My Interview With Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie Perkins_Credit Destinee Blau_large
If you’re a YA fan (or a fan of contemporary romantic YA especially), then you know Stephanie Perkins. She’s pretty much the gold standard when it comes to romance. The first time I read Anna and the French Kiss, it was like a lightbulb moment for me–like, Oh, you can do this? Just make a book about romance and kissing and love and make it smart and funny and awesome? Well, Stephanie Perkins can. Her books are the YA equivalent of your favorite romcoms, and her newest book, Isla and the Happily Ever After, is superb.

So of course I was honored and thrilled to get the chance to interview her for HelloGiggles. She said so many smart things, like:

“I like to remind aspiring writers that people like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens didn’t take any creative writing classes. They learned how to write by studying those who came before them. Books are incredible teachers.”

So great, right? You can read the whole interview on HelloGiggles.

That Time I Quit Coffee

dolly parton pour yourself a cup of ambition

As vices go, coffee isn’t really a bad one. I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I rarely drink, and I barely even take any medications. Caffeine was the one truly addictive substance that I put in my body daily. Tons of people do the same thing, so I felt pretty secure in my coffee habit.

The only problem is that I’m not exactly the best at moderation. If I stuck to 1/2 cup of black coffee in the mornings like my mom does, we wouldn’t be having this conversation (and by “having this conversation” I mean “writing this blog post that you’re now reading”). My one cup in the morning morphed into a 28 ounce thermos in the morning, followed by an occasional cup or two in the afternoon and, of course, a cup after dinner while writing or freelancing.

So, yeah, things got intense. I was up to a Gilmore level of coffee intake, which is a place no human ever wants to be. I quit or reduced my intake a few times in the past couple of years, but coffee always came back into my life with a vengeance.

emma roberts surprise bitch

Logically, I knew that the headaches I got when I skipped my morning thermos or when I was visiting the home of someone who (horror of horrors) didn’t realize I needed caffeine within an hour of waking were not normal. I got that. But I didn’t want to stop, and not for reasons that had anything to do with the physical pain that came from stopping. I didn’t want to stop drinking coffee because…well, I love coffee.

I love the taste of it. I love the smell of it. I love the way it looks in my Dear Sugar mug. I love coffeeshops and coffee culture. I hate this one pretentious pour over coffee shop in Columbus but that’s BESIDE THE POINT. Hanging out in a coffeeshop is one of life’s great joys, and I was not in any way ready to give that up.

But there’s this little problem I have. I’ve mentioned it before. Maybe you have it too. It’s called anxiety. In general, I can keep my anxiety in check by eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and staying away from too much caffeine. So…is basically an entire pot of coffee a day “too much”? Sure, technically, that’s a lot. Like a frightening amount. But I was feeling good until I wasn’t! The thing about anxiety (or about mine, anyway) is that it doesn’t need a reason to happen. It’s just there, like a heavy feeling of dread on my chest that makes me constantly feel like I’m a) forgetting something important or b) ruining something important or c) dying, probably. And right after I had about three cups of coffee one morning, it hit me. The worst anxiety I’ve had in awhile. Suddenly I was consumed with worry over various things I have no control over. Are my parents okay? Is everything in my house turned off? Maybe I should check it all OVER AND OVER. And I guess I should work but I CAN’T CONCENTRATE ON ANYTHING! And why does life feel so completely hopeless?

And that’s when I realized…I had to quit drinking coffee. Like, immediately.

I felt so terrible that I wasn’t even sad about it at first. It helped that I told myself I’d be able to go back to coffee, slowly, after a couple of weeks. But it’s been about a month and guess what, guys? Although I have the occasional cup of tea, an occasional Coke Zero (truly my guiltiest of pleasures…those chemicals are so disgusting and so, so sweet), and some sort of weird, blended “superfood” drink with caffeine and, like, acai berries last weekend, I haven’t had actual coffee AT ALL.

If you’re a big coffee drinker and you also have a lot of anxiety, you might not want to keep reading this, because I can guarantee you don’t want to hear it. But I’m going to say it anyway…giving up coffee really reduced my anxiety. By a lot. I know, it sucks. This is the WORST news. I still get sad when I see pictures of coffee. And I still sort of feel like I might slide right back into my highly caffeinated ways. But so far, so good, so much less existential despair!

Don’t get me wrong, quitting coffee wasn’t like some miracle cure. I still have to exercise if I don’t want to feel like complete shit, but my heartbeat feels a lot more normal (I know) and I don’t just sit around and worry as much. Which is nice! “Sitting around and worrying” should not be an activity in anyone’s life.

So here’s my advice if you want to quit coffee: Do it cold turkey. Get some fancy tea. I like Yogi tea because it gives me weird hippie affirmation on each tag. When my tea says “You are infinite,” I’m just like, “Wow. Okay. Thank you. I needed that.” Even the most caffeinated tea still has less caffeine than an entire pot of coffee.

Will I drink coffee again? Probably. When I can trust myself to stop at one occasional cup, then maybe. But right now, this Yogi green tea is really speaking to me. It has antioxidants, you guys. They keep me young, which I will need if I want to continue getting carded for R-rated movies into my 30s (I don’t).

Have any of you guys ever quit coffee? Do you occasionally miss it with frightening urgency? Do you feel better? Have you considered decaf? Reader, I have considered decaf.

Image via Patchwork Printshop

More House Talk

I’m trying not to be incredibly annoying to everyone in my life by talking about my house 100% of the time, but it’s hard. Logically, I know that no one cares all that much. Buying a house is sort of like planning a wedding or having a baby…yeah, people are happy for you, but no one cares as much as you do, and most people have their own stuff they’d rather talk about.

So I’m trying to contain all my house-talk to this Tumblr. Check it out if you care! If you don’t, that’s okay. We can still be friends. We can also still be mortal enemies if that’s more fun for you.

And even if you don’t care about the house but want to hear my thoughts on McDonald’s breakfast, then THIS IS THE TUMBLR FOR YOU!

Baking Break

Tonight H. went over to the house to work on some things, but I stayed here because I’ve fallen super behind on work. Whoops. And, okay, I did get a lot of work done, but I also took a little break to bake something because…well, because. That’s why. Life’s been pretty full of work lately, and sometimes you just need to step back and bake some chocolate zucchini bread.

Here’s the thing about baking: I’m pretty confident that I can do it. I am not really confident that I’m great at working on a house and my confidence in my writing waxes and wanes, but I know that I can pretty much always turn some sugar and flour into something everyone will want to eat. It’s nice to tackle something you know you can do every once in awhile. Thank God for recipes.

This chocolate zucchini bread comes together super easily, and if you have a lot of extra zucchini hanging out in your garden/CSA box/fridge, it’s the perfect way to use it. I’ve already made zucchini sautés, zucchini & panko bakes, and zucchini, cilantro, and lime stir-fries. Those things are all good, but you know what they don’t have? Chocolate.

I made a few changes to the recipe, mostly because I ran out of white sugar, but I stuck pretty closely to the original.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
adapted from Taste of Home

3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
3 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups shredded zucchini

In a large bowl, beat the sugars, oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder; gradually beat into sugar mixture until blended. Stir in zucchini. Transfer to two 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

While I was baking, I listened to The X-Files Files, Kumail Nanjiani’s new-ish podcast devoted to, you guessed it, The X-Files. It’s pretty amazing if you love the show like I do. And if you haven’t seen the show, the first episode is a great introduction to why it’s so awesome. Mulder + Scully forever.