The Newest “Lifestyle Guide” Is…

October 1, 2014 § 3 Comments

Dagger & Dill

I think I read one too many articles about artisanal living and homemade quilts and burlap baby blankets and cast iron bacon. I snapped. And I made this:

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(To be clear, I’m making fun of myself as much as anything here. Anything this little fake-mag resembles is probably something I actually subscribe to. I eat this stuff up, even while hating myself a little bit for it.)

This is my goofy little present to you today. Enjoy. Or not. Your choice.

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If you enjoy that sort of thing, you might also enjoy:

Deep Thoughts on Moving

September 30, 2014 § 6 Comments

Today is the last installment of the current series I’m writing for The New York Times, “New in Town.” 

It was going to be a list of practical tips for anyone who’s facing a relocation. Things like:

  • If you’re having trouble deciding whether to move, call someone who has done it recently either from the place you’re leaving or to the place you’re going.
  • Don’t fret if you don’t ever reach a point where you’re 100% sure about whether you should take the leap and do it. Are you ever 100% sure about anything? I’m not.
  • Label your kitchen boxes in extremely accurate detail. Trust me on this, and if anyone has seen the other half of the parts to my coffee machine, please let me know.
  • If you’re thinking of renovating an old house while also living in it with your whole family and two dogs during the process, I might caution you. It’s kind of stupid and I don’t recommend it. We have breathed so much sawdust. So many boxes are still not unpacked. And so many contractors have seen me walking around in my pajamas and my bras hanging to dry on doorknobs.
  • Be gentle with yourself as you adjust to the new place. Remember when you had your first baby, and you suddenly went from being a really accomplished professional person who ate to-do lists for breakfast to someone whose whole list for the day was, “1) Feed baby 12 times. 2) Change 200 diapers. 3) Try to shower?” This is like that. There are a million things to do, and the business of life doesn’t pause to give you time to do them. If you can do one moving-related thing a day — fill out the postal forms, get your new car tags, figure out how to use the alarm system — that’s plenty.
  • If you possibly can, make some friends where you’re going before you get there, so that when you arrive, you have someone you can call to say you’ve lost your key and have no electricity and need a glass of wine. I was verrrrry lucky to have a dear friend here who housed me 1 million times in her guest room on pre-move trips to do things like find a house, tour schools for the kids, etc. Her extended group of friends are now my extended group of friends. Loose Women Book Club, this one’s for you.
  • (More logistical stuff like that.)

The thing is, though, I was writing this last column while on vacation. So while I started out trying to be practical, I ended up getting a little philosophical instead. It’s hard not to, when you’re looking at this:


I was all, “What are the questions of the universe? Who can really understand the limits of time and space? Can clouds see us? Do fish ever feel sad?”

I was somewhere in the middle of some ocean, on an island that belongs to Great Britain, in a compound owned by Asian people who practice some serious yoga (which I know because I watched them doing yoga from where I sat on my ass reading a book in a lounge chair), surrounded by my spouse and a few of our best friends, plus a cluster of strangers from all over the globe speaking in a variety of languages and accents. I had that same disorienting feeling that you get in certain airports, where you don’t really know where you are and you feel less like an “American” and more like an “earthling.” Being in that place probably influenced what I was writing. So if you don’t like this week’s deep thoughts, blame Earth.

On that note, here’s the article. I had a blast writing this column every week, and I’m so grateful to my editor, KJ, for the invitation, as well as to everyone who read it. Thank you!

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In other news: Now that this series is over, I’ve got time to devote to a few other things. Final edits are due this week on the Penguins with People Problems book that’s coming out next year. (Also, the cover is done, and if I do say so myself, the cover birds are pretty awesome. I can’t wait to be able to show it.) Wheee!

Angelina Jolie’s Artful Fall Fashion Line

September 8, 2014 § 23 Comments

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen Angelina Jolie’s wedding gown, which had her children’s artwork embroidered right onto the dress.

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(Also, do make sure you check out the parody version by Funny Or Die.)

Some of the fashion reporters have dissed Jolie’s decision to take a perfectly good Versace frock and cover it in scribble, but really? This is a woman who once wore her boyfriend’s blood in a vial around her neck. I’m surprised her dress wasn’t woven from actual human muscle tissue and decorated with the urine splatters of exotic wildlife. Instead of being so uptight, maybe we should take inspiration from The Queen of Cheekbones & Darkness and punch up some of this season’s fashions.

Just look how much better these already great outfits look when you add drawings to them:


I absolutely adore this fabulous cocktail dress with the flower-inspired ruffle at the neck. But behold how much MORE awesome it is if you draw monsters on it.



This dress is so me. And it’s extra me if you add a little choo-choo train along the hem. (See enlarged image for detail: There’s a herd of fighting shrimp-mermaid warriors riding atop the train.)



Yet another fantastic garment that I absolutely need for fall. (How cute would this be with jeans and some stabby stilettos?) I’d personalize it a bit with this drawing of a midget grim reaper who’s holding not a scythe, but — surprise! — a bundle of flowers. Is the person screaming in fear or delight? Who knows. Therein lies the whimsy.



Well, this outfit is two shades of my favorite color, but it’s not going in my shopping cart, because as much as I want to love it, I just don’t think I can pull off bag-lady couture. If you like it, though, I’d suggest drawing a hedgehog on the scarf part.



Yes, yes, and more YES. This dress is absolutely coming home with me for the holiday party season. To give it a little oomph, I’m going to put a penguin in eveningwear at the shoulder and then — just to keep things unexpected — a zombie penguin at the knee.



I wear a lot of black and white, and I need to be better about wearing color. This red dress is classy-sexy; and if you add the penguin in a multi-colored 1980s striped sweater, it becomes classy-sexy-Cosby. Win.



I like this dress a lot — and I think it would be good for a work party — but it’s just a wee bit tame. To turn up the interest factor, I’d add a big penguin wearing some jousting boots to the front.



This is a really beautiful crossover crop top that’s just begging for the right occasion. If you add a penguin cheerleader to each side of the bust, you add an encouraging message that sends supportive vibes to all you meet.



Awww — this suit reminds me of my very first job interview outfit. It was a gift from my mom, and to this day, it’s probably the most sophisticated ensemble I own. If I were designing it from scratch, however, I’d make one change: Add a penguin eating a Nutella crepe to the front of the skirt. See how that takes the whole thing to a new level?

By the way, all these outfits came from the Neiman Marcus catalog, so if you want any of it, just buy it and then treat me to coffee and hand me some Sharpies. I’ll spiff ‘em up for you.

Happy almost-Fall, everybody.

The penguins and me

If You’re Happy and You Know It…

August 26, 2014 § 2 Comments

… turn the volume up and blow it out.

This is a crazy-busy week and I am still trying to wash off the glitter from the weekend. I attended a Hawaiian-themed party dressed as a lit tiki torch. It was a lot of fun, but there was so much sparkly stuff and tiny broken lightbulbs on my floor afterward, it looked like I’d killed Ke$ha and done a shitty job covering up the evidence. I made it into the finals of the costume contest (tip: costumes involving fire / electricity are always a good bet), but ultimately the winner was my friend who dressed as the Landshark from classic Saturday Night Live, and I can’t argue with that. It was good.

Speaking of good times, I’m just going to drop a song here and go. Feel free to adopt it as your theme song or dance to it while you’re sitting in your car or share it with someone who needs it or whatever. It’s “Blow It Out” by The Features:


Oh, and my column at The New York Times is still running. If you’d like to see the latest — in which I am confused by the term “hookup” as it relates to elementary schoolers — here it is. Thanks!


Puppies For Everyone… Puppies All Around… PUPPIES PUPPIES PUPPIES

August 19, 2014 § 17 Comments

This is nothing but a bunch of squishy, delicious puppy pictures.

For context on who this little one is and where he came from, you can get the full story in my column today for The New York Times. Then you can wallow in some more fuzzy goodness here:


First, let us all take a moment of silence for Phoebe. She was so quiet and weird and wonderful and stubborn and blind and deaf and old and crotchety and sweet, and she can never be replaced. We love you, Pheebs.

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Next, let’s just acknowledge that yes, I am of the “Jump Right Back In” school of coping. And to everyone who asked, “Is this REALLY the best time for you to get a new puppy?” let me say: There is never a wrong time for me to have a puppy. All puppies, all the time.


Introducing Eleanor Roosevelt to her new pal, Woodstock.

Looks like it might take some time for them to become friends.


Or… maybe it’ll take no time at all.


I mean, seriously.

If Russian spies wanted to kill me, all they’d have to do is send in a spy-assassin-puppy.

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I’ll take a drumstick.


No clue what breed he is.

There’s some yellow lab in there, but other than that, who knows? We’re going with “blended heritage.”


“This is my baby brother. Now I shall squash him.”


Hard to tell who’s more grateful for the other.

If you really want to go nuts with puppy goodness, the article at the NYT has video, too. 

Oh, and I just want to holler some thanks at the good folks at the shelter and animal hospital where Woodstock lived before we met him. They took mighty good care of the little guy, and we’re glad.

11 Conversation Starters For Your Next Social Event With Strangers

August 11, 2014 § 15 Comments

Have you seen this Town & Country piece about how to start a conversation with someone you don’t know?

no fail, you say?



The article begins, “We’ve all been there, you’re at a party, wedding, or formal dinner, and barely know a soul.” Comma splice aside (I mean, seriously), it offers a mixed bag of suggestions from various experts (?) on how to start up a chat with a stranger.

Some of them are great, if perhaps a bit obvious: ask about the person’s work, compliment their outfit, ask if they’ve read anything good lately. Others seem a little heavy for breaking the ice at a party — for example, “What do you think is the driving force in your life?” If someone walked up to me at a party and asked what my driving force was, I would have NO CHOICE but to say, “The voices. All the voices.” And then I’d pop a meatball in my mouth and chew it verrrrry slowly while holding eye contact with the person until they walked away.

Anyway, my friend who sent me the link to the article suggested I might have some conversation starters of my own to offer, and I said, challenge accepted. Just for the sake of consistency, I applied them to the same photo from the article. So here you go — 11 ways to strike up a conversation:

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 (click any image to see it larger)


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Happy chatting!

So You Want to Join a Jellyfish Gang?

August 1, 2014 § 64 Comments

I’ve noticed something this summer: There’s never just a single jellyfish on the beach. Either you see none, or you see a whole bunch. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that jellyfish travel in gangs.

It makes sense, if you think about it. The ocean is a big place, and it would be easy to feel lost and lonely if you weren’t a part of something bigger than yourself. Regular fish can be a bit cliquish, what with their elitist “schools” and such. Maybe jellyfish just want to feel like they belong to something.

And maybe you do, too. But before you go and sign up to join a jellyfish gang, there are some things you should know.



At first glance, jellyfish really seem to have it all figured out.



You see all these jellies, lounging around on the beach like, We own this club, and you think, “You know, that *does* look like fun.”



On the plus side, gangs offer a sense of belonging. If you’ve ever felt insecure about what makes you different, joining a gang can make you feel included for the first time. That’s a nice feeling. This jelly, for example, is super-mangled on one side and also appears to have an oozing head sore, but he’s a part of the group just the same. That’s pretty cool, for him.



The hierarchy within gangs also lends itself to the development of an intricate chain of command. Maybe you’ve never been in charge of anything before, but now there’s potential for you to rise to the top and show yourself to be a mentor and a boss.



Gang members have their own language, including phrases and symbols that outsiders don’t understand. Using these forms of communication makes you feel like you’re part of a family.



Plus, all your fellow gangsters look like big gummi bears.



But there’s a dark side, too. For one thing, gangs are recruiting younger and younger members, robbing them of their youth and introducing them to questionable behavior at a very young age. That’s sad.



Also, gang life is full of risks. For example, disagreements within the gang often fester and are not always resolved peacefully. It is common for disgruntled gangsters to use nearby items as objects of force on others.



The outcomes can be tragic.



And while it is sometimes possible for an outsider — like this clear straw wrapper — to gain access to the inner circle if he or she is similar enough to the other members…



… jelly gangs are notoriously bigoted and are known to ostracize those they see as outsiders, often puffing up defensively at the sight of anyone who is not sufficiently translucent…



… such as this guy, who was lured away from his friends and then abandoned on the hot sand in a cruel initiation ritual. He thought he was joining the gang, but in reality, he never had a chance.



So if you’re tempted to join a jellyfish gang, just make sure you’re going into it with your eyes open. If you look close enough, you may see that gang life isn’t all cookouts and street dancing. There’s a dark side, too.

And that’s science.*

(* It is not science.)

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A big high-five to WordPress for featuring this on their homepage — it is always fun to be Freshly Pressed, and I’m so grateful for the support — THANK YOU.

If this is your first visit here, you can click over there –> or up there ^ to subscribe and get more of this stuff, if you want. If you enjoyed this gang of anthropomorphized jellyfish, you might also enjoy The Random Penguins / Penguins with People Problems, which will soon be a book you can own and put on your coffee table. Or you might not. Who am I to say? 

If this strikes you as entirely silly, that’s probably a sign of your hale mental health, so good for you. You might prefer some of my more normal work, like the column I’m writing for The New York Times.

Either way, hello and thanks. -MLP  (online: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram)


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