My Favorite Things: Non-Speculative Edition

Welcome back to My Favorite Things, a weekly column where we (usually) gab about the greatest in geek. But with April Fools having recently passed, we thought we’d shake things up a little. No pranks! We promise. Instead, we thought that we’d share a little more about us. Because here at Speculative Chic, the focus is always on the speculative: fantasy, science fiction, horror, superheroes… it’s all fair game. That’s because we love the genre so much. You might even call it our favorite thing.

But real people don’t carefully fit into little boxes, no matter how appealing those boxes may be. There is more to us then our love for the speculative. Some of our favorite things go beyond, from the books we read to the TV shows we watch, and more! So for just one week, we thought we’d take a break from our normal routine and share some non-speculative favorites with you. Look outside the box. Maybe you’ll find some new favorites along the way.


 

J.L.’s Favorite thing is… LEGO!

I write speculative fiction. I read speculative fiction. The majority of the film and television that I watch is speculative fiction. Even my collection hobby is based in speculative fiction—if it has a TARDIS on it, I want it. But within the past year or so, I’ve developed a new obsession. While it originated with my love for the TARDIS, since the Doctor Who set was my first acquisition, I’ve quietly turned into a LEGO addict.

Yes, half of my sets are still speculative fiction in nature, such as the Millennium Falcon and other ships from Star Wars Rebels and Rogue One. But the sets I really love to build are actually rather incredibly…normal. Part of the LEGO Creator series includes buildings that would not be out of place along the street of a mid-20th century American small town. These aren’t sets for little kids, though. The two I’ve built so far included over 2,000 pieces each. They took hours to build, with great attention to detail, but I loved every second of it. And while they’re not cheap, they’re still a cheaper alternative for someone who also loves assembling IKEA furniture.

My current limitation is space rather than funds, so plans are afoot to continue transforming the guest room of my house into my own personal LEGO exhibit. Which set do you think I should buy next? I can’t decide between the Palace Cinema or Assembly Square to add to my small, normal empire.

 

Carey’s Favorite Thing is… Brooklyn Nine-Nine!

I’m a fan of Andy Samberg from his SNL days; that said, SNL is not the hallmark of comedy it once was. So I was afraid this show would be centered around Samberg’s character. However, I was delighted to discover Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an endearingly dysfunctional ensemble comedy. Samberg stars as carefree detective Jake Peralta, who often locks horns with boss Andre Braugher, flexing his comedic wings as the staid Captain Raymond Holt. Add comedian Chelsea Peretti as sarcastic, dance-obsessed precinct admin Gina Linetti, Terry Crews (whom I loved as the dad in Everybody Hates Chris) as Sergeant Terry Jeffords, Melissa Fumero as straight-shooter Amy Santiago, Stefanie Beatriz as the dark, mysterious Rosa Diaz, and Joe Lo Truglio as the food-obsessed, personal-boundary-crossing Charles Boyle. The fun thing is that everyone is written (and acted) against type — Terry could easily be the “angry black detective;” instead he’s a yogurt-obsessed family man. By-the-book Captain Holt is a happily married gay man with a penchant for opera and proper grammar. Peralta isn’t a stretch for Samberg, but he gets character development, and it works. The writers and actors display a nonstop commitment to comedy, and they aren’t afraid to develop their characters while keeping them lovable. (One hilarious story arc shows Holt and Diaz bonding over developing emotions.) This show comes up with so many humorous subplots, hijinks, and surprises — from intellectual comedy to physical gags — that keep me replaying scenes over and over just for laughs. Guest appearances by Kyra Sedgwick, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nick Cannon, Bill Hader, Stephen Root and Eva Longoria keep the fun rolling.

 

 

Nu’s Favorite Thing is… the soundtrack from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!

My favorite non-speculative thing this month is the music from the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. If you’re not familiar with the show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend centers on Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer from New York City who one day bumps into her first love, Josh Chan, and immediately decides to move to West Covina, California, where Josh lives. Sounds crazy? Well, hence, the title! The show just wrapped up its second season, and a third season is on its way. But I want to focus on the show’s music. You see, the show is a comedy musical. It features original catchy music that I guarantee will be stuck in your head for days. A song about period sex? Got it. A song about heavy boobs? You will love it. The show does a good job with utilizing their talented cast with singing and choreography, but it doesn’t take away from the episode’s storytelling; the music actually offers insight into some of the characters, in sometimes humorous, but very real ways (check out Rebecca’s rendition of “You Stupid Bitch” as an example). Season one and two soundtracks are streaming now on Spotify.

 

Kelly’s Favorite Thing is… Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink!

The majority of the things I read are not speculative, so this April Fools’ Day post is in my wheelhouse. I read a fairly impressive amount by most people’s standards — I always crush the fifty books a year challenge and some years my list has topped one hundred books. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink is one of the best non-fiction books that I have ever read. This well-crafted piece of investigative journalism explores the suspicious deaths of several patients at Memorial Medical Center following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The writing is so vivid that you feel like you’re there at the hospital as the floodwaters rise, the power fails, and the staff struggles to keep the patients alive. The events that transpire in those five days are both inspiring and shocking. A doctor keeps a premature baby alive through a helicopter rescue flight using only an oxygen bag. Allegations are made that health professionals gave lethal injections to hasten the deaths of critically ill patients who could not be easily evacuated and seven months after the hurricane, three staff members are charged with second-degree murder. Although Five Days at Memorial is a true story, it touches on themes that frequently appear in speculative fiction — the world falling apart, how people respond to a societal breakdown, and ethical dilemmas with life and death consequences. Even if you don’t normally read non-fiction, you should give this riveting, fast-paced book a chance.

 

Tez’s Favorite Thing is… The Naturals series!

Upon hearing the premise for Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s YA crime series The Naturals, I was skeptical. Teens working for the FBI sounded more fantasy than contemporary. But I gave the first book a chance, and it isn’t as bad as I feared. Killer Instinct is definitely an improvement, and I was well and truly hooked.

But the series really shows its genius in Book 3, All In. It must’ve been a nightmare to research and organize, because it involves the Fibonacci sequence. And the serial killer case carries over into the series closer, Bad Blood, which is mind-blowingly brilliant.

This is exactly how a series should be: consistently high quality. I recommend The Naturals to anyone and everyone if given the chance. If you can suspend your disbelief in regards to the premise, you’ll be rewarded above and beyond. It’s an essential for any YA or crime bookshelf.

 

 

Shara’s Favorite Thing is… Justified!

Justified was one of my favorite television shows during its six year run on FX. It wrapped up in 2015, but my husband bought me the complete series on BluRay for Christmas and we’ve started watching it again with his parents, who never caught the show the first time around. Starting it all over, with the series finale still relatively still fresh on my mind? SO MUCH FUN. It’s so refreshing to have a procedural that isn’t your standard big city cop show. And I adore how it represents the South without getting into stereotype and caricature, as well how it embraces the South’s dark, twisted sense of humor.

It should also go without saying that my crush on Timothy Olyphant is still strong, but his leading role as Raylan Givens is still compelling on a second viewing. The cast as a whole is just so stellar, and I’ve got so much love for everyone, specifically Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder and Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett. I wish this show had gotten more recognition while it was on the air, but I’m happy to be sharing the love with my in-laws, and I’m really thrilled when they’re laughing at all the same parts my husband and I are. So if you’re looking for a procedural that features a U.S. Marshall who’s stuck going back to his hometown and getting into all kinds of trouble, give Justified a shot — pun intended — for free on Amazon Prime.

 

Nicole’s Favorite Thing is… Universal Yums!

Subscription boxes are all the rage, and the most well-known spec fic-related one is Loot Crate. But surprises await in every subscription box, and I’d never seen one that was enticing enough for me to pour money into every week. Until one day I saw a YouTube video featuring Brazilian snacks — sponsored by Universal Yums.

Universal Yums provides monthly subscription boxes that are filled with various snacks and candies from a specific country. I’ve always wanted a way to eat things from different places around the world, and since I don’t exactly have the funds to go places, this is the next best thing. With two box sizes available, I opted for the cheaper one with a smaller sampling.

Their first box featured Brazil in celebration of the Olympics, and since then I’ve sampled Thailand, Russia, Indonesia, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, and most recently, Israel. Some candies and snacks are amazing, like the roasted corn Cheetos from Indonesia, the Elite chocolate with popping candy from Israel, and the orange Thai tea. Of course, every now and again I come across something that doesn’t work out for my palette, such as the licorice candy from Germany, but that’s still okay. It’s about trying something different and discovering what other people snack on throughout the world. And sometimes you discover America is really missing out on some good snacks! (Seriously, though, we need to talk about the lack of roasted corn Cheetos.)

I thought it would be amusing to show my friends my reactions to some of these foods, which has led to YouTube reaction videos. Now every month means new foods from across the globe and silliness on camera. What will April’s box be? Your guess is as good as mine!

 

Lane’s Favorite Thing is… Pastries!

Writers love coffee.  This is a given. Assemble five writers and a Starbucks will spontaneously generate.  But you know what this writer really loves?  Pastries.

I’ve been stupidly spoiled my whole life when it comes to pastry. My grandmother made tiny brioche rolls, crisp on the outside, sweet and tender on the inside.  My father taught us about Pennsylvania-Dutch Strawberry shortcakes, which are raised, sweetened biscuits crusted in sugar, and served warm with sliced strawberries and milk or cream.

Outside the house, there was Andalusia bakery, a Cuban/French fusion that specialized in coffee cakes so delicious that when I went to college, I had my parents ship them across the country. (Imagine a coffee cake, part brioche, part babka, dotted with custard wells, drizzled with dark chocolate.)  I grew up with guava pastries, and the delicious lime-sugar cookies called torticas de moron.

Then I moved to Kansas, and found Wheatfields, an artisanal bakery with a delicious sideline in pastry.  Napoleons, eclairs, cinnamon rolls, palmier, and the best chocolate-dipped hazelnut biscotti I have ever had.

And then there’s opera cake.  (Angels sing in the background.)

Some pastries that you learn to make, so you can satisfy your cravings. Brioche, babka, palmier, paté choux.  Then there are the impossible dreams — opera cake — ground almond sponge cake, coffee syrup, flavored cream, and ganache, in delicate layers?  My kitchen would never survive.

While planning a family trip to Vegas, I selected the hotel most familiar to me from CSI: the Bellagio.  With the Jean Philippe Patisserie inside.  Serving opera cake.  Daily.

I’ve never been a gambler, but that visit to Vegas confirmed it.  Why on earth would I put five dollars into a slot machine when I could use that cash to buy a slice of opera cake. (Angels… singing.)

Yeah.  Pastries.

And if you’re not hungry now, you’re not human.

 

Betsy’s Favorite Thing is… the Pfaff Creative 4.5!

We moved this year. On one hand, it’s created more than a bit of stress; on the other, since we moved from a big city to a small town, and we had a nice chunk of equity in our former house, it means that my husband and I each got a serious block of cash to upgrade our hobby equipment. After all, living an hour from the nearest Target, I need some new/enhanced way to spend my free time! Enter the Pfaff Creative 4.5, which I’m pretty sure is actually a self-guided rocket ship disguised as a sewing machine. It sews, quilts, embroiders (automatically!), does decorative stitches you would not believe, threads its own needles, ties and cuts off your threads at the end of a seam, and can cook a nice pot roast in under an hour. Okay, maybe not that last one. YET. It’s smarter than me, prettier than me, more efficient than me, and holds more ideas in its internal memory than me at any given time. Unfortunately, it’s also usually surrounded by the clutter of life in a just-moved household with two young kids, exactly like me, so I haven’t been able to play with it quite as much as I might wish — but what I have done has been excellent, and the learning curve is decent once you get into their German engineering mindset as far as menus and process. It’s even good enough that I’m considering branching out from straight-line quilting and into making things like clothes and costumes! Either the apocalypse is near, or I’m getting old, or this is a truly remarkable and extremely fun piece of machinery. Maybe all three.

 

Keyes’ Favorite Thing Is….Imaginary Author’s Perfume!

I am a relentlessly olfactory person, and as a result, I am quite fond of smelly-things such as perfume. What I am not fond of is smelling like 1. a flower (florals give me a headache) or 2. a baby (ie, baby-powder). Unfortunately, finding scents that do not make me smell like either a baby or a florist’s shop means that I lean very heavily on gourmands (foody-scents, like vanilla) and orientals (which have notes like sandalwood or amber). And while I like smelling like 1. a cake or 2. incense, sometimes I want to smell like other things. And Imaginary Authors lets me smell like other things. Like tennis courts (the Soft Lawn). Or a high end tobacco shop mixed with a speakeasy (Memoirs of a Trespasser, one of my two favorites). Or like the platonic ideal of a Northwestern pine forest (Cape Heartache, my other favorite). Imaginary Authors even makes a rose floral I can actually stand…by tossing in a heavy note of, all things, saffron (Slow Explosions — Remy would be so proud). I would be inclined to like Imaginary Authors on principle even if their fragrances were not amazing as each perfume is named after and inspired by a work of fiction by a famous author…except neither the authors nor the works of fictions themselves exist. The near Dadist absurdity is nearly as divine as the scents.

 

Nancy’s Favorite Thing is… Capsule Wardrobes!

I first heard the words “Capsule Wardrobe” while reading Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. In the book, she remarked that the average woman owns 300 items of clothing, which seemed ridiculously high to me. Turning to my own closet, I found that I had less, but waaaaay more than I was comfortable with. Why did I have so much stuff that I didn’t even wear?

The antidote? The Capsule Wardrobe. A Capsule Wardrobe is a small, carefully selected wardrobe filled with all of the clothing you intend to wear during one season. Some recommend having a 33 items of clothing per season. Others say 37. I find mine oscillates between 30-39 depending on the time of year. The numbered items in your capsule include clothing, shoes and accessories, not things like underwear, socks, or pajamas.

There are lots of benefits to having a capsule wardrobe. It cuts the fat out of your closet, leaving you with nothing but your favorite outfits. Also, working on such a small scale makes you value versatility more. The items I have in my closet are highly mix-and-matchable, instead of one and done outfits — pretty much the entirely of my wardrobe before. And as a nice bonus, at the end of each season, my wardrobe gets a refresh. While some items, like my jeans, remain in my capsule for the entire year, others pieces brought in and out of storage based on the season. Now that spring has arrived (if it ever stops snowing!), I’m getting ready to pack away my heavier sweaters, and bringing in more transitional items. As a result, even though the number of new items I purchase each season is usually small, it almost feels like I have a whole new wardrobe. An unexpected benefit to thinking small!


Any thoughts on the selections above? What are your non-speculative favorites? Let us know in the comments!

10 Comments

  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier April 3, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Now I’m hungry…

    Reply
  • Shara White April 3, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I adore Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s absolutely my favorite comedy on television right now.

    Also, Lane, the way you describe pastries makes me want to eat ALL THE THINGS. I had no idea that opera cake even existed!

    Reply
  • Lane Robins April 3, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I love the idea of capsule wardrobes but somehow I think they’re for people who live… less grubby lives than I do. Somehow I go through about 9 pairs of pants and as many tops a week, plus sweaters.

    Reply
    • Nancy O'Toole Meservier April 3, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Yeah, I get that they’re not for everyone. They just work really well for me 🙂

      Reply
      • Lane Robins April 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm

        Then know that I am sitting over here, quietly envying your organized closet and life. 🙂

        Also, so many cool things up there that I missed some! Now I want to read The Naturals.

        Reply
  • Carey Ballard April 5, 2017 at 1:41 am

    Whew, yes. Justified. Actually pretty much anything with Timothy Olyphant in it (his comedic screwball faces are half the fun of Santa Clarita Diet).

    Reply
    • Shara White April 5, 2017 at 9:55 am

      I am looking forward to giving Santa Clara Diet a try, but only for him! 🙂

      Reply
  • Carey Ballard April 5, 2017 at 1:43 am

    And opera cake! Next time I’m out Lane’s way (next month!) I’ll have to drop into Wheatfields.*

    *I am human! Hooray!

    Reply
    • Lane Robins April 5, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      Any time you want to hit lawrence, I’ll take you to wheat fields.

      Reply
  • Kelly McCarty April 11, 2017 at 1:43 am

    I came very close to choosing a cookbook as my non-speculative favorite, probably this one–http://www.grandbaby-cakes.com/2015/05/grandbaby-cakes-cookbook/ but I thought people would be more interested in Five Days at Memorial. Now I’m hungry and also upset that there is a type of cake (opera cake?) I didn’t know about. I want to try those Pennsylvania-Dutch Strawberry shortcakes. I also suddenly want to go broke in Vegas–not via gambling, through spending all my money in the bakeries.

    Reply

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