A non-buying guide.

We all make mistakes. We try to do our own taxes, we think the latest Pirates of the Caribbean installment might be kind of fun, we eat ice cream even though we’re lactose intolerant, and every once in a while we temporarily go insane and ask our parents what they want for their birthdays. After committing that last blunder like some kind of having-parents greenhorn, my mother texted me back after thinking about my question for SEVERAL DAYS with this:

“A nice key chain.”

Several times I started to text back, then stopped, because making sure your mother isn’t having…

Christmas shopping at 2 a.m.

Image: Salon NYC

Party City was dark. So was Dr. Zaidi, the orthodontist’s. And Payless. Famous Footwear was closed, but not dark, its aisles of shoes lit up like Gillette Stadium, but with fewer concussions.The only store open at 2 a.m. in this admittedly weird little shopping plaza in Wallingford, Connecticut was Kohl’s. In fact, Kohl’s will be open 24/7 until 6 P.M. December 24th.

When I asked my cashier — let’s call her Lucy — why they were open at such a Godforsaken hour, she said, “I honestly don’t know. I wish I knew.”

Maybe there are towns in this country where…

Stay away from any recipe involving candy canes.

Photo credit: Hannah Nicole, CC BY 2.0.

The memories are starting to fade, but I still remember a time before I began crushing candy canes. Dinosaurs roamed the Earth, then a meteor wiped them all out probably — I’m not sure; I was too busy trying to pulverize the hardest substance known to man — then they slowly turned to fossil fuels; then those fossil fuels cost a quarter a gallon; then they cost a lot more; then someone invented a game about crushing candy, a game almost as painful and endless as what I was going through. Almost.

When I decided to do this DIY series…

Because Elf on the Shelf is creepy.

Some people think the recent interest in all things Scandinavian began with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, while others wisely blame IKEA. Both are, alas, wrong. The craze for all things cold and socialist can be traced back to the late ’80s and the beloved Nick Jr. staple The World of David the Gnome. …

Let’s take a minute to expose a few very expensive mistakes

Image: Kasia

Every year, various publications and companies put out so-called gift guides to supposedly help shoppers find the perfect something for family and friends. Inevitably these gift guides include some presents that are just a touch too expensive to ones that would make a hip-hop mogul blush. Now it’s entirely possible Jay-Z and Beyoncé do their own Christmas shopping, actually read these guides, and think, “Why, yes, let’s do get Solange a $1.5-mil rose gold Cobalt Valkyrie-X private plane to match her phone. She certainly deserves it. How did we never think of this before?” …

It’s all about the jars.

Photo credit: Mark Hardie, CC BY 2.0.

If you are a person who enjoys the occasional libation, there’s a point in your adult life at which you start to give and receive alcohol as gifts. I, as it turns out, only hit that milestone this year. For the entirety of my 20s I was in practice a teetotaler, but living abroad changed me profoundly. It made me the sort of person who would go on TheKitchn.com, see a recipe for apple and cinnamon-infused bourbon, and think, “Ah, that’s the stuff.”

It seemed so simple. Get a bunch of apples and a handful of cinnamon sticks, chuck ’em…

Time to test the theory that DIY is “less expensive.”

Photo credit: Cali4beach, CC BY 2.0.

I’ve always wanted to have certain skills: the skill to maintain and repair my car; the skill to construct furniture, particularly bookcases; the skill to fix my computer when something goes awry. One could easily mistake “self-sufficiency” as the motivation behind my desires. It’s always good to be able to do something yourself and not to have to rely on others.

But that’s not what it’s about at all. Every single one of my DIY impulses is based on a single truth about myself: I am cheap, and I believe that doing things myself can save me a ton of…

When Dr. Vegetable prescribes fried pickles, you buy them.

Every autumn, countless Americans attend county and state fairs to compete in such time-honored traditions as shearing sheep, pulling oxen, exercising swine, and coming up with new recipes featuring Spam or pecans — or both, if you’re truly talented.

And yet, if we’re being honest, many of us aren’t pulled oxen-like to these fairs because of some great interest in contests of agriculture, nor is it the attraction of the Gravitron or the old-car smell of shiny souped-up antiques. We come, against the wishes of our primary care physicians, for the food. Not to cook it, but to eat it…

And what I found there.

Recently I visited a mini mall where I found a bookstore seemingly christened “Bookstore.”

Okay, yes, this Ocala mini-mall book shop does appear to have a name besides BOOKSTORE. But a banner in a window just doesn’t count in my (wait for it…) book, especially when presented with the supporting evidence of…

The trail was desolate and full of people.

The muscular old man who wore weights on his calves and arms and a sweatband around his sun-browned forehead passed Dana.

The woman with the great white hat, bought for a derby not attended due to infidelity, and great black goggles of sunglasses and her long grey dog, so grey it was nearly blue, or so well-bred it was nearly blue, or so into rolling in toner it was nearly blue, or so miserably rich it was nearly blue, passed Dana.

The two women in sports bras had paced her for a…

Kati Stevens

My new book FAKE is now available… And please get in touch if you're an agent who would like to represent my first novel.

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