Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Busy Writer Bread

Hey, everyone!

I came across this awesome brown bread recipe, perfect for busy writers who are so engrossed in their WIPs, they don't want to think about rising and punching and kneading. The cool thing is this bread looks so rustic and pretty when it's done, everyone will think you're this earth woman/domestic goddess/master baker. Here goes:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter (NO margarine--eww.)
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 to 1/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (Greek works best.)

1. In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry cutter or 2 knives (or, um, your hands) cut butter until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in whole wheat flour and oats.

2. Gently stir in the yogurt. If mixture seems dry, add milk a little bit at a time. It shouldn't be sticky.

3. Turn dough on a lightly floured board and knead gently five times to make a ball. Set on a lightly greased baking sheet. Pat into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on the top of the loaf.

4. Bake at 375 until well-browned, about 40 minutes. You can serve this warm if you like (I like!) with butter and honey. Yummmm!

(I found this recipe at myrecipes.com and am probably breaking about a hundred copyright rules by reproducing it, but you guys won't tell, right?)

Monday, March 29, 2010


KATHLEEN is the big winner of the ultra-sexy All U Can Eat. Happy reading, Kathleen!

Incidentally, my first kiss scenario: I was one and a half and my mom's friend Pam brought her son over to play. He was a younger man, only one at the time. The moms sat us babes on the couch and within seconds, I attacked! A big smoochero! There are pictures of this somewhere...

Thursday, March 25, 2010


It just so happens I have an extra copy of All U Can Eat by Emma Holly. (Either Amazon sent two copies by mistake or I hit 2 in the quantity box when I ordered. I'll never tell, as one would make me a thief and the other an idiot.) If you can ignore the dubious grammar in the title, you will fall into Holly's world of romance and intrigue, a world, according to Publishers Weekly, "that may shock the uninitiated." Ooh, la-la!

I'm severely math-challenged, so I'm not going to rustle up any spreadsheets allotting so many points for commenting, following, etc. I'm just not built that way. And, though the book may be NC-17, this blog is mostly PG. To enter, all I want to know is this: When you had your first kiss, were you the kisser or the kissee? Feel free to give details in the comment box, but being an exhibitionist is really not necessary to win (though you know I'm nosiest person in the world, so if you want to tell us the circumstances...)

I'll contact the winner on Monday afternoon, after I throw all the names in a hat and have my son do the honors. I'll ship the book on Tuesday.

Oh, and you have to be 18 years old to win. The book really is that hot.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Thumb Up

I rarely tell people what to do (unless, of course, you're my kid) but I strongly encourage you to follow Roger Ebert on Twitter (@ebertchicago).

YA novelist John Green called Ebert one of the few remaining public intellectuals, a description that will make sense to you after reading only a handful of his tweets. I'd say only a fourth pertain to movies, the rest cover the gamut from politics to religion to race relations to healthcare.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Roger Ebert. He's made his name in my hometown, for one, and I have a lot of admiration for anyone who courageously meets each day with a smile and shrug while fighting a devastating illness. I also have a great Roger Ebert story (I know, I always have a story, but stick with me):

In the early nineties I scored tickets to see Oprah. Siskel and Ebert were slated to appear. I went in to the taping a fan of Siskel. Of the two, I thought he was the cute one, and a charmer. Ebert, I thought, was a chubby know-it-all movie geek.

I won't say anything about Siskel except that I was disappointed. Ebert, though...wow. Before the show began he talked to people in the audience, talked with people, not at them. He had a great, friendly laugh and an upbeat attitude. His wife, Chaz, was there and she sat by herself at the side of the room. As soon as the director called for a break, Ebert jumped off the stage and went right to her, just so he could hold her hand and keep her company (She would have been sitting rather uncomfortably alone if he hadn't). He stayed after the show wrapped, and acted like he had all the time in the world to meet and greet. I walked out of Harpo Studios a fan.

We've lost a lot of iconic Chicagoans since then (Studs Terkel, Irv Kupcinet, and even Gene Siskel), so we're lucky to have such a lively mind as Ebert's still active in the public sphere. Check him out!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Five

Total randomness:

1. If you want to know what happens to high school mean girls when they grow up, watch The Real Housewives of New York. It's gotten so bad I'm starting to think the only sane one is Alex, and that's saying a lot.

2. I've realized there are certain words and phrases I simply can't use without sounding like a total dork. They are: Bee-yotch, for realz, yo, the term pedagogical, and basically any curse word that doesn't include damn in it. People laugh when these come out of my mouth. They really do. Words/phrases I seem to get away with, though I probably shouldn't: groovy, dig, totally, right on, like, um, and fantabulous.

3. Sawyer on LOST. Leather jacket. Cop. Manliness. Yum.

4. YA books I've read recently and loved: Tangled by Carolyn Mackler and Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern. YA book I read and hated so much I wanted to throw it across the room: Do you really think I'd post the title?

5. Spring! It's sprung! I'm spending this weekend smelling the air...

Have fun!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Author Appreciation Week: William Goldman/Lisa & Laura Roecker

I'm going to take a cue from Kody and mention one established author and one debut novel I'm dying to read.

Established author: Mr. William Goldman

When I was in high school I picked up a battered copy of Marathon Man at a used book store. It looks like this:

I use the present tense because I still own it, along with every other book William Goldman has written (Yes, I am absurdly proud of my collection.). The books run the spectrum of genre. Some examples: No Way to Treat a Lady (Thriller/Suspense), The Princess Bride (Fantasy), The Temple of Gold (classic coming-of-age), Boys and Girls Together (sprawling character-driven epic), Magic (Horror), and yeah, he also wrote the greatest modern western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Talk about versatility!

There is a common thread through all his work: the incredibly engaging plots are always character-driven. Think about Babe in excruciating pain as his Nazi dentist torturer drills into his mouth sans anesthesia and asks, "Is it safe?" or Butch and Sundance moaning "Who are those guys?" as the horsemen of modernity nip at their heels. Perfection, no?

A writer could learn a lot from a William Goldman book. I know this one has.

Debut I can't wait to read: A Kate Lowry Mystery: The Haunting of Pemberly Brown by Lisa and Laura Roecker.

Full disclosure: I've already read a version of this book and I've got to tell you, it's as stylish as a pair of oversized black sunglasses and a string of gleaming white pearls.

I was a HUGE Nancy Drew fan in grammar school. I devoured every book. So when Lisa & Laura originally described Kate as a modern Nancy Drew, I thought, ooooh-kaaay...

But Kate takes up that mantle with verve and a big ironic wink. The mystery at the center of the book kept me on my toes, but Kate's humor and courage won my heart.

So I guess this is a book I'm dying to see on the shelves. And I will. In 2011!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Five: Fashion Edition

I went to the mall last week and my visit inspired this week's Friday Five post. I'm also cranky. Be forewarned...

OK, retailers are suffering. This is apparent. Everyone blames the recession for keeping inventory low and people away, but maybe the hideous trends being shoved down our throats can shoulder some of the blame, no? I like fashion as much as the next gal, but really designers, if you want to start selling again, you really need to stop making...

1. Skinny jeans. No one looks good in them unless they wear a tunic or abbreviated muu-muu to cover up that puffy little muffin top/belly roll/spare tire. This ensemble makes most people look like an apple on a stick. Not flattering. (The only thing that's even possibly worse is a pair of acid washed jeans that have been pre-shredded. If someone had to chemically wear out your jeans in some factory in China then you are indeed a loo-whooo-ser.)

2. Empire waist shirts/dresses with waaaay too much fabric. I don't need to be reminded of what I looked like when nine months along. Thank you, but no.

3. Open-toe boots. Whaaa???

4. See through anything that isn't underwear. Because no matter how beautiful you are, you'll still end up looking like this.

5. Neon if you are above the age of thirteen. Even for the young, headbands made of colors not found in nature are kind of a bad idea. Hopefully this trend will disappear as quickly as it did in the 80s, or everyone is going to look like they just stepped off a Wham! video.

Alright I'm done complaining, but you are free to bitch all you want in your comment box!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Over and Over

I know a lot of English major-y people who reread Hamlet every few years, or Dante's Inferno, or something equally as high-falutin'. They generally do this while sitting in a very public section of Borders, or in Starbucks, as, let's face it, if you're going to work your way through Dante, you want other people to acknowledge it, right?

The stuff I reread is not so highbrow. Some books just call to me, year after year, and I never tire of them. Is it the story? The voice? Do I recognize a little piece of myself in those pages? I don't know. What I do know is these books have become part of how I define myself. Here's a partial list:

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Shining Through by Susan Isaacs
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Boys and Girls Together by William Goldman
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

And in YA: Forever by Judy Blume, Sloppy Firsts by Meg McCafferty, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and I've already read Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles twice, so I think it makes the list!

What about you guys? Have any go-to books?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Night!!!

Every year I compete in some super cool Oscar pools (yep-for CASH!) and I usually rock at predicting the winners. I'm also a total braggart about it so my husband gave me a super hard time last year when I went down in flames. I think I got nearly everything wrong. This happens when I don't see the movies and vote based on instinct and what I read in Entertainment Weekly.

Well, this year I haven't seen any of the Best Pic noms except for UP or any of the performances except Meryl Streep's in Julie/Julia. So, these are my picks and my crappy reasons for choosing them. If they happen to coincide with what everyone else is predicting, well, that's just happenstance. Here goes:

Best Picture (Who came up with listing ten? Does this mean we have to suffer through ten stupid montages this year?)

--Avatar (The blue people freak me out and I HATE James Cameron, so no.)

--The Blind Side (I like Sandy--everybody calls her that, right?--but this movie just doesn't feel big enough for a Best Pic nod.)

--District 9 (What is this? Seriously, I never heard of it.)

--An Education (I love Britain in the sixties, but again, this seems like a small film.)

--The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow has the best arms and the sense to divorce James Cameron. And that guy Jeremy Whatshisname is hot. This one gets my vote!)

--Inglorious Basterds (Tarantino/Pitt, etc. are so full of themselves. Turns me off. Ugh.)

--Precious: based on the...oh, forget it. (This was my second choice, pretty much because the trailer made me cry.)

--A Serious Man (This is the Coen brothers, right? They hate the Oscars--why give them one?)

--UP (Bawled during the first ten minutes, but I have a thing against giving an animated film the Oscar for this category. There already is a Best Animated Film so it can win that one.)

--Up in the Air (Clooney looks too smug for his own good. Jason Reitman will probably win for his screenplay. That's enough.)

Best Actor:

--Jeff Bridges (YES! He is winning for everything he's ever done. My favorite? The Fabulous Baker Boys)

--George Clooney (Nope. It's the smug factor.)

--Colin Firth (Ooh, la-la, how I love Colin. But I still think it belongs to Jeff.)

--Morgan Freeman (He's been lauded enough, don't you think?)

--Jeremy Renner (Yep, he's a hot one. But too new to the Academy. The nomination is honor enough, yada, yada, yada.)


--Sandra Bullock (She's my choice, but she shouldn't win for this. She was brilliant in Crash, though it was a small role. Again, this is a career win, and her career deserves it.)

--Helen Mirren (She's won too much already.)

--Carey Mulligan (I'm sure she's great, but like Jeremy "Hottie" Renner, she's too new.

--Gabourey Sidibe (What a beautifully expressive face. I really want to see this film but I'm a little scared to watch it around people. I've run into quite a few girls like Precious in my classroom and Gabourey gets that "I hurt so deep down" look perfectly. But, I feel like if someone wins an Oscar before they are established, it does them more harm than good. I hope we see her nominated again someday.)

--Meryl Streep (Great impersonation of Julia. It could have been totally Dan Ackroyd campy but she pulled it off. Oscar worthy, though? Um?)

The rest: Supporting Actor: That guy everyone is talking about from Inglorious Basterds. He does creepy really well. Supporting actress: Mo'Nique (There's a forcefulness about her). Screenplay: Up in the Air (adapted) and The Hurt Locker (original). And that song from Crazy Heart is awesome and should win (The Weary Kind.)

So, do you guys agree or do you think I'm going down this year too?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Today my oldest son turns ten years old. Last night the family said goodbye to the birthday boy's nine-year-old self and this morning we said hello to a ten-year-old (sniff!). I love you, baby (Yeah, you'll always be my baby!). The next ten years should be interesting...let's enjoy the adventure!

Today is also my best friend Jean's birthday. She's totally OK with the aging thing, so she won't mind that I tell you it's her 4oth. Yep. A big one. This year is also the 26th anniversary of our friendship. We became friends at our high school freshman orientation (!) and have remained close ever since.

Since I write about people in high school, Jean is always in my thoughts as I sit at my computer. We were so different. I had a thing for black eyeliner, army jackets and threadbare sweaters found at the Salvation Army. Jean liked Esprit, Coach purses, and Ralph Lauren. She liked the jocks; I liked the guys who wrote bad poetry and never washed their hair. She's five (!) inches taller than me and can actually can stand to listen to country music (barf).

But she could always make me laugh harder than anyone else. She never teased me when I added Cherry Coke to my beer because I didn't like the taste. She took me cruising in her little Dodge Omni, past the houses of the boys I liked. She listened and never judged and always looked out for my best interests.

Our friendship has lasted through college and marriage and children and more. She's seen me through heartache and joy, and I hope I've done the same for her. We've sustained our friendship because we value it, and realize how rare it is to find someone you connect with so well in this great big life.

So happy birthday, Jean! This one's for you.

(OK, that is a condom bouquet on my head. It was my bachelorette party!)