Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bracing for the Big Bug

I am bracing for the big one!
Last night, my husband was overcome with what seems to be a stomach bug. This morning, he is still in the throws of it. I am now bracing for this evil ailment to work its way through me and my two little girls.
Perhaps I am being paranoid, but this is reminiscent of December 2004, when Calli brought a stomach virus home from daycare. By the end of the week, every member of our household, plus the majority of our extended family had been affected.
I am considering my options. It is pointless at this juncture to isolate Todd from the rest of us, because we have already been exposed. I have instructed Calli to wash her hands a bunch of times today and not to touch her eyes.
Part ot me thinks that I need go out and buy a stockpile of Sprite, chicken broth, Pedialite and popsicles. Another part thinks I ought to go back to bed in order to get the rest it will take to sustain me if the nasty affliction hits me and the kids.
Should I go ahead and call the pediatrician to get Calli and Skylar penciled in? Will the ER go ahead and give me an IV to fend off the impending dehydration? Do I call my mom to give her a heads up in case I get too sick to care for the kids?
Next week, I'll let you know whether all of this alarm is over nothing. In the meantime, I'll be freaking out and disinfecting!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Exercise--Ugh! Ugh?

It is NOT TRUE that writing exercises are the only kind I do. I have to walk all the way to the kitchen to get coffee, and I'm very conscientious about chewing my food thoroughly. But I do love writing exercises.

Whenever my #4 daughter (also a writer) and I are between projects or are stuck on projects, we get together and do exercises to loosen things up.

For instance, we did one where we wrote everything we could remember about one particularly vivid dream. She got a couple of stories and a novel out of that one.

Another time, we were talking about the fact that we used a lot of visuals and even auditory sensory impressions, but almost never used scent. So we did exercises all evening focusing on scent. No fair making the character unable to use any other senses--smell had to be the main impressions.

We had just had dinner at my most favorite restaurant in the world, the Shalimar Indian Restaurant on Hurstbourne in Louisville, Kentucky. I ended up writing a flash (very, very short) fiction love story with the Shalimar as one of the characters. I edited it, polished it, typed it, framed it, and took it to the manager of the restaurant. It's now hanging on the wall in their waiting area. That's one of my best publishing credits.

To read more about writing exercises and... well, more about all aspects of writing, please consider attending the FREE online Virtual Writers' Conference May 19-22, 2009.


Monday, April 27, 2009

On Vacation

Sort of. A road trip down to L.A. and San Diego, lots of driving for five days, but a nice change of pace. Plus I get to see my parents. I'm a total mama's girl and moving to San Francisco has reduced my bi-monthly visits to once every few months or so.

We stopped to visit with my sister in Venice Beach Friday night and Saturday. We feasted on organic whole-grain bread accompanied by a cheese plate (truffle cheese, sheep's milk cheese, a French soft cheese that makes the best brie seem sub-standard, and several others I didn't even get to because I was too busy pigging out on the three I just mentioned), the best salami I have ever tasted, broccoli popcorn (broccoli cooked in the oven on high, drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, truffle salt and garlic), and some scrumptious wines. Little too much of the latter, but I have no regrets! I love eating this way. Can't do it very often because of the inevitable expansion to my waistline. But I do love it. Especially with wines like Tobin James French Camp Zinfandel and Wolftrap Mourvedre/Syrah/Viognier blend.

There's something about what I think of as picnic food that makes a meal fun. Things like roast chicken and bread that can be eaten with my fingers; chunks of cheese and fruit, home-made cookies...and, of course, wine. It makes any meal a festive occasion for me, more so than a fancy seven course dinner served on fine china. I suspect I have a large amount of barbarian in my genetic makeup.

Well, time to hit the sack. Mom and I are getting up early to go for a walk around Mission Bay. We'll stop for coffee (tea for Mom) and maybe a chocolate croissant along the way and enjoy the perfect San Diego weather.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Disgusting Food

First of all, my deepest condolences to Gayle on the loss of her grandmother.  Our grandmothers are the grounding of our being.  My grandmothers have both been gone for over thirty years, yet they still affect me every day of my life, and I miss them.

And now if I may totally shift gears ...  Reading Chris’ and Marian’s entries below about Stargazey Pie made me think about all the disgusting dishes that have crossed my path over the years.  

My father thought food should be not just something to keep you alive, but an adventure, and if he could have fun with food and gross out my mother at the same time, all the better. He adored bringing home anything edible made of insects, and loved animal innards cooked in any fashion.  When I was a little girl, my father and sister and I sometimes sat on the couch and ate pickled pigs feet while we watched television (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree).  One of his greatest culinary coups was finding an African dish that called for a couple of sheep’s eyeballs.  Not that my mother would cook it for him. 

For many years, I owned a small import gift shop called “Celtic House”, featuring items from Scotland and Ireland.  I sold all kinds of things - clothing and jewelry, books and music, and food.  Now, nobody can come up with disgusting food like the Scots.  This is the function of a poor people, not to waste any part of an animal if it could be tanned, carved, made into furniture, clothes, or grease, not to mention eaten. 

Witness the Scottish national dish, Haggis.  Haggis, as most foodies know, is the ultimate expression of the sausage.  It is made of sheep’s lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys, minced and mixed with oatmeal and spices, then stuffed into the sheep stomach and boiled for three hours.  Eat it with “neeps and tatties” (turnips and potatoes), and wash it down with a whole lot of uisge beatha (the ‘water of life’, better known to English-speakers as ‘whiskey’).

‘Disgusting’ is in the eye of the beholder, though.  Togonese people love to eat their rats, Australian aborigines love to chow down on grubs, and the Chinese love their dogs in a totally different way than Americans do.  Yet don’t try to offer a Hindu a hamburger or an Arab a pork chop.

So let us allow the Scots their haggis, Robert Burns’ “great chieftain o’ the puddin-race.”

We may think it disgusting, but it made them what they are, as Burns proudly asserts in the last stanza of his Address to a Haggis.

But take note of the strong haggis fed Scot
The trembling earth resounds his tread
Clasped in his large fist a blade
He'll make it whistle
And legs and arms and heads he will cut off
Like the tops of thistles

Friday, April 24, 2009

Going home

My grandmother, Dora, went home Wednesday. She'd been wanting to go home for quite a while, even when she was at her home. She'd say, "I want to go home. I need to call Mama and Daddy to come and get me." After a recent fall, she was placed into a nursing home. My sister-in-law told me yesterday that my grandmother had spotted a door at the end of the hallway and confided to her friend, "If we can figure out how to get that door open, we can go home." My dad, brother and a man from the funeral home pushed her through that door Wednesday night, and she went home. Her mom and dad are there, as is my grandfather and a lot of people she knows and loves. She used to love to do the Charleston, and I like to imagine she and her friend Elsie have moved some furniture and are dancing all over God's living room. Since one of Mamaw's favorite dishes was chicken and dumplings, I'm putting my quickie version of chicken and dumplings here for you. If you want a classic version of chicken and dumplings, your best bet is probably the Southern Living website.

Quick Chicken & Dumplings

Frozen dumplings
32 oz. container of chicken broth
Large can of white meat chicken
A pinch of sage

Empty the container of broth into a pot. Add seasonings and bring to a boil. Add frozen dumplings according to package directions. (The ones I get have several servings, so I just put in as many as I think my family will eat.) Cover, reduce heat and allow the dumplings to cook for 25-30 minutes. Add chicken and allow the mixture to cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stargazey Pie (In Miniature)

Funny that Marian's Tuesday post mentioned a unique Tudor "delicacy," Stargazey Pie.

Yes, it sounds awful... but you have to actually see it to appreciate it. I couldn't pass up this opportunity to let you get a glimpse of this most interesting pie! (In miniature, it's pretty cool, but I think I'd rather starve than try it in real life!)

This amazingly realistic pie is made of polymer clay by IGMA Artisan (International Guild of Miniature Artisans) Kiva Atkinson. It is in standard 1 inch scale (1" equals 1 foot) so the pie is roughly 2-3 inches in diameter. (Be sure to go see her other incredible works!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Silas House

Even with a newborn baby, and far too little rest, I have been tempted to stay up all night to finish A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House.
Silas House is an Eastern Kentucky native. His deep love of the region, its mountains and history, shines through in every page.
A Parchment of Leaves is the story of a beautiful Cherokee girl who marries a white man. The story is set in Eastern Kentucky in the early 1900's, when many were not fond of the Cherokee people. Vine, the young Cherokee woman, is accepted and even embraced by her husband Saul's family. Before long, the hauntingly beautiful Vine, becomes an obsession for Saul's brother Aaron. When Saul must leave Vine for a year because of his job, Aaron's obsession gives way to a volatile situation that will leave Vine forever changed.
Silas House's use of imagery is so lovely, that it has me reading passages over-and-over. He uses details that engage all of the reader's senses. As a Fatal Foodie, I love a reference he uses more than once to coffee.
There is a touching scene, when, on the morning of her wedding, Vine and her mother have coffee together on their front porch. Since it is Vine's last morning at home, she wants to savor every moment. As Vine drinks a cup of her mother's strong, bitter coffee, she clinches her teeth in an attempt to capture that taste. Later, when Vine is homesick, she tried to bring back that bitter taste of her mother's coffee from that morning.
I love that House shows how sentimental we can be about food. Silas House gets to the most basic of human emotions through his skillful use of words. It is a wonderful story that I hope many will read!
Below are links to his website and blog. Silas House is very passionate many issues, including the protest of mountain-top removal to obtain coal. He also writes press kits for many of Nashville's most famous country music stars. I think many will find his site and blog quite interesting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nastiest. Food. Ever.

This is called Stargazey Pie. Here is the Culinary Chronicle I wrote about it for World Wide Recipes:

Stargazey (or Stargazer or Stargaze) Pie originated in Cornwall. One source supposed the dish was developed for festive occasions or to amuse children. Mom and I read about it in a Martha Grimes mystery and couldn't believe it was real, but it is. There are a variety of recipes, from an egg custard and whole de-boned fish in a double crust to filleted fish stuffed with breadcrumbs under a top crust. In any case, the heads are left on the fish. Sardines, pilchards, herring or mackerel can be used, but the fish must be oily and they must have their heads on and their eyes in. That's the gazey part. It wouldn't be stargazey pie, if the fish didn't gaze. The fish are put into the pie with their tails toward the center and their heads poking up over the edge. The top crust (puff pastry, flaky pie pastry or mashed potatoes) is put on and tucked around the...the place where the necks would be, if fish had necks, leaving the heads poking up, gazing at the stars. How festive. Quite amusing. Some of the recipes I saw sound pretty good, as a matter of fact, but I'm not certain I could eat something with eyeballs in it, even if I left the eyeballs on my plate to show I wasn't a glutton.

Those are fish heads, folks.

The site this recipe is on is wonderful. It's called The Great British Kitchen, and it has all kindsa nasty--I mean interesting recipes. No, truly, lots of wonderful recipes, including vegetarian ones like Celery, Pear, Stilton and Walnut Souffle. Highly recommended.


Monday, April 20, 2009


It's unusually hot in San Francisco, having gone from the high '60s to the low '90s in the space of a day or so. I've been on an avocado with lemon (or lime) juice and a dash of pepper kick and it's the perfect thing to have during this heat, be it with chips, on toasted bread or scooped up surreptitiously by finger.

I must confess I did not get a post written for Fatal Foodies this week or for Make Mine Mystery (due yesterday) because I've been totally taken up by arranging a blog book tour for eleven authors with Ravenous Romance. The tour started Saturday and I spent the day glued to my computer, moderating comments and trying to keep the ball rolling. The tour goes for another 11 days and the schedule is here at the first stop. Some of the content is spicy, be warned! But if you're curious as to how one would handle a multiple author cyber book tour, I think I've provided an excellent example of one way to do it. I've also nearly killed myself and am behind on my writing, but... I'm proud of my results.

Now to go get another glass of cold water. The air conditioner is broken in our office and I only wish I could immerse myself the water instead of drink it!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Perfect Word

Anyone who is enamored of words, which most writers are, knows what it’s like to try and find that perfect word to convey the subtle shade of meaning you want.  My first drafts are filled with blank spaces, which I leave because even though I can think of one hundred nouns/verbs/descriptors that would be perfectly adequate in that place, I know the Absolutely Perfect Word exists, and I can’t quite come up with it.  However, I can’t afford to spend fifteen minutes wracking my brain for it, so I leave a blank and torture myself with it on the rewrites.Sometimes I do end up having to use one of those one hundred almost-right words, but when I do, I feel a sense of failure for not having adequately communicated with the reader. 

Subtle meaning is only part of what a writer strives for with the perfect word.  Sometimes the poetry of the sentence, the way it sounds, can only be served by a particular word.  In my current manuscript, I originally wrote a narrative in the voice of one character, but decided later that it would be better to have a different character experience this event and tell us about it.  Changing the point of view necessitated a major change in language, even though the gist of the scene was the same.

I read that if you ask an author why he writes, the better and probably more successful writers will answer that it’s because they love language.  I think that learning how to manipulate language is like* learning to manipulate the keys of a piano.  Language is our instrument, and if we don’t practice, study, experiment, and play with it, we might end up writing “Chopstick” instead of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”.

Friday, April 17, 2009


"Mom, you are so random." I get this comment often from my daughter, so I decided to incorporate it into this week's post and share some random stuff with you.

Jorge Garcia rocks! Jorge Garcia is the actor who plays Hurley on Lost. A couple weeks ago I sent a request to him for an autographed picture for each of my children, since their birthday is on April 21 (Tuesday!) and we are huge fans of Lost. Not only did he send the pics yesterday (and as you can see, I could not wait until their birthday), but he personalized them. I'm going to order a print of this picture and send it to Mr. Garcia with a thank you note. Did I mention Jorge Garcia rocks?! Look at the smiles on those two precious faces!

Ugly dinners are okay if they taste good. My father-in-law is in the hospital again, and my MIL stopped by after a visit to the hospital on Tuesday. Knowing Tuesday was likely to be a busy day, I'd made dinner just after breakfast. I peeled potatoes and put them in the crockpot, added frozen pork chops, a can of cream of celery soup and some Wyler's beef granules. I added peas and rolls that afternoon, and dinner was ready. However, I wasn't expecting company. Of course, when Tim's mother stopped by at dinnertime, we invited her to eat with us. When I'm having company, I'd prefer the meal to look like something Martha Stewart whipped up. This practically never happens. I'd let the crockpot cook everything a little too long. The potatoes were a little brown and the pork chops were falling apart. But, the potatoes had taken on the flavor of the seasonings and pork chops and were really good. And the fact that the pork chops were falling apart just made them easier to eat. The meal was a success. In fact, the next day, my MIL called and thanked me for dinner. She said, "It was so good, and it kept me from having to go home and eat by myself." And, as Martha would say, "That's a good thing." :-)

Virtual Writers' Conference As many of you know, I come up with harebrained ideas on a regular basis; and I usually put them into action. Well, here's one idea that may not have been so harebrained after all. This week, I decided it would be great to host a Virtual Writers' Conference where writers could get a ton of information, and authors and other publishing professionals could get a ton of publicity. Win/win. Right? I announced it on Monday. Later that day, we had 22 participants. Now we have 28, including best-selling author Deborah Smith, Fatal Foodies very own Christine Verstraete, John Kremer, Book Marketing Consultant Extraordinaire and BookEnds Literary Agency. Two of BookEnds' agents are currently seeking new clients, so that's exciting news for Virtual Writers' Conference participants. To learn more about the Virtual Writers' Conference (which will take place from May 19-22), see If you'd like to participate in the conference, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

National Cornbread Festival

On April 25 and 26, South Pittsburg, Tennessee will host the annual National Cornbread Festival. This is a tiny town, but the event is huge. The festival has been covered by several national magazines and The Food Network.
One of the main events is the National Cornbread Cookoff. Cornbread cooks from all around the country descend on South Pittsburg to impress the judges (magazine and food editors from across the country) with unique cornbread creations.
The rules require contestants to use 1 cup of Martha White Cornmeal, and to cook their recipe in Lodge cast iron. Anyone who has a good cast iron skillet knows it's worth its weight in gold. If you don't have any cast iron cookware or need some more pieces, here is a link to Lodge cast iron, which is made in South Pittsburg, Tennessee:
There are several other fun events during the festival. One of the most unique is Cornbread Alley, where patrons can sample all kinds of cornbread treats. Of course there is a carnival, a beauty contest and arts and crafts.
To read all about The National Cornbread Contest, follow the link:
If you like cornbread, try this. My mom puts honey in her batter to make a moist and sweet conrbread. Just be careful, honey makes the bottom brown very quickly.

Boo Hoo for Me

These guys are among my joys. Morels, the caviar of mushrooms. When our youngest daughter was about eight, she came back from a walk in the woods, telling me about this weird-looking mushroom she'd seen, that looked like a brain. I had to go see that, and immediately recognized it (I thought) as the kind of mushrooms a lot of people around here hunt and eat. I picked it and took it to a friend who gathers them, and she confirmed it--we had morels.

Even since, the spring is when I get out in the woods. I start in early March, which is too early, because I'd rather go and find nothing than take a chance on missing any! After that, I try to judge by rainfall and temperature what would be a good day to try. The season is supposed to last through April and into May, but I usually stop looking about mid-April. The brambles and undergrowth are difficult, the ticks are voracious, and the snakes are starting to run.

We got a great harvest this year--the second-best year ever.

While I'm hunting--it usually takes me about two hours to patrol the whole patch, I think of stories, among other things. I think about how people guard the secret of where they get their morels, and how far a fanatic during the season would go to poach or protect a patch. Passions run high, I'll tell you!


Monday, April 13, 2009

When nothing will do...

...but a nice steak!

I'm not a huge red meat eater. We've learned to substitute ground turkey for ground beef when we have taco salad (a staple in our diet) and I tend to go for seafood when it's time for my daily dose of protein. But there are just times when I crave red meat. A hamburger will do in a pinch. But generally I want steak. A nice, juicy, medium-rare (more rare than medium) piece of good quality beef. Free range. No hormones. The good stuff.

Tonight was one of those occasions so I got a decent New York steak from Trader Joe's and set about cooking it up. Cast iron skillet, a hint of olive oil, the meat marinated in red wine (tempranillo from Rioja, to be precise), lemon pepper and a touch of balsamic vinegar and...well...butter. I know, I know...guilding the cholesteral count lily. I am, however, lucky enough to have never had any sort of cholesteral or blood pressure problems and, as I said, steak is a rare treat for me. So why NOT guild the lily and make it as yummy and tender as possible?

It was tender and it was yummy. I had a glass or two of the tempranillo with the steak. Three of our cats swarmed (yes, three cats definitely constitute a swarm, especially when there's steak or seafood involved) me as I ate and I found it necessary to carve small sacrificial offerings to keep them off of my plate.

I'm hoping this will take care of the low iron problem that's occurred the last two times I tried to give blood. If not, at least I had a delicious meal. Of course, it's hard to tell who enjoyed it more; me or the cats!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Memories

Easter is almost here, and I’m thinking of the menu, and all the Easters past.  For most of my growing-up life, we traveled to Boynton, OK, and had Easter dinner with my grandmother.  When she decided it was too much trouble, my mother began hosting the family gathering, which became the new tradition throughout my young womanhood.  The old folks are gone, now, and the family is scattered across the country and the world, now.  But even though our Easters are much smaller these days, members of my family still adhere to the old Easter dinner menu we knew as kids - just on a much smaller scale!

We always had a ham.  When I was small, in Days of Yore, the ham wasn’t vacuum packed and spiral cut, it was a big old bone-in hunk of meat, marbled with fat.  It wasn’t bought at the store, either.  It was raised from a piglet, butchered and smoked by one of the family members still on the farm.  By the time we were going to Mama’s, the sty-to-table ham was no more, but she made up for it by tenting and slow cooking the thing with brown sugar and mustard glaze, and clove buds stuck all over the top.

My parents never bought chocolate bunnies and eggs and colored jelly beans for us, but we did have to have our Easter eggs.  My sisters and I pestered our mother to let us dye the eggs for weeks before the day, and finally she couldn’t stand it any more and let us make a mess of the kitchen several days ahead of time. 

My husband’s very large family had their Easter egg traditions, as well.  Don is the seventh of seven children, only two of whom were boys.  His only brother, whom I will call “Mac”, is nine years older than he is, so Don remembers their relationship as being one of his tagging along behind Mac and allowing himself to be talked into whatever mischief the elder came up with.  One year,  Mac and Don loaded up several hard-boiled eggs, snuck out to a nearby field, and spent a happy half hour throwing the eggs at a telephone pole.  I loved the image so much that I used it as the inspiration for an incident in my second novel, Hornswoggled. 

In fact, one entire chapter in Hornswoggled is about a giant family Easter dinner like the ones I remember from my girlhood, with all the mamas, aunts, sisters and cousins bustling around grandma’s kitchen, readying a massive dinner for sixty-five.

The kitchen was literally a hotbed of action.  The spring day was cool, but the heat of the wood-fired, cast iron stove, combined with the harried activity of nearly a score of women, served the make Grandma’s big kitchen uncomfortably hot.  Grandma Sally herself stood in the center of the floor at the hear of the kitchen table, directing the action like a trail boss.

So, happy Easter, all.  Now, go forth and make some memories that the kids will think of fifty years from now with such fondness that one of them may write about them in a novel.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Special Guest, Sybil Baker, author of The Life Plan

Sybil Baker spent twelve years teaching in South Korea prior to accepting a position as an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after earning her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. During her extensive travels throughout Asia, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation of American travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. Her fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including upstreet, The Bitter Oleander, Paper Street, and Alehouse. Her essay on American expatriate literature appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle in September 2005. Her website can be found at

Sybil's most recent work is The Life Plan, a novel featuring a female attorney whose jobless husband has suddenly decided to deviate from their life plan.

Q) In The Life Plan, Kay goes to Thailand with her husband. Although it starts out being his journey of self-discovery, it turns more into Kay's journey. Are there life lessons you'd like the reader to take away from The Life Plan?

A) If readers take away some lessons that’s great, but I mostly hope they enjoy the novel. I’ve had people who read the book tell me they appreciated the main theme of the book, which is that sometimes the best thing you can do is let go of the expectations you had for your life, and instead appreciate the life you have. Another aspect I explore is the tension between freedom to do what you want and the responsibility you have to others—that is more an open question I pose in the book than a life lesson.

Q) After reading The Life Plan, I have no desire to ever go to Thailand. (They lost me when you described their lack of Diet Coke, which is one of my life sustaining staples.) Although Kay detested it at first, she grew to love it. How does Sybil feel about Thailand?

A) I love it, which is one of the reasons I based much of the novel there. Thailand is a relatively easy place to travel, caters to upscale and backpacker crowds alike, and offers beaches, ruins, city life, and jungles. Thai food is some of my favorite, and it’s cheap, delicious, and obviously in abundance there.

The last time I was in Thailand was 2002—since then Starbucks has appeared on the very street Kat spits out her instant coffee. Who knows—maybe Diet Coke has “upgraded” as well!

Q) You've traveled so much. In keeping with one theme of this blog, how have your world travels affected your cooking? Do you now implement spices or dishes into your cooking you might never have tried otherwise?

A) I lived in Korea for twelve years, so now I do go to Asian markets when I can. I eat kimchi and dried seaweed—something I never would have done before I went to Korea. I usually cook traditional American food at home and then go out for international food. My husband is South African so we do have things in the cupboard that are more British, like the three Ms--Marmite, Milo, and Matzos. And my husband calls ginger ale Gemmerlim, the Afrikaans name for the drink.

Q) Do you have a particular recipe you'd like to share with Fatal Foodies readers?

A) I love Thai food, but I usually eat it in a restaurant because it requires so many specialized ingredients. In the novel Kat teases Dan for ordering Pad Thai for breakfast and later she jokes that her cottage cheese legs are like Pad Thai (“Fat Thigh”). I think the best website for fast and easy Thai food recipes is at Here is a link for their chicken Pad Thai, which, despite the detailed instructions, is fast and easy to make.

Hope you enjoy it!

Q) What's next in Sybil Baker's "life plan"?

A) In May I’ll be visiting South Africa for a month—my first time there! I’m looking forward to eating lots of my mother-in-law’s wonderful cooking while we’re visiting. I’m also looking for places in June and July to read and finding people who are interested in reading my book for their book club. I can make an appearance if it’s within driving distance, if not, I can visit the club on Skype or answer questions by email.

Thanks for the Q&A!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I have never acquired a taste for Peeps. In fact, I REALLY, REALLY do not like to eat them. I know that stating this opinion so close to Easter is kind of kicking the Easter Bunny inthe knees, or somewhere worse. (Which I would never do. I'd never kick the Easter Bunny!) I want to like Peeps, but I just can't!

The origins of my dislike lie in my childhood. My dad has always loved Peeps, but he doesn't like them fresh out of their pristine, plastic-wrapped, pastel packaging. Dad like to eat stale Peeps. He has this preparation process where he makes a slight tear in the packaging so that the product is exposed to air.

The very sound of a stale Peep being eaten is disgusting! Biting through the outside, which becomes crispy when stale, creates sort of a crackle. Then going into the soft center makes an ishy squishy, squeaky, rubbery noise.

Most details of my first Peep-eating experience has been repressed to some dark recess of my brain, but I'm certain that the Peep must have been one of my Dad's stale ones. After that, I have a hard time even touching a Peep. If I am ever on one of those reality shows where people have to eat nasty stuff, I could be forced to eat stale Peeps. The producers could put a microphone near my mouth to capture every crackle and squish.

On a positive note, I do think Peeps are cute to look at. Their website is quite fun!

Oh, and I do still financially support the Peep. I have purchased them for my husband and daughter on several occasions. They just know not to offer any to me!

Here is a really funny website on Peep research. The researchers have exposed Peeps to heat, cold and various other scenarios.

Have a Happy Easter!

More Eggs

I love hard-boiled eggs, too. They're great in pasta salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, Chef's salad and almost necessary in egg salad., yes.

Absolutely, sliced hb eggs on white toast with mayonnaise is a gift from heaven!

Here is a recipe from a mystery with recipes in that I'm working on (I don't know why she calls it this):

LeJune's Do Not Pass Go Deviled Eggs
  • hard-boiled eggs, shells removed
  • mayonnaise
  • powdered mustard
  • prepared mustard of various kinds
  • pickle relish
  • salad dressing
  • powdered paprika
  • salt and pepper
Put a bowl of eggs and containers of all the condiments on the table. Each person takes an egg, cuts in half, mashes it up with a fork and adds what he/she likes. No arguments, no complaints.

I like the idea of dying eggs with natural dyes. We did that one year. Beet juice makes a GORGEOUS pinky-red. Don't remember if I read this idea here or elsewhere, but I must try it: wrap a hard-boiled egg loosely in crinkled foil before dropping it in the dye. Supposedly, it comes out sort of batiked.

Okay, fellow fatales, here is my death-trap for the week: If you crackled the shell of a hard-boiled egg and dropped it into a cup of water in which tobacco from a cigarette had been boiled.... Then gave the beautiful golden-brown-crackle-patterned egg to a habitual smoker....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Easter Eggs

I cannot blame my tardy entry on taxes this week.  The only excuse I can offer is that yesterday, my husband had another procedure to try and get his embedded kidney stones to pass (to no avail, yet), and after the hospital trip and long wait and vague outcome, I’ve been so wiped out all day that it’s a wonder I’ve gotten anything done at all.  Or perhaps instead of whining, I should say that I’m reluctant to supersede Rachel Dillon’s wonderful guest blog, below.

Easter is coming, and I’ve been thinking of Easter eggs.  I love hard-boiled eggs.  They are such a versatile food.  They are wonderful on picnics, in egg salad and potato salad and chef’s salad.  I love them deviled or just peeled and eaten plain with salt.  

Of course, the best fun to be had with hard-boiled eggs is when they are dyed for Easter.  When I was growing up, we always dyed our eggs with the little dye pills that came in those commercial packets, along with a bendy wire egg picker-upper and punch-out cardboard egg stands.  Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with dying eggs using natural dyes, like onion skin.  I have no little kids around, but I would think that trying to dye your eggs in Welch’s Grape Juice would be an activity that a little one would enjoy immensely.

There’s no end to the materials that can be used to color an egg.  Turmeric is a really good dye.  Cherries make an actual red egg, if you leave it in the juice long enough.  I find that adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the dye water intensifies the color, except with onion skins.  Most juice dyes work just fine cold, if you let the egg soak for a while.  Some dyes work best if the egg is boiled in them.  One fun way to do it is to wet good sized pieces of onion skin and wrap them around the eggs, tie the egg up into a piece of clean cotton cloth, and boil it for 5-7 minutes.  I’ve never noticed that these food dyes flavor the egg itself.

Here’s one of my favorite simple ways to use a boiled egg - a boiled egg sandwich :  Put mayo on two pieces of bread, then slice two hard-boiled eggs into rounds and arrange the rounds on one of the pieces.  Add big, thick chunks of juicy tomato, some onion, if you like it, salt and pepper, or basil, or curry.  Top with the other piece of bread, and eat it up.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Special Guest - Rachel Dillon, Author/Illustrator of Through Endangered Eyes

Even though Rachel Dillon's schedule is jam-packed for April (if you don't believe me, take a look), she was kind enough to pay the Fatal Foodies a visit. Rachel has written and illustrated a children's book titled, Through Endangered Eyes. I have to admit that when I first saw the book, I thought it was a coffee table book because it's so beautiful! (As far as any visitors to my house are concerned that's STILL what it is because it's going on my coffee table for everyone to see. Especially me. I love looking at these pictures. In fact, this morning I ordered three sets of note cards with matching magnets from Rachel's gallery, where you can also order prints. Rachel uses the most unique method of painting. I'll let her tell you more about that in the interview.
And while I still consider Through Endangered Eyes a coffee table book, it's such a valuable children's book. Rachel reaches out to children with her art and poetry to teach them about endangered animals. In addition, she has information about each animal profiled in the back of the book along with conservation organization information and teaching inspirations.
Q: Rachel, I read on your website where your painting technique is adapted from Aboriginal art, mosaics and other techniques. Explain to us just a bit about how you do what you do.

A: I paint with acrylics. I did have several styles inspire my own. I majored in Art/Graphic Design at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I took classes in Art History and loved the Roman mosaics, especially those found in the Pompeii Ruins. But, what really inspired my painting technique was my trip to Australia in 1992. I was introduced to Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting. The colors, patterns and textures inspired me. When I returned home and started one of my art classes, I just had to try out the dot painting method. I went to the library to find books about Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting, and they were sparse. I couldn't figure out how they made dots so perfectly round, until I saw a picture of an Aboriginal man sitting under a tree, dipping a stick into paint. I flipped my paintbrush around and used the other end to create the dots I was looking for. The dots are raised and create a braille-like texture to the paintings.
The paintings for the book were done on 9" x 12"canvas board. Most paintings were done in 8-12 hours.

I think the painting that took me the longest was the Mexican Spotted Owl. It was about 20 hours of work. I used very small dots in the face to get additional texture and detail.
The painting that was the most challenging was the Grevy's Zebras, painting stripes with dots that shape forms was tough!

The painting I was most pleasantly surprised by was the Chinese Alligator. I think that one is my favorite. I had never painted a reptile before. Their skin is perfect for dots. The book doesn't do that painting justice; there is almost a leather quality to the skin in the actual painting.
Q: I love that you have a fact sheet on each of the endangered species featured in the back of your book. You've listed many conservation organizations and ways readers can help. Have any of these organizations opted to use Through Endangered Eyes as a fundraiser? [I think it should be in every school and in every zoo!]
A: Thank you so much for the comments - I agree, animal fundraisers, schools and zoos are a perfect fit for the book. Surprisingly, zoos and conservation groups haven't responded much to my queries. I contacted the World Wildlife Foundation, and as long asI make money from the book, they can't work with me. I was considering approaching them with a fund-raising idea, by adding a mailing envelope to my book. I think a "Donate a Dollar" campaign would be great to teach young kids the importance of philanthropy and might make them life-long givers.

I am really enjoying my time reading my book to kids in classrooms. The teachers are wonderful and the kids make the book worth so much more. Their enthusiasm and questions are magical.
Q: How long did it take you to compile Through Endangered Eyes?

A: It took six years from the start of the process to the published piece. I signed a contract with a publisher, Stemmer House in 2004. Two years later, after more than doubling the book pages, my editor passed away and I was told they weren't going to publish my book. I resubmitted my manuscript to about 14 publishers. About a year later, Windward Publishing, Finney Co., called me and I signed a contract. Within the year, my book was published.

It was an emotional roller coaster for me. I wasn't born with much patience. The process to get published was long and hard, but filled with learning opportunities.

Q: I read you're a lifelong animal lover, but what was the actual impetus for Through Endangered Eyes? Was there any particular moment when you said, "I need to do something"?

A: After my daughter was born, I felt this desperation to do more than my marketing job. I wanted to make a difference in the world, no matter how small. I bought a book called "Wishcraft - How to get what youreally want," by Barbara Sher. I started compiling memories of what I loved to do as a kid; when my mind was pure and I did things just because I loved to.
That self reflection spelled out my most ideal circumstance: work from home, write, paint, teach kids and help animals. I put together all that I love in my book. Once I had the idea that if I organized my thoughts and poems about endangered animals, and submitted a couple of my paintings, maybe someone would be interested in making it into a book. I researched the market on children's books on endangered species, I didn't see any books like mine, so I felt maybe I had a chance.

Q: What's next?

A: Well, I am having a blast promoting ThroughEndangered Eyes. I am going to keep doing that -Oprah look out! I have started my second book, "Through Desert Eyes -a poetic journey with endangered animals" (working title.) I have chosen 21 species and will start researching their information, then start writing the poems. My next steps after the text is done, is to start working on artwork sketches. Then I will submit these to Windward Publishing to see if they are interested in my second book. I hope to create a series of books on endangered species with my artistic style and writing, for children.

Thanks for taking the time to ask questions about me and my book :) Bon Appetite!
Order your copy of Through Endangered Eyes or ask your local bookseller to order it for you. You won't be disappointed. Also, please point it out to your local children's librarian. It would make a terrific addition to their library!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Denny's Hits a Grand Slam!

The nightly news has become quite painful to watch. There are so many stories of people loosing their jobs, homes and hope. A couple of nights ago, I watched a story that really touched my heart and made me feel happy.
Recently Denny's restaurants offered a free Grand Slam breakfast to everyone in America. They were overwhelmed with customers, and later with e-mails from people expressing thanks and admiration for their generosity.
I love that the CEO of Denny's said "America needs a hug." He also announced that Denny's will be doing the free breakfast again. The CEO urges those who enjoyed free breakfast the first time to bring a friend in need to Denny's to "pay it forward".
America does need a hug, and so does the CEO of Denny's! Yes, I know that they have probably gained more in publicity than they spent on giving away breakfast, but I love the sentiment of this guy! We need more CEO's like him.
I have included a link to the news story, which I encourage you to watch. It will make your day!
The second link is for the Superbowl commercial that advertised Denny's free Grand Slam event.