Friday, June 25, 2010

Cooking with Sara: Quinn's Spaghetti Dinner

Mmmmm...spaghetti....Or, p'sketti....Or, skeddy....(Are we now sufficiently aligned in the pronunciation of my nickname? Good stuff!)

I had a bit of a meltdown last week with a zillion things failing me all at once, so I prudently asked my nephew if he could fill for me this week on the food blog.  Thankfully, I still have some sway, so without hesitation, he said, "sure, Aunt Sara."  Awww, we love that.

Now that school's out for the summer, one of his chores at home is to be in charge of dinners on Monday nights.  Love that!  It gives my sister (who's also always doing 83,000 things) (we claim it's genetic) an evening off.  I just think that it's pretty great that he's already learning to cook!  He won't go hungry in college, right? :)

Thank you, Quinn!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cooking with Sara: Granola Bars

I really wanted this recipe to be perfection.  It's good, don't get me wrong.  But it's just not what I was hoping a homemade granola bar would taste like.  These taste just too....wannabe healthy?  Kind of like how Clif Bars have something not quite delicious about them, but you eat them in a pinch because they taste ok, really.  Kinda like that.  Maybe they would have turned out better if I had let them bake to crispy.  Maybe I need to be searching for a recipe that has "Chewy" in the title?  Who really knows.  It's Friday morning, everything I touch breaks, and my brain refuses to wake up.  It's gonna be a good day, people.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Illustrous Interview with Allie

As promised, Allie Larkin stopped by for a quick little interview with me, hurrah!  Her first book, "Stay" comes out TODAY!!  Be sure to check it out; I loved it!

Sara: I have to admit - I'm thorougly intrigued by the whole process behind getting a book written and then published. I know zero about it. Can you give me a quick, rough run-down and timeline of how that works? Like, how long did you have the idea in your head before you committed it to paper?

Allie: I started STAY in 2002 as a writing exercise, and then a short story in a college class. After I graduated, I put the story aside, and didn’t revisit it until I was asked to join a writing group years later and needed something to work on for the group. Being in a writing group gave me little deadlines, and kept me from putting it aside for too long when I got stuck on something or felt like the rest of life was too busy. I think little deadlines are so important! I wrote the first few drafts of STAY at a rate of 8 pages a week for my group meetings.

I read your book in two sittings - Friday night and Saturday morning. And I forced myself to spread it out like that because I felt bad that I was burning through all your hard work so quickly. (I suppose the same can be said for the things I bake - they're eaten up in a zillionth of the time it took to make them.) But, how does it make you feel when you hear that all of us are just plowing through your book? Do you wish we'd slow down and maybe savor it a bit more?

I am so honored that you read STAY so quickly. I love the feeling of being so absorbed in a book that I can’t put it down. The idea that my work can provide that experience for someone else is really amazing!

I've heard that actors sometimes change up their personal lives to really get "into" a character. Did you do anything like that in order to write from Van's perspective? Is she much like you in real life?

I made an iTunes playlist for Van, and would use that to get me into her mindset when I sat down to write. And sometimes, while going about my day, running errands, etc. I would think about how Van would react to those situations. But I didn’t make any changes to my life to relate to Van. Van and I have some strong similarities (and our dogs are even more similar). But she’s not me. I do love Boston, ice cream, coffee, and German Shepherds. And, after writing those scenes with the grape Kool-Aid, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to consume grape flavored anything ever again. I’m sure she wouldn’t be able to either.

Have you started your next book yet? (Yes, I'm impatient for another one!) If so, what would it take to bribe some hints out of you about its topic?

You’ll have to start making a line of gluten-free cake pops to bribe the hints out of me. But yes, I am working on something new. And I also have some more ideas for Van and the gang that I’d love the chance to write about someday.

(Sara's note:  I have made GF Cake Pops and am secretly planning super special treats if Allie's Book Tour ever makes it this far South....)

Is Stella demanding some cover photo love for your next book? :)

Argo gets all the fame! So unfair, I know! Can we give Stella some blog photo love? This is my favorite picture of Stella.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Report: Stay

I had the extremely fun honor of previewing Allie Larkin's new book, "Stay."  What's that?  Who's that, you say?  Allie is one of my Blog & Twitter Friends, and she's seriously too adorable.  She's got two huge dogs.  She wears black socks when she trail runs.  She's got naturally curly hair.  I mean - she's practically my long lost twin. 

But her amazing book, "Stay" - it comes out on Thursday..As in, day after tomorrowwww!  I'm practically jumping all around  my house, I'm so excited for her!  Allie is going to stop by my blog this week for a little chat, so definitely stay tuned for a bit of the-author-and-I-go-way-back-on-Twitter scooping!

I suppose that the best review for her book that I can give is that I read it in two sittings.  Two.  I'm such a slow reader these days (we're all tired of hearing my talk of perpetual tiredness, no?), and I constantly have a stack of at least 7 books that are only 1/3 of the way read.  But I got completely immersed in this novel right away.  I was surprised that it tackled some heavy stuff, but her characters were true to how people in real life might react and feel.  I was expecting a fluffy read about a silly dog but instead, I got a moving story about growth and trust and an open heart.  "Stay" isn't all serious business, but it's certainly not a fluff book you read while also watching tv and cooking dinner.  Your pasta would boil over and your chicken would be charred.  No, stay out of the kitchen when you read this one.  It's a charming story that's completely deserving of your attention. 

I cannot wait for what Allie comes up with next!

You can read more about Allie and her first book, "Stay," here:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cooking with Sara: Grilled Shrimp Tacos

While I'm appreciating the different and interesting and yummy cuisine here in The South, there are a few foods I do miss from my stint in SoCal.  Fish Tacos are high, high on that list. 

When I first moved to San Diego, all those years ago, the idea of fried fish in a taco with salsa was completely revolting.  And that white sauce?  Could that be any more disgusting a combination?  No.  Well, ok...Um?....Honestly?  I now love fish tacos.  It took me a few years to muster up the courage to actually try one, but ohmy, they're tastey.  And I've tried at least 5 different recipes for the white sauce (some even claiming to be identical to what's served at Rubio's), but none taste just right.

Anyway, it's 8am - enough about fish in a tortilla with tricky white sauces.  I haven't even had a sip of coffee yet.  Here's my weekly recipe over on the food blog I contribute to:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oh My Darlin', Lemon Thyme

Oh, look - more photos of Sara's windows!  Bet you're so glad you used the energy to click on over here, right?  Well, today's occasion is that I'm now the proud owner of some plant babies.  Last weekend, Bo and I wandered through the garden department at Lowe's.  Which is to say that I spend an inordinate amount of time touching the plants, smelling their leaves, soaking up the fresh air, and quietly whining that I don't have the money or time to bring home truckloads of them.

I finally settled on some herbs and a window box for my kitchen window.  I chose them based on smell.  (This is the part where Bo chimes in that I'm forever lifting items up to my face to smell them.)  (It's true.  I do.)   Buying a mint plant was a no-brainer and only took me half a second to snatch one up for our cart.  Mint always, always, always reminds me of summers in Washington state at my grandparents' house.  That region is covered in crops, and when we were younger, there were mint fields as far as the eye could see.  In the warm evenings, the farmers would harvest the mint, filling the valley with the most amazing scent.  Just the smell of the leaves makes my soul happy.

The view from my kitchen sink.
Purty, huh?  Have I mentioned yet today how much I love living here?

I also rescued a lavender plant (whose scent will always remind me of our blissful vacation in Cabo 2 years ago) and a lemon thyme.  I have no earthly idea if I'll actually use any of these plants in cooking or baking; I'm content just to gaze at them lovingly from my kitchen.  And from time to time, I go outside to whisper sweet somethings to them and to brush my fingertips through their leaves.

We all know that my need for things to be even and symmetric (3 cheers for OCD!) 
means I'll be buying another window box soon...

Lavender             Mint                   Lemon Thyme

Citronella Mosquito Plant

Have you ever heard of these??  I hadn't!  I have no idea if they're at all effective, but I was so intrigued, that we brought two of them home.  If you run your fingers through their leaves, they smell exactly like citronella!  Evidently, this is a member of the geranium family and not a true Citronella plant (which is actually Lemongrass. Click here if you want to read about how to use a Citronella plant for natural insectides and bug repellants.)  But, supposedly, if I macerate a few leaves from my Geranium here, and either place them in bowls in window sills or rub them on my arms, the bugs will keep away.  That's terribly exciting news for me because mosquitos hunt me down.  I can be in the same room as Bo, and the final bug bite score is Bo: 0, Sara: 8.  I'm told that the mosquitos here are the size of small cats, so I figure any little bit can help, right? 

If you've ever tried this plant (or the Lemongrass Citronella, or even Catnip) for bug repellant, please let me know!  I'd love to be able to ward off the little demons without having to use something from a can.  (And I abhor the smell of Skin So Soft.)