In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to write anything, in 12 easy steps.

I'm a magazine editor, reporter, and therefore, a writer. Writing is the last thing I worry about -- for me it's all about gathering information, making sure it is interesting and correct.

I work with a lot of writers, many of them new to the craft, and this is what I tell them when they are "blocked" and when they are struggling, and when they are writing crappily. I like that word, crappily.

This is a method I actually derived in college because of my towering laziness. It's easy and it works. 

1. Read over your notes a couple of times. Make a simple outline or flow chart  of what your piece will say. Don't fill in details -- just write how the thoughts will flow, a vague order that makes sense.

Here's an example from my own notebook:

Intro --> 7800 farmers markets, 2500 take snap
Farmers markets affordable?
New study says yes
Compared 24 common items
Found comparable prioces in season
Except meat, eggs
How to stretch that budget (whoel chicken instead of parts)
How snap works

2. Go to sleep. This lets the notes and details arrange themselves in your brain. The important stuff, the stuff that is actually interesting, will stick and be the most prominent parts of your work. That is as it should be.
3. Wake up, take a shower. That signals to your brain it's time to be serious. Turn on your computer. Don't go on the internet, don't check your email. Do not open Facebook under any circumstances.
4. Do not look at your notes before you start. That's just procrastinating.
5. Get a mental picture in your head of who you are telling this story to: your grandma? your best friend? Your favorite professor? Now tell the story. Write one true sentence after another. That's Hemingway's advice. Worked for Poppa, works for me, works for everyone.
6. Write your piece all the way through. Finish your draft. Don't get up till you do.
7. Now get up, stretch, eat a donut. Don't look at Facebook yet.
8. Sit back down. Get out your notes. Don't look at your screen. Read your notes. If there's anything important you forgot, it will jump out at you.
9. Add true, simple sentences including whatever information you neglected to include the first go round in a place that it makes sense.
10. Fix whatever facts, names, dates, numbers you may have screwed up in your memory by comparing them to your notes.
11. Put it all away.
12. The next day, read it over. Smooth out transitions. Rewrite whatever you think needs it. Don't try to get fancy - short, direct words, true statements -- that's what your readers want. You are not David Foster Wallace. Don't try to be. Be you. Impart what you know.  You're done.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ok, so D's kitchen! 
You'll recall she is transforming a first floor bedroom/living room combo into a full-blown apartment -- ie, adding a kitchen. She's got a $15k budget, more or less.  I am in charge and am very happy about that.  Here's the plan (you'll also recall the idiot builder she was going to go with wanted to do a corner kitchen in this rectangular room, which made my eyes roll back in my head with fury because hello: corner sinks generally suck, and super suck if you are jamming a dishwasher on one side and an oven on the other. You can't stand in front of the sink to load the dishwasher in that configuration. And there's no where to put anything next to the sink because the stupid range is there. Anyway: here's a better plan:

 Here's what it looks like in Ikea's 3D model (hint: even if you aren't buying ikea stuff, iots a really easy tool to do 3D planning -- better than others I have tried to use).

This first shot shows the room if you were standing at the double doors that open into the room from the street. The appliances aren't actually levitating -- I just didn't add in legs. Here's the genius part: I flipped a base cabinet around backwards so it's accessible from the snack bar side. This lets me block that area on the opposite side with a run of 1-foot deep cabinets. More counter space, more storage. The second genius part is the counter. I will actually be builduing that counter up with a false wall and topping it with a chestnut board I have that has a live edge on it (the bark and natural contours). Very fancy and Nakashima-esque.

here is a view if you are floating above the room. There is a lot of levitating in this kitchen,

This is a weird view from the far wall next to the fridge. If you were, say, a plant on the counter looking out.

I have a great handyman who can do all the cabinets, carpentry, and painting,and will get a professional plumber and electrician in to do the lighting and sewage. Hopefully I can get everything done for under $15K, and she can rent this place for big jack. The most fun part is I am TOTALLY IN CHARGE.