack ourselves up, don't we Raylan?

I have turned a corner on this whole December bullshit. Yes. It is safe to say there was a corner back there yonder - and I stepped smartly around it. I know when it was, too - it happened this afternoon, the minute I put two trays of cookies in the oven and slammed the door.


Friday, December 13, 2013

The Advil Calendar 2013: F YOU FRIDAY - F.U. 2: F Harder

The last great drinking sitcom - Cheers - famously asserted that sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

Yeah, maybe.

But sometimes you want to go where not only will everybody not know your name, but you might actually have to assume a false identity, leave your ID in the car, and pay in cash.


First, let me give you a quick rundown of this fucking week:

Thursday, December 12, 2013


All right this is not a novel observation I'm about to make.

Let's be honest - is it ever? Am I ever out here on the Internet dropping the Bomb of Truth such that people stagger back from their monitors and run out onto the street, their lives completely changed? No. The only bombs around here are usually of the F- variety.

So, hi! Welcome to the 12th of December! We're right in the middle of the 24 days of Advil and maybe I should recap some of our progress before getting into the thing I feel like complaining about today.

Well that is kind of a lot. Maybe I will have that Bloody Mary while I'm making dinner. You, however - read on!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advil Calendar 2013 EXCITING GUEST WEDNESDAY Part Deux: The Exciting Guest Strikes Back!

You're going to say I'm lazy and I'm going to say... hold on. Honey, could you reach me my beer? Well ok obviously I am lazy, but not in this case. Okay kinda. Anyway.

I had the idea for Exciting Guest Wednesday a month or so ago, when I first decided to Advil it up again this year after a one-year hiatus. I solicited drinks recipes from friends, relations, business contacts, and the vermin who live beneath the porch. (Nobody wants that drink, by the way.)

And as I was getting together some of those recipes for today, I realized that the best drinksman I know, the person who makes me the most inventive, best-proportioned cocktails I've ever drink-drank-drunked - was sitting right next to me!



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Advil Calendar 2013 Day WHAT?: NANCY DREW TURNS 21 EDITION

"Are ya cold, Raylan?"
I was going to putz out on this day, I swear I was. I've written over 16 thousand words in the past week, including a longish post on my most memorable reading experiences of the past 12 months and a REALLY long set of notes for a radio segment about Great Holiday Gift Book Ideas For Children and I was fried.

Good for nothing but watching the episodes of Justified where Raylan gets his shirt off.

But then I posted an announcement of the radio segment (listen for me on WYPR 88.1 FM, Marylands NPR station, somewhere between 9:30 and 10am today) on Facebook, mentioning that I would be doing pairings of children's fiction with nonfiction and... something else, god I'm so tired, and my friend Leslie commented that she was glad I'd said what I'd be pairing the novels with, otherwise she'd have thought I was pairing like Harriet the Spy with Jack and Coke.



Thanks, neighbor! I'll save you a pig cheek just for that!

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Advil Calendar 2013: TOIL AND TROUBLE Second Monday of Advil Edition

I have two words for you on this day of work, my cousins and neighbors and co-workers and imaginary Internet friends and sisters-in-law... just two words.



Of all the things I don't know a goddamn thing about - and you wouldn't know it to talk to me, especially if you had let me have one of these already, but there are actually more than a few subjects I don't know a tinker's tit about - I'm as blind as a Nim of the Mephidross Swamp when it comes to boilermakers and what makes them good and why they work. (Also, the children are playing Magic: The Gathering again and it's making me crazy.)

I don't even know why they're called boilermakers.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Advil Calendar 2013 Day 8: ERRAND APPARENT EDITION - Why we drink in the morning

Ho ho mutha-godforsaken ho... it is the first Sunday in December and you have a LOT to do.
  • Have you picked a photo and ordered cards yet?
  • Have you made this year's photo album (I'm doing it today! I'll do it! Get off my back!)?
  • There are still leaves to be raked.
  • Ice storm's comin' - you should check to see everything's charged.
  • Did you order the pig yet? 110 lb pigs don't just grow on trees you know. (that may not be on your to-do list, but it is on mine)
  • Have you seen Catching Fire? Better get on it while it's still at the good theater.
  • Oh and it's Take Your Kids to a Bookstore Day, did you know?
  • Besides the fact, have you noticed the state of their shoes lately?
  • Not to mention, if you don't goad them into buying each other presents, they... just won't.

That's a great idea, Haymitch. Pour me one of those, too.

And don't even use the t-word in my presence for at least another week. If we have to have a live dead plant in my living room, it's not going up until the last fucking second.

I know you hear me: IT'S BLOODY MARY TIME.


Friday, December 06, 2013

You just swallow the Advil, you don't crush it up and snort it: DAY 6

We haven't done dreadful yet, have we? Not a single shot worthy of a bachelorette party, not a single float of burning rum. Nothing named after a baked good or utilizing brand-name mixers. Well it's Friday god damn it and that's about to change.


Dreadful drinks kind of come in two flavors: - Tacky and Broke-ass. There's also Creepy Crafty, like the Camp Crystal Lake Surprise (blue curacao, rum, OJ, with a shred of red Jello floating in it), but we should save that for its own day, don't you think? We've embraced all three of these themes in the past here on the Advil Calendar, as we also embrace flavors like Stupid Fancy, Weeknight Drunk, and - OH FOR CRAP'S SAKE CLOSE THE DOOR WHEN YOU'RE PEEING.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Advil Calendar Year 3 Day 5: A BOOK AND A DRINK EDITION

I'm a librarian, right? So I am kind of a sucker for books.

It's not the best reason to go into librarianing, by the way. The books are maybe about 20% of the job. The rest is website troubleshooting ("Well, it looks like if you hit 'Next' here..."), putting holds on DVDs, and helping people buy nutritional supplements for their cats over the phone.

Fortunately for me, I had worked in a law library as a youngster and knew what I was getting into by the time I enrolled in library school. (And someday I will teach a class: How To Learn To Hate Books and Also Graduate Students 101, and it will involve a one-hour field trip to a law library. One hour. One and done. What a bunch of assholes those kids were. Making a xerox copy of something - or better yet getting a workstudy minion to xerox 250 pages out of a law manual - does not replace just fucking reading it and taking notes.)


All librarians get Hermione
when they do that FB quiz.
No, you go into librarianship because you are a know-it-all brownnosing snot who loves having all the answers. Heh heh. Ahem. Or because you believe that democracy is knowledge. It's about 50/50.

There's also a subset of librarians who chose the field as a drastic form of overcompensation - those are the types who never know where their keys or their glasses are, but god damn it they can find you the NOLO forms book on tenant/landlord law in twelve seconds flat, and that means THEY WIN. They may not be able to get into their car to go home tonight, but still. One in the W column.

Yeah, in fact, librarians have to be people people. It's a public service job in the truest sense of the phrase. But that doesn't mean we don't, y'know, like books.

Me, I collect old cookbooks and mixer's manuals. Old bartending books are particularly bizarre - Prohibition caused a lot of mixology malarkey as people tried to mask the taste of the illegally distilled poison that passed for booze in those days. And we got to like it!

My friend Paula knows my illness, and gave me this dear little pocket-size drinks manual originally published in 1904. I happened to have it in my bag one night at a panel discussion featuring some of my favorite picture book authors, so on a whim I asked them to sign it instead of their books.

"Jack in a glass!"
This autograph book now has about 50 signatures. Jon Scieszka gave it 5 stars! Chris Myers shared a recipe for a post-basketball ginger drink. Melissa Sweet drew a parade balloon and Jack Gantos drew a glass of applejack. It's one of my most prized possessions.

I also collect new cookbooks and mixer's manuals. Not a lot of them. Most are exciting looking, with sexy sharp pictures or amusing descriptions, and sometimes that's enough -- but not everybody can be Kingsley Amis or Bernard DeVoto -- so most of those clever/gimmicky joints are merely disappointing from a maker's point of view. Here are my impressions - Maureen Kearney coined the word "reviewlet" and I think I'll use that - of some recent cocktail cookbooks:

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Advil Calendar 2013 Day 4: ALL AUXIER AND ALL OF THE NIGHT

What's going on, Wednesday? Wednesday is what Tuesday used to be, I swear. Doesn't Wednesday just make you go "HHhrhhghhh"? Wednesday is the day I most frequently find myself sounding like Marge Simpson.

So hey! How about I cop out today!


Writer, not bartender. As soon as I realized I was going to do the Advil Calendar again this year, I started soliciting guest contributions. It's a lot of work, and one librarian can only drink so much.

Couple of years ago I found myself at a dinner table with the children's book author Jonathan Auxier. Jonathan's books are Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes and The Night Gardener (coming in May), neither of which I have read (OH! Some terrible friend I am!) because in both cases, my older son snatched up my advance reader copy, ran away to some squirrelly hidey-hole to read it, and then stuffed it under his bed.

No I'm serious about that last part. He's a remarkably un-neurotic kid (FOR NOW), but I think he hides his favorite books from me, probably so I won't con him into recording a video review for me to post on my other blog.

And I frickin' WORKED for that copy of The Night Gardener - Jonathan's publisher had sent two boxes of advance copies to a panel he was moderating at a conference I attended, and I offered to guard the books and then hand them out after the panel concluded. My friend Laura helped, and good thing she did. BLOODBATH. It was like the first day of the Missoni limited edition line at Target. You'd have thought we were giving out Cipro in the midst of a bird flu epidemic. I think I lost a chunk of hair!

Where was I? My hair. No, Auxier. At that dinner a couple years ago, Jonathan said something kind of odd when he ordered a drink. "This year I'm exploring beer," he said, and I was like, "If that's the case, this should probably also be the year you explore jogging. And... um?"

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Advil Calendar Year 3 Day 3: PUT UP OR SHUT UP EDITION

No time for kvetching or bragging or making embarrassing confessions - the way I do - we've got a lot of work before us today so HERE WE GO:


The one on the corner with the round window was Max's.
We always called the stuff "Vititas."

When I and all my friends lived in the down-but-not-out-oh-wait-no-it-was-pretty-much-out Baltimore neighborhood called SoWeBo, we could get a shot of it in Max's bar, and that's what we asked for. Vititas.

Max's bar was a dark hole-in-the-wall across from Hollins Market, one of the seven municipal markets in Baltimore. Max's bar had always been a cop bar, but when Max took it over, he booked bands and served extremely cheap beer (including "mystery beer" - whatever the distributor had left over - at 75 cents a cup) and started attracting a younger, more broke crowd. Needless to say, Max ran it into the ground and then later it was a sushi place and now I think it's boarded up.

"Vititas" was a golden liquor in an unlabeled bottle that Max bought from the guys down at the Lithuanian Hall, and he couldn't always get it. He served tiny little shots of it, and if you knew what you were doing you sipped it, because it tasted like fields of flowers warmed by the sun, and also like you were probably going to get lucky in about one minute. Luscious - like sex and Christmas all at once.

This was the early- or mid-90's, and I never saw it after that, though I heard rumors.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Advil Calendar 2013 Day 2: SO LONG, SELEUCIDS EDITION

So... I forgot to go to work yesterday. Yup. WELCOME TO THE HOLIDAYS.

Well. Not exactly forgot - there was a schedule mix-up - but still. When my supervisor called to ask where the hell I was, my phone probably vibrated and hollered to itself wherever I had misplaced it and then shrugged and shut up. Despite having had a cell phone since about 1998, I have not developed good habits with the thing. That is some last-generation behavior right there.

Oh shit. I have become one of the older librarians who are impossible to get ahold of.

And I would rather be anywhere else / than here today.
That makes me almost I wish I had a bad reason to have missed work. I don't. I was not hung over from my high school reunion the night before - drinking at your high school reunion is almost as bad an idea as drinking at an office party.

I was also not out at the mall shoring up the economy.

I didn't oversleep.

I wasn't depressed.

I wasn't binge-watching Veronica Mars, partly due to the fact that there's something wrong with the first disc in my Season One box set. (OH THE HUMANITY)

I had not impulsively boarded a midnight train to Georgia, even though that's where a whole squad of the best relatives a girl could ask for had just returned to after having spent a reasonably peaceful few days here in Baltimore eating my mom's cooking and making me laugh. Place is a little lonely without them.

Nope. I'm just distracted. Aren't you?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Advil Calendar 2013 - BACK IN THE SADDLE

Oh my god.

Really? Oh my god.

The crown...caging the pink tulle shrubbery...there's a joke
there but i just can't get to it. I'm distracted by the vacant
sliced-off boy heads.
Is it really that time again? Am I really sitting here watching football with my family on Thanksgiving night, barraged by Walmart ads, realizing that my Internet is acting all flinky because THE ENTIRE COUNTRY is online buying shop-vacs and One Direction cologne and DVD box sets. Wait, Christ I'm old. Nobody is buying DVDs anymore. Something ELSE to be depressed about!

Also, the Ravens are acting like total frickin amateurs, which wouldn't be so bad except they're playing the Steelers, and the Steelers think they're such platinum-dipped hot cocks. Ugh Ben Rothelheinie. Just ugh.

Now somebody on TV is suggesting that we all need a tablet. According to this ad, guys need a tablet to do their fantasy football trades. Oh here's a lady! What does she - oh of fucking course. She needs a tablet so she can Skype with her mother so her mother can tell her "four cups of breadcrumbs." FUCK YOU AMERICA. Women play fantasy football too!

Also, what the hell recipe requires FOUR CUPS of breadcrumbs? Maybe stuffing. But that's cubed stale bread, not breadcrumbs.

We're starting so well, aren't we. RESET! After the break, my mood improves...