Sunday, March 8, 2015

50 Shades of Grammar



With Valentine’s Day behind us, along with the controversial release of the 50 Shades of Grey movie (though we may not have recovered from either one emotionally), discussions about the quality of the source material for the salacious film have abounded. The 50 Shades series has been widely panned as poorly written tripe, unworthy of consideration from “real” readers.




But is this fair?

Certainly  it seems fine to denigrate what is literally (literally) sado-sexual Twilight fan fiction, but from a purely grammatical standpoint, this might not be totally deserved.(Although from a storytelling/character development standpoint, well, again, it's Twilight fan fiction.)

This cat is horrified at your taste in literature.
But in the interest of fair play, the good folks at Grammarly have once again performed amazingly thorough research into the subject, and have provided this handy infographic to make all the stats easy for us to see. And the verdict is this: while you might find the characters drab and the plot lacking in substance, 50 Shades of Grey is no worse than many other classics when it comes to grammar, and indeed, is much better off than some.

Grammarly: Fifty Shades of Grammar

This ultimately begs the question, is the real problem 50 Shades of Grey, or is it a publishing industry who has become lax about which books it chooses to print, and the quality of grammar that they institute in their releases?  I say, let’s up our standards! The reading public will follow. So maybe grammarians in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

But also, that book was terrible, grammar issues notwithstanding.


Coffee Series #3: Guest Post: Brett Knapp's Butta Coffee

It's the latest coffee craze! Adding butter to your coffee is the new, kind of controversial, hot trend, and is supposed to have amazing benefits, not least of which is a huge boost in energy above and beyond what simple coffee on its own can do. Personally, I was skeptical at first, but then my sister was like, "Dude, this stuff is legit" (because that's how she talks all the time), and so instead of trying it myself, I drafted her to tell us all about adding butter to coffee. So here it is! My sister, Brett Knapp, ladies and gentlemen...


For those of you who know me, I can barely form a sentence until I’ve had my morning coffee. When asked how I like my coffee, I respond with “Beyoncé colored” (I believe if I drink Beyoncé coffee I can channel her throughout the day), which basically means a bunch of Coffeemate. I have always wanted to cut back on the creamer in order to be healthier, but couldn’t quite bring myself to enjoy the taste of black coffee.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on a personal trainer’s Instagram about “Butta Coffee” and it piqued my interest. In her post she showed a delicious looking cup of creamy, beige coffee that also has health benefits. So, I researched it more before deciding to give it a try myself and the results have been amazing! Many of you may be wondering how adding fat to your coffee could ever be healthy? Well, you need fat with your meals in order to keep your energy up and metabolism moving. That doesn’t mean you should add bacon to every meal… the point is to add good fat. Since drinking butta coffee, I have noticed a huge difference in my energy throughout the day and a jump in my metabolism. It’s a little bit more work in the mornings, but definitely worth it. Below I will show you how I make my own Butta Coffee.
Needed Ingredients

Ingredients:

·         Grass fed butter
·         Coconut Oil
·         1% or Skim milk
·         Vanilla extract
·         Black coffee


Step 1:
Brew a pot of coffee. I’m a big fan of the Pike Place coffee from Starbuck’s because it’s strong, but not bitter. I brew about 5 cups formyself because I like to drink 2 cups of coffee in the mornings.


Step 2:
Put the coconut oil, butter, vanilla extract, and milk in a blender.  I do 1 tablespoon of the oil, butter, and vanilla and then 2 tablespoons of milk because I like it a little creamier. You can create your own ratio after making it a couple of times.  I use the Lucerne butter, but you can use any brand you like as long as it says on the front that it is from cows not treated with growth hormones and/or there are no GMOs. Horizon is also a good brand, but a little pricier.

Step 3:
Add your brewed coffee to the mixture in the blender. I add the majority of the pot, so I can just mix it all together at once. It will look a little weird before you blend it because the oil floats to the top. Ignore this.
Step 4:
That's the face of a butter-jolt! 
Use the ‘whip’ setting on low to mix the ingredients together and make it frothy. Make sure you hold on to the lid very tightly, as it will put a lot of pressure on the lid and you don’t want hot coffee exploding all over your kitchen.

Step 5:
Your coffee should look like this after the blending. Pour into a cup and enjoy! 







Friday, February 27, 2015

Choffy: Have You Heard of It?

Sorry guys, it's coffee time again. Well, sort of.

Some people are too hardcore for coffee. Or else coffee is too hardcore for them. The high levels of caffeine and bitterness of roasted coffee beans can be too much for people.  But you still need a pick-me-up amirite?

So there's this thing called Choffy. It's pure cacao (that's chocolate) that you brew in a French press just like coffee. It is supposed to be healthier and easier on the system and yet deliver a caffeine kick so potent that it rivals coffee in its ability to get you on your feet and moving.

Naturally, I received a bag of the stuff for Valentine's day.

First of all, it brews like a dream. It smells heavenly the moment you open the bag, and the second the boiling water hits the grounds it turns deep chocolatey brown. And smells so good.

Caveat: It did gum up the strainer in my French press just a little. The grounds were a little coarser than how I grind my coffee, and I am guessing that chocolate in any form is sticky. But this was a minor issue that in no way prevented me from brewing and imbibing the beverage.

After I waited with ants in my pants for it to steep, and then be stirred, then steep some more, I tasted it. It is bitter. Very bitter. If you don't like the bitterness of coffee, then do not drink Choffy without doctoring it up a little.

That being said, doctoring this stuff up works a treat! A little sugar and cream and we had a 100% delicious hot beverage on our hands! And if you don't like the bitterness of coffee (like my husband) this is the way to go, because unlike coffee, which, even after adding cream and sugar still has that coffee taste, this transformed from bitter to Best Hot Chocolate I Have Ever Had, with just a little sweetener.

So, the moment of truth: how did the kick in the pants work compared to coffee? I did not notice any significant increase in my jolt. But it definitely worked at least as well as my usual morning coffee.

Then, because I am brilliant,  I conceived of the idea to do half coffee and half Choffy one morning. Voila! Cafe Mocha! It was delicious. And, purportedly, nutritious. But I have to be honest, I don't really care as much about that.

Choffy will probably not completely replace coffee in my life. But it is delicious and definitely effective, and I would absolutely recommend trying it. It will probably be the next big thing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

First, a disclaimer: I really enjoy retellings of old fairy tales, so I was predisposed to enjoy this book. I have done my best to be objective, but I thought you should know that. 

What might have seemed contrived or even trite in this era of constant reboots turned out instead to be surprisingly refreshing and undeniably engaging in Genevieve Valentine's Girls at the Kingfisher Club. Valentine captures the panache of prohibition-era New York while maintaining a pure, genuine tone for her twelve heroines--all of whom are completely themselves. This retelling of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses is gripping, lavish, and heartfelt--to the point that I had a very hard time putting it down, and an even harder time accepting that I had finished reading it.

Girls at the Kingfisher Club tells the story of twelve sisters, all disappointments to their father, a nouveau-riche businessman who needs a son to inherit his empire. So he locks them all upstairs in their sprawling house and never lets them go anywhere or do anything. 

So of course they sneak out to go dancing at the speakeasies of New York City. When their father starts hatching a scheme to get them married off and off his hands, things come to a head and each of the girls must go her own way, and make her own way.

Through all this, there is a beautifully painted bond between all the sisters. Their dynamic is at once distant and completely devoted, and they are herded through their misadventures by the eldest, Jo, who they call The General.

The storytelling is frank and sensual, the cadence echoing the rhythms of the dancing the girls do at the clubs every night, with all the decadence of Gatsby, but oddly, with much less sentimentality. This is a tale of sisters who look out for each other, and look out for themselves--women making it in a man's world and dancing until their shoes are worn through.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a thoroughly enjoyable little novel that I look forward to reading again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I Use My Mom's Old Percolator

I guess it's no secret that I'm a bit of a coffee person. Although I would not say I am a coffee snob (because really, how snobby can you be when you add both cream and sugar to your coffee every morning), I do prefer dark roast coffee brewed very strong and I do notice a difference in how my coffee tastes depending on: A. Whether it was pre-ground B. What brand it is and C. The venue for brewing the coffee.

And that is what I want to address with you. I do not own a drip coffee maker. For years I used only my French press (which I still love), because the hubs does not like coffee, so I just make it for myself. But after I had a kid, mom started coming to visit, and between the two of us, a French press just isn't enough. So she brought over her old percolator. And I feel deeply in love.
If only this were scratch 'n' sniff!

This percolator is old. The power cord has electrical tape on it, because wires were starting to be exposed. It makes a frightening bubbling noise while it perks. And it makes amazing damn coffee. And lots of it.

It's my best friend.
See that electrocution hazard?

I get it ready at night, filling it with water and coffee and sticking in a little round filter (I am still not sure I'm putting the filter in the right spot. Oh well.) and setting it on the counter. Then, in the morning I stumble into the kitchen with no contacts and plug it in (another reason why the electrical tape was necessary). By the time I'm out of the shower, hot coffee is waiting for me. And the pot keeps it piping hot as long as it's plugged in. And if you unplug it and decide you want more later, just plug it back in and it will re-bubble!




It doesn't have measurements. I just guess at my ratio of water to coffee. This usually results in very strong coffee for me. Hence the cream and sugar.

This is my life. And I love this old percolator. And when it finally does die (although I kind of think it will outlive me), I will cry and cry and cry. And probably break down and buy a regular drip coffee maker. Because no newfangled percolator will work like this one does.
How about some awkward coffee face?

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Wolves and Men WINNER ANNOUNCED!


AND THE WINNER IS:

Laura Harris! Please email mkdupre@gmail.com to collect your book!

Not long ago, I wrote a review of a book called Wolves and Men.Well, now I am very excited to announce that I have been given permission to give away a copy of this super cool novel to one lucky winner!


Here is a brief summary of what the book is about:

The wickedness of men knows no bounds. It does not stop to consider the lives it destroys; does not feel the pain it inflicts; nor hesitates where it devours. Its appetite is destruction, and its darkness infects wherever it wounds. It prowls through night and day, seeking the weak, the innocent, and the pure. Where it finds beauty, it mars; where it sees life, it poisons; and where there is light, darkness will fall.

Charlotte Benson is no stranger to the evils of men. Plagued by terrible dreams of her past, she seeks respite in the Ouachita Mountains, at a peaceful wildlife refuge called Willow's Bend in far eastern Oklahoma. Even though she's tucked away in her tiny cabin, she knows she'll have to face her demons. But what she doesn't expect is that Willow's Bend might have demons of its own. 

When locals in Willow's Bend start talking about the strange behavior of their dogs and news surfaces about experiments in the woods, rumors run wild in the tiny community. And as Charlotte's dreams suddenly change from events in her past to those in the future, the serene mountain sanctuary she sought turns into a waking nightmare.

Natasha Wittman
With a unique blend of edge-of-your-seat suspense and coming-of-age narrative, Natasha Wittman reveals not only the darkness of men's hearts but the triumph of forgiveness and grace over grief in her debut novel, Wolves and Men.



And a little bit about the author:

Natasha Wittman is a poet, former newspaper columnist, and irrepressible writer. As an Oklahoma native, she has a unique passion for the landscapes and people of her home state, which is a driving force for many of the scenes and characters in her writing. The seed of the story for Wolves and Men was inspired by a particularly haunting dream. Natasha writes and lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband Micah and daughter Evelyn, where she enjoys classic literature, good coffee, and family. Wolves and Men is her debut novel. You can find out more about Natasha on her blog: steepandsavor.blogspot.com

 It sounds exciting, right? So, if you want to enter the giveaway, just answer the question:

What is your favorite genre?

Do you love dystopian futures? Steamy romances? High fantasy? Horror? Share it with the world! Guilty pleasures are acceptable. So is mentioning your absolute favorite book in your favorite genre. This is a safe space!

Winners will be announced Friday afternoon!

*Wolves and Men is available as a Kindle ebook, and at Full Circle Books and Blue7 in OKC. Find it on Goodreads!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Excellent Grammar and the New American Dream


I don’t know if you know this, but the American Dream is changing. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder and waiting years for the authority and freedom that comes with a head honcho position at the firm, millions (seriously, millions) of Americans are choosing to skip the headache and just work for themselves. God bless technology!

Freelancing is so hot right now.
What many entrepreneurial-minded individuals often don’t realize, however, is that every company relies on its reputation to do business. And that when you work for yourself, your individual reputation is the reputation of the company. And when that is the case, particularly in a world where most communication is done through email, text, and social media, one’s ability to present a professional, grammatically correct face is vital to making a living.


Which is why I’m frequently shocked (and appalled!) by the number of professionals out there who are so savvy in their trade and so incompetent in their phrasing. I don’t care if it is “just a confirmation email”! If it’s going to someone who might be (or already is) giving you money, you better make sure everything is spelled correctly! So that’s the PSA for today: Use good grammar!


Now, you may be thinking, My job has nothing to do with words, or even communication! I’m not some book nerd grammar nazi! Who cares if I’m always right as long as the job gets done!

Yes you do! Shut up!


Well, shame on you! First of all, you should know that everyone, whether they are self-proclaimed grammar nazis or not, loves to point out other people’s grammar mistakes, and you shouldn’t give them the satisfaction! Second, no matter what your field (or personal interests) correct communication can have a huge impact on your career. And the good people at Grammarly are here to prove it.


Grammarly is devoted to promoting healthy grammar, and as part of their endeavor, they have conducted a study of how good (or bad) grammar can affect one’s earnings, particularly for freelancers. Then, because they understand the American penchant for TL;DR, they compiled all their data into this amazing infographic:  
 



The bottom line? People with good grammar skills earn more than those without them. So if you want the big bucks, buckle down and diagram your sentences.


Just kidding! You don’t even have to do that, because  once again Grammarly, benefactor to the masses, is here to save you. They have this incredible device called the Grammarly Grammar Checker (because they are basically super heroes). All you have to do is insert your paragraph, and they will tell you whether it is correct! It will also check to see if you plagiarized. You can use this to feel superior to others as well! It is very efficient and super fun. Here is an example of what the Grammar Check looks like:



Step 1: Insert Text

Step 2: Learn about all the things you did wrong.


Use it! It will literally earn you money. 


If you have a large, intricate, or highly important project, it might still sometimes be a good idea to engage the services of a professional (ahem--like me--ahem). Grammarly also offers a ton of other services and tools for people who want to learn more about grammar and writing, and work on developing those skills. Or at the very least, you should ask another smart person to be a second set of eyes. But if you want to quickly ensure that your emails won’t humiliate you (at least for grammatical reasons), these easy to use Grammarly tools can be invaluable.


The proof is in the pudding. That you won’t have to eat anymore, because people will hire you, because your grammar doesn’t suck. Enjoy your new, pricier desserts!




*I should note that I was asked to do a post about this stuff by the people at Grammarly. But I would talk it up even if they hadn’t asked me, because I do believe in the cause of widespread good grammar, and that people who can’t be bothered are unprofessional. And also because I have been following Grammarly for years on Twitter and I like them.