The Bust DIY Guide to Life & The Best Party Recipes

For Christmas, Chase bought me The Bust DIY Guide to Life, which was definitely a great present. In addition to recipes and crafts, it also has practical advice on things like having a natural birth, doing your taxes, and going camping. But you know I paid the most attention to the recipes.

The book included what has come to be known as my signature dish: Amy Sedaris’s Cheese Ball. It’s also in her entertaining book, I Like You, and it’s always a big hit at parties. I used to make this in college, and I don’t want to brag too much, but I did once receive a 2 a.m. drunk dial from a guy demanding I bring a cheese ball to a party the next night (full disclosure: it was not a potential suitor. It was a very nice gay man. Obviously). This also tells you a lot about the sorts of parties I went to; of course I needed to bring a retro party food instead of booze! Anyway, people really love this cheese ball, including my lactose-intolerant boyfriend. Amy Sedaris knows her stuff.

This New Year’s Eve, H. and I had a few friends over for board games and food. I still like to party just as hard as I did in college. Of course I made the cheese ball, as well as some drinks. Here’s the recipe, which I always halve (and it still makes a softball sized cheese ball).

Amy Sedaris’s Cheese Ball

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese
2 cups of shredded smoked gouda (I almost always use something cheaper, but smoked cheese is definitely better if you really like the people you’re feeding)
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 TBSP milk, cream, or half-and-half
2 tsp steak sauce
2 cups crushed nuts

Let the cream cheese, cheese, and butter come to room temperature and beat them together with the milk and steak sauce. Form it into a ball (it helps to refrigerate it a bit first, or at least cover your hands in plastic wrap or maybe latex gloves if you keep those in your kitchen. I don’t because I’m not a big creep). Roll it in the crushed nuts and refrigerate. Let it soften at room temperature for a bit before you serve it or else it will break everyone’s crackers. Eat way too much and keep saying, “WHY DO I KEEP EATING THIS CHEESEBALL?”

But a party is not made of cheese balls alone! A lady needs booze. The Bust DIY book’s guide to cocktail parties told me that you should have beer, wine, and either a signature drink or vodka and some mixers. I bought some (of the cheapest possible) vodka, but I decided to make a drink because I don’t like beer and I only kind of like wine. The book had a recipe for a Pineapple-ito, which is basically a mojito but with less lime and more pineapple. It was pretty delicious.

Pineapple-ito (adapted from the Bust DIY Guide to Life)

Put a handful of mint into a pitcher. Put in equal parts of rum, pineapple juice, and club soda. Stir in the juice of two limes (or put in a few squirts from one of those plastic limes filled with lime juice…whichever’s your style). Drink a lot and don’t pay attention to the game Parcheesi.

We had a great New Year’s Eve (no thanks to the confusing game of Parcheesi). I’m so glad our friends could hang out with us, and now we have half a leftover cheese ball to eat.

New Year’s Jams

We all know Christmas songs, but an overlooked genre of music is the New Year’s song. Here are some of my favorites!

New Year’s Day, U2

I can’t listen to this first few seconds of this song without laughing, because Alex sings it a lot. This is one of those songs that probably shouldn’t make me happy, and yet it does.

Same Old Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg

Okay, you probably hate this song because you are not my mom’s age. Whatever. My best friend and I totally bonded over this song when we first met. Why were 14 year olds listening to Dan Fogelberg? I can’t answer that. Either way, I find this song emotionally affecting, so just shut your trap.

The New Year, Death Cab for Cutie

New Year’s often ends up being disappointing or depressing for a lot of us, and this song really sums up that feeling. It makes me think of high school, when I used to stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning on Saturday so I could watch Subterranean on MTV and watch videos like this one (while the internet technically existed then, it didn’t exist for me).

In The New Year, The Walkmen

Because we all like The Walkmen.

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I was going to post the Nancy Wilson version, but give me a break. This is what the world’s talking about, and by the world I mostly mean every blog and also me and Christine and Chad last night.

Are there any other great New Year’s jams I forgot? Is U2′s New Year’s Day the best song in the world? Let me know in the comments!

My Favorite Movie of 2011: The Future

I operate largely based on feelings and intuition, not on thought or logic, so when I really like something it can be hard for me to talk (or write) about it. I want to tell you guys about The Future in a really smart, insightful way, maybe throw in a few jokes, use a metaphor that makes you say, “Damn, girl, this sounds like a great movie.” But instead all I can tell you is that this movie was just kind of there, waiting for me, when I needed it. When I was feeling really down and confused, it hit me like a punch in the stomach, leaving me kind of nauseated but also just exhilarated.
Maybe you don’t like Miranda July, and that’s fine, I guess. I certainly can’t make you like someone or something, but I can tell you what I like about her. All of her work, be it film, prose, or otherwise, has an emotional vulnerability that’s so complete it’s shocking. Rarely have I seen a writer/performer/director be so open and unafraid when talking about emotions. People tend to apply the word “brave” to art when there’s violence or ugliness or maybe just whatever the hell it was Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe were doing in Antichrist. When I think of brave filmmaking, though, I think of Miranda July, who isn’t afraid to handle the slippery, squirmy things like feelings. The kinds of things we’re, if we’re honest with ourselves, usually trying to get away from, not confront. But that’s exactly what she does. She puts relationships, feelings, emotions, and connections front and center, as if they’re the only things that matter. And, really, aren’t they?

Her previous film, Me and You and Everyone We Know was, to me, primarily about people trying to make connections and the problems that keep them from doing so. This film was more about people trying to figure out what their lives are supposed to mean. The Future is about getting to a certain age and realizing that, even though you thought you’d have things figured out by now, you don’t. It’s about trying to make a change and a difference by taking an action, any action. It’s about how taking the wrong action can lead you somewhere you never intended to be, a place where you’re not even sure who you are anymore, where you’re standing on a suburban street in a nightgown and wondering what, exactly, it is that you’re supposed to do all day. It’s an amazingly affecting film, and maybe you’ll get something completely different out of it! Even though it follows a fairly traditional narrative structure, I think a lot of it is open to interpretation.

It’s worth noting that the trailer doesn’t necessarily represent the movie very well. That’s no surprise, as I’m pretty sure a movie trailer has never done anyone any favors (aside from Sofia Coppola, who always manages to have perfect trailers). That talking cat, for example? A very small part of the film. In fact, I didn’t even remember it until I watched the trailer again. Also, the trailer makes the whole film seem a little cutesy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is, to be very clear, an upsetting movie, one that is not in the least bit comforting (as Me and You and Everyone We Know was). But it’s honest about the important things, those parts of our lives that seem so monumental but ultimately become the mundane scraps we piece together to make our days, weeks, years, and lives.

If you want to hear Miranda July herself talk about the movie and her creative process, Meet the Filmmaker has a really delightful interview with her in which she discusses the film and her creative process.

Also worth noting: this may seem shallow, but Hamish Linklater gets better looking the longer you watch him. At first you will think, “This is an okay guy,” but by the end you will be thinking, “Okay, I get it. Attractive.” You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself.

Lady Jam: You Da One, Rihanna

I heard an interview with Jay-Z on NPR a while ago (an aside: there’s a sentence that sums up everything you’ll ever need to know about me. Love listening to Jay-Z, but he’d better be on Fresh Air!) where he offered up his explanation for why so much crotch-grabbing happens in hip-hop. Basically, he said that performers are nervous, and they often go from recording their album to playing a giant festival without ever learning how to be in front of crowds. Since they don’t know what to do on stage or where to put their hands, they instinctively reach to cover themselves. They feel, in a word, naked.

This is all just to say that I don’t think Rihanna’s ever been nervous about anything a day in her life. I imagine she’s stoned out of her gourd at all times. When I told Alex about Rihanna’s semi-recent hospitalization for exhaustion, he said, “What, did she walk up a flight of stairs?” So, while the Youtube comment typo “Why is she grabbing her crutch all the time?” might be hilariously apropo, I think we can all assume that Rihanna is not covering up her insecurity with false bravado. She’s just doin’ Rihanna.