Pie For Breakfast & Other Snacking Tips From Stephen King & Me

By Anita Garner

Here’s a way to ignore calories while enjoying the snacks we love. Change the rules.  If you eat it at a different time of day it’s calorie-free.  Pie for breakfast or whenever a pie mood strikes.

It’s also calorie-free if you change what you call it and how you cut it. Don’t call it dessert.  Don’t cut pie into wedges.  When you cut a round pie into squares it has no calories.  Or switch to slab pie which was never meant to be cut into triangle shapes in the first place. In addition to having no calories because they’re square, a nice healthy chunk of slab pie can bring on happy memories of potlucks and bake sales.

This Thanksgiving season, I will follow one of my own traditions.  Bake an extra  pie, cut it into squares and visit it at many non-dessert times.

Stephen King covered a similar topic, his own  snacking-without-calories suggestions in an article for Entertainment Weekly magazine years ago. I’m going to go ahead and validate his ideas in advance because Stephen King is smart and occasionally silly.

Stephen King’s Healthy Entertainment Diet

“…A number of people have asked your Uncle Stevie for dieting advice. Me, a guy who never met a fat calorie (preferably deep-fried) he didn’t like. At first I thought giving such advice didn’t fit my job description as a commentator on the pop cult scene, but after further consideration, I decided it does. Because staying current with pop culture is mostly a thing you do sitting down, right? And if you’re watching TV, listening to music, or going to the movies, you want to eat, right? So the question then becomes, Uncle Stevie, how do I maintain my keen pop culture edge without turning into a sumo wrestler who knows every single word to the Brady Bunch theme song?

Luckily for you, I have some tips — stuff that would put Weight Watchers out of business. I’m taking a chance here; the Diet Police will certainly try to smear and discredit me in the press, but for you guys (he said modestly) I’m willing to take the risk.

… fortunately for the devoted snacker, cakes and pies are what nutritional experts call baked goods, and when stuff is baked, the calories shrink from the heat and draw in to the center.  When enjoying Bundt cake, cut around the center ring and throw it away. The rest of the cake is calorie-free (except for the frosting, but you can’t have everything).   When you serve yourself a nice fat wedge of chocolate pie, just remember to cut off the pointy end, because that’s where the calories are.”


Christmas Music – too soon or never too much?

By Anita Garner

The debate about Christmas music starting too early has already begun on social media.  I spent years on the radio and all of us on the air worked from a playlist which we didn’t often get to select. Program directors and consultants and sometimes the station manager’s family decided what we played.  That last one isn’t a joke.

Just before in-earnest holiday madness began, Christmas songs were slowly merged into the playlist, but no matter when they started, someone on the air staff hated it.

Here’s a scene from a typical radio programming meeting, where on-air people wrestled with the Program Director.

PD: So guys – and Anita – you’ll notice on your playlist that we’re rotating one Christmas song each hour starting…

ME: …Couldn’t we play more than one each hour?


PD: And then by week three of the season, we’ll play four an hour.

ME: Couldn’t we play more than that?

EVERYONE ELSE: Shut up, Anita.

ME: Could I have more Christmas music just on MY show?

ON-AIR PERSON: I’ll be calling in sick.

ANOTHER ON-AIR PERSON: You can’t call in sick, because I’m scheduling all my dental work now. I’ll be gone for a month.

The foregoing is only slightly exaggerated. I haven’t met many people who like Christmas music as much as I do.  My personal Christmas music marathon begins when I say so and ends when I decide it ends and there are the occasional times during the year when I dip in for a song or two when I need a little Christmas.  There have been more than a few of those dips during this particular year.

It doesn’t take much to bring on the spirit.   I go over to You Tube and hear  guitarist, Chris Whiteman, play anything from his holiday collection, James Taylor singing Joni Mitchell’s “River”  and “In The Bleak Midwinter,”  (this version from “The Crown” on Netflix) Vince Guaraldi playing anything, and on and on.  A few favorite holiday songs and  lights that twinkle and the holiday season is right here, right now.



Two Sweet Sixteens

By Anita Garner

In our three-person Northern California quarantine family the 2020 birthday cycle completes this month. Caedan Ray, our November girl, celebrates Sweet Sixteen in a few days.

It’s a milestone I don’t take for granted.  My daughter, Cathleen,  waited a long time for this girl.  I think we were both convinced there wouldn’t be grandchildren in this family so when Caedan arrived in 2004 she felt like a miracle.

Sixteen brings in the real world to wrap up parts of childhood, or at least that’s how it works in a non-pandemic year.  Sixteen is old enough for a work permit.  Caedan hopes her volunteering at the local library might turn into a part-time job when things re-open.  Driving is another big step. A learner’s permit comes next.

Cathleen notes big occasions on the calendar.

Her mother’s  Sweet Sixteen was in a restaurant in a hotel.  We booked a small private room inside “John Q’s” at the top of the Holiday Inn across from Old Sacramento.  Guests dressed fancy and gathered for dinner at one big, noisy table.

The cake was a gift from the hotel pastry chef.  It was a perfect replica of a drum set.  Cath’s Dad was teaching her to play in those days. The party was posh but it wasn’t a chapter from the lifestyles of big-spending parents.  The hotel was a client of my advertising agency and they did us proud,  compliments of the owner, John Q Hammons.

Of course we embarrassed our daughter. It’s what parents do. We hired a birthday-gram, requesting a singer to deliver roses and sing “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen.”  The singer turned out to be so close in age to the birthday girl that as soon as he started singing the Neil Sedaka hit both of them went all shy and squirmy.  He blushed the color of the roses all the way through his song.

None of this sounds like anything that would interest Caedan Ray. I’m picturing her in a more casual outfit, which is her style, though if you sent her a birthday-gram sung by any of the young men from BTS she might agree to some lip gloss and her favorite dangly skeleton earrings.