The Movie: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

THANK YOU to GreenBeanTeenQueen for sharing this info!

The movie Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging* is FINALLY coming to the States! AND on the television so set your DVRs! It'll be on Nickelodeon on Jan. 1st (tomorrow) at 7 pm (Central Time).


* Allow me one more bout of pouting about the yahoos that changed the title from "full-frontal" to "perfect". The hell?

What NOT to do, authors!

Kate McKean from the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency just tweeted this:

"Wow. A writer just responded to a rejection by telling me I was too stupid to understand his book b/c I'm a woman. AUTOMATIC LIFETIME BLOCK."

Unreal. I couldn't help but share with you. Remind you of Candace Sams much? And if you don't know who that is, click the link and be prepared for a big ol' mess. A delicious mess that you just can't detach yourself from...like reality shows.

Where in an author's head (or anyone's head, for that matter) does this sort of reaction make sense? Even then, Amazon is one thing. But directly to a literary agent? Wha...?

Eat, drink, and take a break before responding.


One of my favorite Christmas presents:

Fabulous, right? Thanks to my super-cool brother, his beautiful wife, and my darling niece and nephew!

The shirt makes me think of that great line from The Holiday (shush to the haters): "You're supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for god's sake!" Indeed.

Eat, drink, and play the lead.



I did it! I made a souffle*!!! Successfully!

If you'll remember, I tried making Ina Garten's Blue Cheese Souffle once before with failed results. I even made it one of my goals in 2009 to master the souffle. Then I promptly forgot about all of it.

But while revisiting my 2009 goals recently, I realized I hadn't tried the souffle again. So with the clock ticking toward the end of the year, I attempted the souffle again last night with delectable results:

And here is where I giggled manically and nearly danced:
Again, I used Ina Garten's Blue Cheese Souffle recipe. Luckily, I could tell what I did wrong between my first attempt and this one. Ina's instructions include a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, which I don't have (who has room for one in a NYC apartment?!). I had two options for whipping the egg whites: by hand with a whisk or with my hand mixer.

Last time I held the hand mixer rather still, slowly stirring it around the bowl. The whites never reached "firm, glossy peaks" and instead went super flat. I think I probably mixed it for about 10 minutes, which was way too long.

This time, I thought about how a stand mixer with a whisk moves. Super fast, right? So I basically whisked the whites with my handheld mixer and it worked perfectly. As Ina instructs, I whisked one minute on low speed, one minute on medium speed, and then switch to high until the peaks appear. It took an additional 2 minutes on high.

It was perfect. Light as air, super rich, and paired perfectly with port. What a way to end 2009.

Eat, drink, and if you don't succeed, try again.

* I've complained about this before, I think, but I can't seem to get the accent mark on the "e" using Blogger. Which technically means I have misspelled "souffle" throughout this entire post. Which makes me die a little inside.

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

As I told all of you earlier, I took part in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. This post is incredibly overdue, as I received my gift over a week ago. Nevertheless, here is the package I received from my Secret Santa:

Some new books - supernatural thrillers, which is an entirely new genre for me so this will be interesting - along with some candy, a $10 Blockbuster giftcard, and vanilla-scented shower gel.

My Secret Santa has yet to reveal him- or herself, but thanks so much for the gift! And I'm waiting for the recipient of my Secret Santa gift to post it.

Eat, drink, and make new friends.


The Brits: More Fun than Us

Proof that I might be working in the wrong HarperCollins office:

And then this one:

I'm thinking of jumping the pond...

Eat, drink, and play with your books.


My Favorite French Things

I have suffered from a wicked case of Francophilia ever since I sat in my first French class at 14 years of age and had to repeat over and over again: "Je joue au tennis aujourd'hui." But my affliction has raged out of control lately and I can't quite figure out why. Here are my guesses:

  • With the new job and the winter weather, I feel an overwhelming need to be self-possessed and in control - all the things I imagine a beautiful Frenchwoman to be.

  • I've whipped out all my big sweaters and boots, which make me feel all sophisticated and French-y.

  • There's nothing je ne sais quoi about me...and I sort of wish there was.

  • I've been stuck in a day-to-day rut and feeling the need to re-introduce beautiful things into my life.

I've also encountered lots of fabulous French-related things lately that have added fuel to the fire:

  • I read this blurb in PW that brought The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais to my attention. My lovely friends at Random House sent me a copy and I can't wait to start it.

  • There's this odd little French place in the building where I work: Sud de France. It's on the ground level and huge windows allow you to see everything going on. I haven't been able to discern quite what it is they do, but I know they have dinner parties, display art, and seem to have lots of wine. And naturally everyone that works there is all young and fabulous. Doesn't it seem like a great place to work? Even though it's unclear what they do...

  • One of my favorite French-related books: Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter. Perfect reading for this time of year. (Note: I loved it before I ever started working at Harper and discovered it was a Harper book) I also found this wonderful interview with John Baxter, all about his life in Paris. Baxter, I think, gives a more accessible glimpse of the expat life than, say, Adam Gopnik (whose work I also love).

  • This post at My French Kitchen is additional evidence I'm living in the wrong country. Hell, Ronell's entire blog is evidence of that.

  • Bike-riding (referred to here)
  • Yves-Saint Laurent's Experience Parisienne blog is blissful and inspiring. Full of beautiful, beautiful things.

  • I recently re-read Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison. I forgot about all the French language bits in the book. In particular, I dog-eared page 14 in my paperback copy where Georgia and the ace gang walk around town asking people for directions in French. Hilarity ensues. Or you can just swear like Georgia: "Sacre bleu. Merde. Poo."

  • For more French reading, I can't recommend Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles enough. Written by Rupert Kingfisher, it is refined, quaint, and delightful. I reviewed it here. And in the process of writing this blurb, I found out that there was a sequel, Madame Pamplemousse and the Time-Travelling Cafe! I have written to the powers-that-be, begging for a review copy (though I think it might have only released in the UK).

  • French mints. Several weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner (Molly, Jen, and Heather) and Heather brought these Li-Lac Chocolate Mints with her. Not only were they beautifully packaged, but they were delectable: delicate, balanced, and decadent.

  • Here are some picture book suggestions for Francophile parents and their children: The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch (Schwartz & Wade, 2009), For Just One Day by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant - any of Marc's books, really (Chronicle, 2009), Big Rabbit's Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu, illustrated by Delphine Durand (Chronicle, 2009), My Goldfish by Barroux (Eerdmans, 2009), Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock (FSG, 2006), and of course Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (Viking, 1939). And then when you've finished your literary tour, watch Ratatouille.

Eat, drink, and use that damn passport.


Poetry Friday: A Special Edition

I hope you all enjoy this because I'm sacrificing my dignity for posterity.

My mom sent me a box yesterday of stuff she found in the attic. Among so many wonderful relics of my youth, was a large stack of writing I had done. It included short stories I wrote in elementary school and poems I wrote in high school. It's so god-awful and embarrassing - truly, there are no words.

So here's a little ditty I wrote. It's undated, but I signed it "Lealia Anne"...which puts it in early high school when I desperately wanted any name but Laura. I present to you a poem by yours truly:

Out of Place
by Lealia Anne

Out of place
Out of love
That is what I've always been.
Expressing my loves,
And my most heartfelt emotions
The way I want
Is a difficult obstacle.
Even my most intimate companions
Cannot apprehend
The certain things I am thinking,
When I'm thinking them,
And why.
I truly hope with all my heart
That one day I can
Tell them all that I am feeling
And have them understand.

First, I really used "apprehend". Second, you're welcome. See how much I like all of you?

Eat, drink, and thank goodness for moms who are the caretakers of your life's history!

NOTE: That was my 7th grade photo. Would you believe I actually felt awesomely rad in that outfit?



Being a food enthusiast, you'd think that Thanksgiving would be a huge holiday for me...but it's not so much. I don't like turkey...and when people suggest that I substitute duck, I don't see the point when I can eat that any day of the week. Likewise with a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

So instead I saw Thanksgiving this year as an opportunity to escape to Seaside, Florida for five days with the Soul Twin. I was just coming home from NCTE and thought there probably wouldn't be a better way to relax than sitting on a beach in Florida. Observe:

This was Sundog Books, one of the best indie bookstores I've been to. The classics section seemed to be in no discernible order ...but then a saleswoman approached me and asked if I needed help. I told her I was looking for Persuasion. It took her all of a nanosecond to find a copy and hand it over to me (with a smile). Incredibly nice people and a great selection.

So this was bought as a joke. It's Francis Ford Coppola's mini Sofia line and, why yes, that's a straw you see there on the side. Like an alcoholic Capri Sun. The taste? Well, it's what you would expect. But when you're sipping while shopping through an open air market, who cares?

Okay, so maybe oysters aren't your thing...but what if they were slurped while taking in the view below...

Can you think of a better way to enjoy the fruits of the ocean?!?! An entire bottle of wine was consumed while taking in this incredible view.

A feast on our balcony. What else do you need other than bread and cheese? Oh, and wine.

Yes, this was on the balcony. Check out the pool below. Word up.

And for your viewing pleasure, one of the most un-PC things I've seen to date. Cowboys and Indians?! Really?! I didn't know anyone still encouraged this sort of play...

An unbelievable trip. In addition to the photographic joy above, we also:

  • ate many many loaves of bread from Wild Olives - one of the best baguettes I have tried ever.

  • rented bikes from Butterfly Bike and Kayak, and we rode more than six miles everyday (well, yeah, after all that bread, cheese, and wine!).

  • drank coffee every morning at Amavida; I'm not a pastry person but Amavida had some of the best morning pastries I have ever indulged in.

It being a vacation and all, lots of books were read. Soul Twin read Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol and moved on to Anna Godbersen's Splendor (courtesy of me...I swear, I'll push that series on anyone showing even the slightest sign of weakness!). I read a galley of Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill (Salem witch trials in verse, tentatively scheduled for a June 2010 release), Educating Peter: How Anyone Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert by Lettie Teague, and Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

Eat, drink, and celebrate at the beach!

Note: All photos taken with my cell phone camera. For that, I am deeply sorry.


NCTE Highlights

So two weeks ago was the NCTE conference, followed by the ALAN workshop. As I mentioned here, it was my first conference in my new job so I was nervous and excited and nauseous building up to the big event (come to think of it, I felt that way during the event too).

I'm happy to report that the conference was a fantastic experience, and I had little reason to worry; some hiccups aside, everything went fairly smooth, I think. Here were some highlights:
  • Someone stopped by our booth and mentioned that Donna Jo Napoli was signing at Penguin's booth, which I could see from our HarperCollins spot. So I was able to hop away and have her sign a copy of The Smile for me. I'm such a huge fan of hers and she graciously allowed me to slobber all over her, going on and on about how Prince of the Pond was one of the first books I read as a children's librarian...blah, blah, blah. She was just brilliant.

  • Do you remember how I mentioned in my earlier post that, if you were attending NCTE, you should stop by the booth and say hi? Well, someone did! I was so flattered and so happy and so relieved (cue Sally Field's Oscar speech). However, in all the hoopla and all the following days, I have forgotten my new friend's name. Monica? I think? Reintroduce yourself to me cyberly!

  • I mentioned to a publishing cohort from another house that we HC gals were going to try to get better about taking breaks from the booth. Her response? "Oh, yeah, no breaks. You also forget to eat and to go to the bathroom. It's like your body shuts down when you're in booth!" Word up. Seriously, give your friends in publishing a hug next time you see them in a booth...or better yet, bring them food or drink. Chances are they have satisfied no basic bodily functions in hours.

  • Lee Bennett Hopkins accepted the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry during the conference and ended his speech by reading Langston Hughes' "Dreams." It was beautiful.

  • Jarrett Krosoczka. Yes, just that name. I saw him across the aisle, signing at Random House's booth and wanted to get over there to tell him what a HUGE fan I am of Lunch Lady and Punk Farm...but it was just too crazy. I saw him no less than ten more times during the course of the conference but, for a multitude of reasons, he remained elusive to me. I never got the chance to go all fangirl on him. So, Jarrett, I am publicly declaring that I'm a fan (I can actually spell your name from memory - how many people can do that?!) and it was a thrill just to see you from afar (over and over again) at NCTE.

  • Speaking of fangirldom, I also got to talk in-depth with Matt Phelan and that was a pinnacle, truly. Eileen Spinelli signed in our booth and - would you believe it? - I never even got a chance to introduce myself, much less gush about how much I adore Where I Live. So imagine my surprise when I spontaneously met Matt in the lobby of our hotel! So I was able to ramble on and on to him about that book...and to find out that Matt is particularly fond of Where I Live as well. Chatting with Matt was a highlight of the conference for me. (Fun story: Matt and I talked at length about David Small's work, and Matt said he was lucky enough to win some original art by David Small during a silent auction at BEA. Apparently Matt hovered next to the sheet, determined to outbid anyone who dared sign their name to paper. And he was rewarded for his vigilance! I thought it would be too fangirl of me to point out to Matt that plenty of people feel the same way about his artwork!)

  • A simple pleasure: watching the sunrise over the river from the 28th floor of my hotel, sipping green tea. When you're on a 5-day-long adrenaline rush, it's quiet moments like this that you treasure.

  • Laurie Halse Anderson's keynote speech at the ALAN breakfast was inspiring and uplifting and funny and beautiful (she blogs a bit about it here). I've never had the pleasure of hearing her speak before and she had the whole room riveted. Likewise, Naomi Shihab Nye's speech at that same breakfast made me laugh and cry at the same time. Both of them made me want to be a better person and made me believe that positive change is possible and that there is good to be found in everyone. Seriously, no irony, no snark.

Lastly, the biggest highlight of the conference for me was our HarperCollins "family dinner" at Osteria. We had it at the "chef's table"...which, seriously, is a huge square butcher block table in a private room off the kitchen. You walk through the prep station to get to it. Around the table are sorbet machines, pastry blenders...the server said the table is actually where they make their pasta every day. The staff had lit candles all around and were playing "Italian pop music." And the food? Oooooh, the food. Superb in every way. Not only was this a highlight for the conference and my job thus far...it was a culinary highlight of my life, truly. An added bonus? Morimoto (!) actually poked his head in briefly to check out the space and we later saw him eating in the main dining room! Apparently he and the owners of Osteria are friends. And here are two subpar photos I took with my phone:

And did I take a moment during the dinner to reflect, like I said I would? Yes, I did. There was a minute or two when I was out of the conversations going on around me. I looked around at the table, watching everyone engaged in conversation, eating and drinking, everything aglow in candlelight. I loved that I had a part in making it happen, and I loved that food and drink allowed us all to slow down and enjoy each other. It would not be exaggerating to say that it was one of the best moments of my adult life, as it was professionally, creatively, and emotionally satisfying.

Eat, drink, and cheers to all of you - for sitting at my table (the blog, of course), for stopping by the booth to see me, and for taking this journey with me. You are so appreciated!


Checking in

I just got home from the NCTE/ALAN conference and I have so much to share with you - it was exhilarating and exhausting and frustrating and wonderful. But I only have today back home and then I'm off to Floria for Thanksgiving (leaving Adam and Bug at home to go sit on the beach with my Soul Twin!). But I'll be thinking of you - I can't wait to tell you about the conference!

One business matter to address before I go: you might notice that I have now turned on comment moderation. I hate to do it but the spammers are killing me with advertisements for penile dysfunction. And I'm guessing you guys don't want to read about it any more than I do.
And if you do want to read about it, there are sources out there more reliable than my blog.

In case I don't get a post in before I leave for Florida, happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I'm thankful for good meals, good wine, and good friends. I'm thankful for an exciting job, which makes me thankful for the authors and illustrators that inspire me daily. Thank you for sharing your work with us.

Eat, drink, and thanks to all of you.


Literary Crushes

So I never thought I'd say something like this, but I got a hot book-related link from the ladies over at Go Fug Yourself. Go figure. Apparently their site is good for more than just snark and fashion.

They linked to "15 Literary Characters We'd Totally Sleep With." I can't get on board with Heathcliff - that is just too, too much crazy. And he crosses the line to mean...and I don't do mean. Same with the Phantom - I would never sleep with someone who scares the hell out of me. Both these guys make me think of a single song: "No More Drama" by Mary J. Blige.

BUT...Gilbert Blythe? Yes, pleeease. Aragorn? Anytime. Mr. Darcy? Cliched, but of course. Also LOVE the selection of Dr. Carlisle Cullen over the brooding Edward and tempermental Jacob. I'll take a real man, thank you.

The oddest choice? Logan from The Babysitters' Club? Really??? That has an "ew" factor for me.

So who did they leave off? Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series, of course. Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. Wesley from The Princess Bride (both the movie and book version).

Which literary characters do it for you?

* Note: I have changed this post a little since its original publication date back in 2009 - the way I had it titled was giving me nothing but p**n site hits (worried that if I use the full word, they'll keep visiting this post).  FYI... 6.2.11



So this week is my first conference since I have joined HarperCollins Children's Books: NCTE, followed shortly by ALAN. Part of my day-to-day job, among other things, is to coordinate our booth at conferences. So as you're walking up and down those aisles and you see the booths, consider that someone had to make sure the books arrived on time. Someone orders the furniture, the carpeting, the big signs. And the author signings? Someone organizes that schedule, avoiding overlaps and making sure everyone is where they need to be at the right time. And those various meals that you get invited to by publishers? Reservations are made, menus are decided on.

Ever wonder how that all happens?* That's me! At least at Harper...

So I've been at Harper for three months and this is my first time on the road. Am I nervous? Hell to the yeah. But I also think it's going to be a good time. Will I screw up? Drop the ball? Inevitably. My goal is to handle it all with grace, self-possession, and a wicked sense of humor.

Aside from the nausea and sleeplessness, on the bright side, I'm looking forward to two things in particular:

1. Meeting author superstars. Among them, Chris Crutcher, Beth Kephart, Patricia McCormick, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jerry and Eileen** Spinelli (though I've met Jerry before), and Gordon Korman. And this is just the beginning - there are a slew of other amazing authors I'll be working with at the conference and I can't wait, particularly since I've been exchanging emails furiously with most of them for weeks.

2. Dinner on Sunday night. On Sunday night (11.22), the booth will be all broken down. NCTE will be over. Whatever hiccups come my way will be dealt with by then. So Sunday night I get to enjoy the dinner I'm planning at a fabulous restaurant in Philadelphia; it's the HarperCollins Children's "Family Dinner" so it's just the editors, authors, and library marketing folks. The menu isn't completely finalized but there will be duck. There will be "squash tortelli with amaretti cookies and sage". There will be wine. It'll be fabulous and I hope to get a moment to myself so that I can forgive myself for whatever mistakes I made in my planning and congratulate myself for getting through a major career milestone.

So if you're going to be at NCTE and/or ALAN, be sure to stop by and say hi. We'll be in booth #213 - I'll be the curly-haired one with the smile on my face and the wildly beating heart.

Eat, drink, and face a trial by fire with style and humor.

* Okay, you probably haven't ever wondered. In fact, part of my job is to make sure everything is so seamless that you don't.

** I fully intend on GUSHING to Eileen how much I desperately loved Where I Live, her book illustrated by Matt Phelan. That book just got me where I live.


La Parisienne

I'm certain I've mentioned this before, but I'm a bit of a Francophile. I've always wanted to be French: dress like a Frenchwoman, speak like a Frenchwoman, and eat & drink like a Frenchwoman. It's the simple glamor of it all, the Audrey Hepburn of it all. It's why I loved From Here You Can't See Paris so much or Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles so much. Or French Woman Don't Get Fat, which I credit with inspiring me to eat and live better.

And then there is the "conversion experience" (which I wrote about here, among other places): Julia had it, Alice had it, MFK Fisher had it. All of these women traveled to France, at various times in the country's history, and were never the same again, having experienced la joie vivre, la belle France, la vie en rose, and all that stuff.

So imagine my thrill when Cup of Jo directed me to Yves Saint Laurent's new Parisienne website and blog*. Yes, it's a marketing campaign, but it's a brilliant and inspiring one.

What does this have to do with food or children's books, you ask? Well, they have a blog post about eating on a plane like a Parisienne - how simple to stop by a cheese shop and get something non-stinky, along with some bread. Take it on the plane. How hard is that? Buy wine from flight attendant. So simple. If you don't want to buy wine on the plane because it's overpriced and not all that good, you can pull an Alice Feiring and pack your own vials!

Along with the food, the blog gives advice on packing like a Parisienne and perfecting the messy French knot in your hair. The model has long straight hair and I bitterly thought that, once again, the curly-haired of us were going to be left out. But it totally works on my hair - I've worn the messy French knot for the past three days. Though, truth be known, I need to take a break from it because now I'm just feeling sorta lazy.

Now, if only they'd teach me how to tie my scarves beautifully instead of just haphazardly wrapping them around my neck...

Eat, drink, and channel your inner Frenchwoman.

(Photo by Anna Wolf)

* Careful with the video on the main Parisienne page - it ain't exactly work appropriate.


Poetry Friday

I don't normally take part in Poetry Friday - other than Walt Whitman, I'm just not a fan - but I'm just feelin' it after the week I've had. Here's my contribution:

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
~ Langston Hughes

I first read this poem in high school and, while I loved it then, I didn't "get it". Because most of what high school students are forced to read won't connect with them until later in life.

For the past two weeks, in particular, I have encountered the term "deferred dreams" many times and this poem kept drifting through my mind. And when something is speaking to you like that, you have to share it, right?


Not a graham cracker in sight

Ashley over at Not Without Salt posted this intriguing, mouth-watering recipe for an Applejack Rabbit cocktail, circa 1965. The photo is tantalizing, no? Ashley takes amazing pictures:

And I'll bet it tastes a lot better than my now-notorious crappy pumpkintini.

Here's another:

Calvados is one of my favorite beverages. A few years ago, I went to dinner with a bartender friend of mine and I ordered an apple crumble for dessert. I wanted an after-dinner drink. Damon heartily recommended the Calvados with the apple crumble, particularly when he discovered I had never tried the brandy. It was a sublime combination: stout, sweet, and invoking autum in all its glory. I can't say enough good things about it.

Eat, drink, and discover Calvados on a cool autumn evening.

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

I read about this first at Presenting Lenore, followed by GreenBeanTeenQueen - they're both participating. It sounded like an absolute hoot to me so I signed up.
Go to the holiday swap official website to sign up - you only have until November 12th!

"One thing's for sure, we're all gonna be a lot thinner!"

No words can describe my love and affection for these bookends:

I would go so far as to say that my day just got infinitely better, knowing these exist in the world.

Thanks to ALA Direct and Oddee for bringing them into my life.


Blogging and drinking: these are a few of my favorite things!

I'm thrilled to see some of my favorite ladies on the cover of School Library Journal this month:

Betsy Bird (Fuse #8), Liz Burns (A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy), Monica Edinger (Educating Alice), Cheryl Klein (Brooklyn Arden), and Jen Hubert Swan (Reading Rants!). You all look gorgeous!

And check out the accompanying article!

Eat, drink, and cheers to my blogging cohorts!

"Books Unmasked"

Think you know kids' books? Think you can't get stumped by a quiz? Then go check out Sarah Miller's post on books without their "costumes." I sucked at it.

SCBWI Winter Conference

I just read about the SCBWI Winter Conference registration over at Lee Wind's blog I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

As someone who has begun writing a book, works in publishing, and generally loves children's literature, I'm thinking it might behoove me to attend this shindig. But I don't really know what to expect.

Can anyone give me the inside scoop? If you've been to a SCBWI conference before, let me know your thoughts. What did you get out of it? What is to be gained by attending?

Illustrator Magic

I am not an artist. That needs to be disclosed right off the bat.

But that does not prevent from appreciating this:

This is from Matt Phelan's blog, Planet Ham. Like I said, I don't know anything about drawing, but it seems that capturing this sort of action would be really difficult for an artist. The sense of movement is completely gorgeous - I can just envision, a second after this moment was captured, the boy catching the football and cheering, a big smile on his face.

It's so simple and yet, out of this, I get childhood, innocence, summer, joy, laughter. And I love the ability of an artist and an illustrator to make me feel that way. Bravo to Matt!


This Week's Menu: Food as Life

I've had one of *those* weeks. You know the ones. First, I was sick so I missed lots of work and sat around the house. Second, I had to make some difficult Life Decisions - those choices where you know the answer but you hesitate to take that leap. These Decisions aren't easy to make and are the cause of many, many tears...yet when the choice is made, you feel lighter inside. Anyway, I had to make one of those Decisions. Last, because I was out of town last weekend, I didn't do any food shopping for this past week...so you can't imagine the haphazard, crappy way we ate this whole week. It made me feel discombobulated and out-of-sorts.

So today I made the menu for the upcoming week. Here it is:

Sunday - Goat Cheese Tart, green salad (tart recipe from The French Market)
Monday - Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup, ciabatta bread with dipping oil
Wednesday - Blue Cheese Pasta (from Real Fast Food)
Thursday - Grilled cheese sandwiches, red pepper soup

When I looked at the menu, I realized what I had done unconsciously: I had created a healing menu. These are comforting foods, unapologetic in their warmth and simplicity. And I love the power of food - and the prospect of sharing it with my family - to make me feel better.

Eat, drink, and find comfort.


Ace of Cakes book

I didn't know until recently this was a HarperCollins book, but it is: Ace of Cakes: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes by Duff Goldman and Willie Goldman (William Morrow, 10.20.09). Naturally, the first thought in my head was "Duff has been in this building?" Followed shortly by: "Does that mean that Geof has been in this building?!" Because he's the one who really does it for me. Here's the book trailer:

I'm oddly obsessed with this show, as is Bug. Forget the glory days of my youth, watching "Growing Pains" and "Who's the Boss?" together as a family: these days, it's "Ace of Cakes" all the way. With Duff's chainsaw in the credits and all. I'm raising my child right.

Eat, drink, and - I'm so sorry but I have to - let them eat cake.

REVIEW: Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Yes, yes, I know I questioned whether I could talk about specific books anymore, now that I'm working on the publishing side of the aisle...but I just have to chat about this one.

I got a galley for Fat Cat by Robin Brande ages ago at a Random House preview and, I have to admit, I sort of tossed it aside. To be even more honest, I dismissed it as a "weight loss" book - or, worse, a "fat girl" book - which just didn't sound interesting to me.

Oh, how WRONG I was and happy to be so. This, my friends, is a book for foodies! Cat is passionate about science, and she's funny and kind. She's also fat. When Cat needs to find a topic for the competitive science fair, she turns herself into an experiment, reverting to the ways in which early hominids lived. She stops eating as much processed foods as possible and begins cooking for herself. Even more, she can't use the microwave, only the stove to the stimulate fire. She can't drive - she walks everywhere (with some exceptions).

Not surprisingly, her weight drops off. The surprising result is that her relationships evolve as well - guys that never used to pay attention to her are suddenly taking notice, and the childhood friend who made fun of her weight has his eye on her too. Again, I think this part of the book could have gone bad under a different author's watch: now Cat is "HOT" and, see, isn't being beautiful and thin so great? But it doesn't go there. Cat is insecure and unsure; she takes all the attention in stride and applies scientific principles to all the ways in which her life is changing. Additionally, the relationships and friendships in the book are really wonderful - I love that there isn't a single "mean girl" in the whole book...and what a sad commentary on current trends that I found it both surprising and refreshing.

Like I said, this is a food book. Cat isn't DIETING - she's discovering the pleasures and beauty of fresh food, recipes, and cooking. Her family is supportive, and her little brother even more so since he is overweight as well. And I appreciated the other aspects of Cat's experience: in addition to Cat seeing a nutritionist, her changing digestive system is even given some page time. This is great - the reader gets to see what a changing diet will really do for a person. It's not about just losing weight; instead, it's a whole body experience. Brande also manages to describe Cat's life changes without getting too preachy, and she achieves this because she addresses the joy and pleasure of the whole experience.

Where I felt the book did get preachy was when Cat ponders the pros, cons, and ethics of going vegetarian. Brande's bias (I believe it was bias) come through loud and clear. There is a scene when Cat and the nutritionist are talking about factory farms: Cat has done lots of research about the topic. So Cat comes to the conclusion that, because factory farms are so evil (they are), then vegetarianism is the only option. I really disagree with that, as you can imagine: it's an extremist view that doesn't take every side into account. First, there is no discussion of locavorism and pasture-fed, pasture-raised, non-CAFO animals...and for a protagonist who so loves science and research, I found it unbelievable that Cat wouldn't have considered this in the discussion. Second, there really isn't any discussion of eggs and dairy. Where does Cat stand on those issues? Lastly, I was annoyed that a nutritionist, while talking vegetarianism with a patient, wouldn't talk about all these things and provide more balanced, unbiased information. A teenager inspired to consider vegetarianism after reading this book would need much, much more information. Now, I understand that it might seem odd to want all these things in the book but it's not all about me: I found the lack of this information inconsistent with Cat's scientific nature.

All that said, in the advanced readers' copy, there is a "further reading" section that includes Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Excellent recommendations, especially for those considering vegetarianism.

Overall, I was thrilled to be proven wrong on this book. Smart, strong, and confident characters combined with a joy of eating, cooking, and food make for a fantastic read.

Eat, drink, and celebrate food in books for teens.

Note: Find more reviews of this book at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf, Mrs. Magoo Reads, Reading Rants!, and Sarah Miller's blog.

Just when I thought I had seen it all...

A cookie diet. A cookie diet?!?!

* picks up keyboard and smashes it against her forehead *


My world has been rocked...

...because of Gourmet closing. Not because I was a huge fan of Gourmet - I wasn't. But it made me realize how easily my favorite foodie mag, Saveur, could go under in this economy.

I urge any and all of you to get a subscription, not so much because I'm worried about you. Oh, no, it's all about me. Buy a subscription so that I can continue to be a happy, well-balanced person. Thank you.

In the meantime, take their fun and fluffy quiz about what kind of a foodie you are. Here are my results:

Your Profile: Classic & Comforting

You learned to cook alongside your grandma, and still think her teachings are gospel. You believe the correct answer to the question of olive oil or butter is both. You're happiest around a chattering table, doling out heaping plates to crowds of friends. You just had your tattered, original copy of Joy of Cooking rebound. You're certain there's nothing that melted cheese can't make better.

Describes my style perfectly, except for the grandma bit. Except for her pie crust recipe - it's foolproof. Even I can make it.

Eat, drink, and come sit at my classic & comforting dinner table!


Take my breath away

My friend Laura sent me a blog post link from Curious Expeditions, and here was my favorite:

It's the Handelingenkamer Tweede Kamer Der Staten-Generaal Den Haag, the Hague, Netherlands.

I'm inspired. One more thing to do on my Life To-Do list... Check out the other stunning library photos on the blog post and let me know which is your favorite!



Still working on the story and, being set in Paris and Brittany, I found these slideshows the perfect motivation to keep writing!

Eat, drink, and find your inspiration!

But where's the joy?

In my last blog post, I mentioned this week's New York Times Magazine, which is the "Food Issue." Last year's issue starred Michael Pollan, and this year it was Jamie Oliver. Oliver is taking on the town that has been unflatteringly deemed the Unhealthiest In America. It was an interesting article because Oliver really is doing some wonderful work on behalf of promoting healthy eating and cooking - certainly more than most celebrity chefs - and yet there is still some smoke and mirrors about how he goes about it. He's going into a town that doesn't necessarily want him there, a proud group of people that won't take too kindly to some good-looking Brit coming in and telling them that they're bad parents and irresponsible people. There's the idea that obese people don't necessarily want to change their ways.

There is also a more scientific and, honestly, more snooze-worthy article about calorie restriction in aging humans, rats, and primates. Seriously, it was rather boring. I skimmed it. Not my cup of tea.

I really like Mark Bittman's short article about online food shopping. As a weekly devotee to Fresh Direct, I agreed with everything he had to say about how the experience in no way caters to the consumer; instead, online food shopping is all about pushing products to the consumer, whether he wants them or not. It seems ludicrous that the process isn't more user-friendly, especially when you consider sites like iTunes and Amazon. Both of those sites allow the user/client/customer to really tailor the selections to what he is interested in. Why not online food shopping?

"No Polenta, No Cry" offered a voyeuristic look at all the little rules and restrictions we give ourselves as eaters. I felt like the author was unhinged at first...but then I realized that I think everyone eats like this a little bit. Whether it makes good sense or not.

But here's the thing: where was the joy? The "Food Issue", eh? I get that we need to talk about calories and locavorism and the ethics of meat. Important topics, all. But where was the article about the wonder and beauty and happiness in food and meals and cooking?

I remember how much I loved watching Julie and Julia because it captured how magical food can be in forging relationships and making connections. Today, on this sunny and cool autumn Sunday, I feel exhausted and maxed out on all the politics and science and showmanship of the "Food Issue." I eschew it with a firm hand and, instead, I'm looking forward to dinner tonight with my family: we've been looking forward to duck fat fries all week. I'll pour wine, and I'll play music while I'm cooking. Adam will pop in and out of the kitchen, kissing my cheek as he walks by. Bug will occasionally come in to dance to a song. We'll gather together at the table and, instead of saying a prayer, we'll raise our glasses to toast. Most likely we'll be toasting "a wonderful family weekend." That is what food is about.

For articles that really capture this feeling, I refer you to Saveur's "Dinner in the Piazza" by Beth Elon, Food and Wine's "Farm-Fresh French" by Rebecca Rose, and - one of my all-time favorite food articles EVER - Saveur's "Soulful Crepes of Brittany" by Nancy Coons* (unfortunately, this article is not available through Saveur's website so you miss the take-your-breath-away photography by Jorg Brockmann). THIS is good food writing. These are examples of how food affects our lives, affects real people, inspires cooks of every skill level. Read these before you go reading the "Food Issue."

Eat, drink, and find the joy in both.

*I loved this article so much when I read it from my library's copy that I called Saveur and tried to buy the back issue. It wasn't available. So I "lost" my library's copy. Lest you think that is ethically wrong, hopefully you'll think better of me when you find out that it cost me $20 to buy it from the library.

What I've Been Watching and Reading

I've been reading and watching some really interesting, cool stuff lately. Here's a sampling:
  • The Children's Lit Project is fantastic. I particularly liked Sarah Small's bit where she states that she doesn't necessarily write for children, which probably attributes to her books being universally enjoyed by both children and grown-ups. Thanks to Read Roger for directing me to the website.
  • You all should really be checking out the blog Sweet Reads: Books and Baking for Kids. Aside from having an awesome name, Rawley blogs book reviews with matching recipes. In particular, I liked her recent review of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, paired with "Callie's Old-Fashioned Apple Pie." Loads of fun.
  • In light of the recent release of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan (which I am LONGING to read but have yet to obtain), I give you steampunk cakes. Excellent. And here's the trailer one last time:

  • In an odd twist, I discovered this week that Patrick Carman, author of The Land of Elyon series and one of The 39 Clues' authors, graduated from the same university I did. Which is a little random, seeing as not many people know Willamette University. Even crazier is that he was also a work-study student for my mother-in-law, who works in the Career Center at Willamette. Small, small world.
  • I loved this recent article in The New York Times Magazine where the ubiquitous Michael Pollan posts rules for eating. My favorite? "If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry." ~ Emma Fogt
  • I adored this recent article in Saveur, "Dinner in the Piazza" by Beth Elon. The photography was stunning* and it made me so happy to have recently received my new passport in the mail. Read the article and you'll be ready to hop on a plane too.
  • I'm a die-hard Georgia Nicolson fan, the star of Louise Rennison's series. The last book in the series just released last week, Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?, and it was everything I could want in a series concluder. This series soooo makes me wish I were British just so I can make phrases like "daft tart" sound really gorgey and fab. I have yet to see the movie they made of the first book - my understanding is that it never released in Hamburger-a-gogo land, n'est-ce pas? Any of you seen the movie? Well, adieu, Georgia. I have loved following your adventures with the ace gang and, Louise Rennison, I can't wait to read your upcoming new series!
  • Last but not least, I'm going OT here. I want to thank Alvina at Bloomabilities for introducing me to this YouTube video. I dare you to watch it and not smile. Warning, though: prepare to have the song stuck in your head for days afterward!

Eat, drink, and go out and smash it. Like, oh my god.

* Note: none of the stunningly beautiful photos from the print version of the article are in the online version. All the more reason to get a subscription. Please, oh please, don't let Saveur suffer the same fate as Gourmet!


I found a little motivation in my back pocket

* she looks up from typing furiously on her laptop*

Oh, hello there! It's you!

Don't mind me - I'm just writing. See, my whole life - particularly my young life - I have loved writing. I have dozens of journals, hundreds of letters, dozens of old stories...and now my blog. Whenever I wanted to argue my case to stay out past curfew as a teenager, I would write my parents a letter. Verbally, I fumble. Or I get emotional and cry. Or later I wish I had expressed myself differently and feel full of regret. But writing. Writing is my medium.

So why haven't I written a single story - nay, even started one, let alone finished one - since about 1992? I can't say. Nevertheless, here I am, working on one. I've been brainstorming and outlining and mulling for months now, and I finally starting really writing a couple days ago. Which has burned up my blogging time. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled. I was riding the subway this morning, and a conversation between two characters spontaneously popped into my head. What I would have given for a pen and paper at that moment! Dammit! Even now, I haven't had a chance to write it down. Instead, I've been holding it tight in my head, changing its tone, switching some of the words, tweaking moments. I can't wait to get it all written down!

So stay tuned. Mind you, I won't share much else here. Heaven knows that I have enough to handle between the books and the food. But I did want all of you to know that I've got a project I'm working on.

* begins typing furiously again, curls falling forward and obscuring her face *


All the single ladies!

I am asked - on a surprisingly regular basis - how I do all the things that I do.

The question "How do you do it all?" surprises me because 1) I don't think I do that much more than anyone else, 2) it seems like a rather personal question, and 3) I always wonder why I don't do more. And yet...I still find myself answering the question.

Nevertheless, my answer is always the same: "Adam." I couldn't go to all the conferences I do, attend culinary school, cook the meals I cook, or write as much as I do without Adam there as a partner, co-parent, friend, and counselor. I don't say this in a cavity-causing sweet way; rather, it is a statement of fact: Adam.

So when my husband goes on a week-long business trip, which happens very rarely, I find myself in a bind. But you know me: my biggest concern is how to keep up my usual standard of cooking and eating. I still want to make stellar meals...but while having my attention pulled away by homework, showers, forms to fill out, and other family sorts of things. Seriously, Adam does all that while I'm in the kitchen. So here is what I came up with for our menu last week, dubbed "Girls' Week":

Saturday: Out to dinner (we got dressed up and went to Uno's...which isn't too bad, as chain restaurants go...)
Sunday: "Spanish platter" - chorizo, rosemary Manchego, grilled ciabatta, Serrano ham, grapes, and olives
Monday: Grilled chicken-apple sausages with green salad and grilled bread (I had the salad, Bug had peaches)

Tuesday: Prosciutto and Melon Panini (Bug had a pear, I had more salad) - recipe

Wednesday: Scrambled Eggs with Herbed Croutons (Bug had cantaloupe, I ate more of those pesky leftover salad greens) - recipe

Thursday: Gnocchi with Sage and Brown Butter (I also cut up some of the leftover sausages and put them on mine - Bug's had no sage. And did I make fresh gnocchi? Hell to the no. I bought frozen, and it didn't suck at all.)

Friday: "Leftover Night" - Bug had a quesadilla and grapes. I had more of the sausages with gnocchi

And my life partner returned at 1 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning.

Eat, drink, and cheers to family!

Note: Where I linked to no recipe, I just made it up. No recipe, no measurements. I dressed the salad each night with about a teaspoon of mustard, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil, and about a half-tablespoon of vinegar (one night it was balsamic, another night white wine...I changed it up). Again, though, I didn't actually measure - I just kept tasting, tasting, tasting.


The Annual Kidlitosphere Conference

It's official! I've registered for the Annual Kidlitosphere Conference in Washington D.C. on October 17th! Organized by the intrepid MotherReader, it'll be a wonderful opportunity to network and learn about better blogging (which goodness knows, I need!).

MotherReader has posted a list of attendees, and lots of bloggers have shared their previous experiences at the conference, including Liz Burns and Lee Wind.

Lastly, I'm finalizing my hotel room, and I would LOVE to have a roommate to share costs. If you're considering attending but not quite sure if you can afford it, go in on a room with me. Let me know if you're interested...but do it soon - time's running out!

And this will give me a chance to hand out my beautiful Pinot and Prose business cards!!!!


Introducing: Chris Crutcher

So I finally read my first Chris Crutcher book. I figured that, as part of my job, I'm going to be spending lots of time with him soon...so, um, best that I read his books.

There wasn't a real reason as to why I had never read his books before. He's just one of those authors I never got around to reading, you know? I'm sure you all have those authors too.

So, at my boss's recommendation, I started with Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes.

This was a strange book for me, and I can't honestly say I've had this experience reading a book before. I loved it, I did. Like I said on GoodReads, for an issue-driven novel it's amazing that Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes moves like a heavily plot-driven story. It was compulsively readable. It called to me. Seriously. And I couldn't put it down.

But here's the thing: I was confused by the book as well. It is soooooo issue-driven. Bullying, disabilities, weight issues, abandonment, physical abuse, suicide, religion, abortion. Man, it is ALL there. I cracked a joke at one point, about two-thirds of the way through, that the only things we hadn't gotten to were drugs, drinking, and homosexuality. But then towards the end, Ellerby's father says something about supporting homosexual rights. And BAM! We got that one in too. For heaven's sake. My friend Jen at Reading Rants told me, in reponse to my guffawing, "Yep, that's Crutcher's M.O." Indeed.

All of this made me want to not like the book. I tried not liking it. And yet...and yet...

You can't not like it! It's some kind of mind game by Crutcher! The characters are so interesting, so likable, and so fun that you're drawn in anyway. You care about them, you want to know more about them, you love them. You're invested in them. And there are so many ideas and opinions being thrown around that you find yourself repeatedly cheering and agreeing and disagreeing and internally arguing with the characters' dialogue. The adult in you is rolling your eyes...but the teenager that we've all internalized is completely engaged. I can't imagine a better read for all those 15- and 16-year-olds out there who are defining themselves and exploring all their possibilities.

So in defiance of my cynical adult self, I am officially a fan of Chris Crutcher. Next up: Whale Talk.