DINNER IN A BOX

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Slick entrepreneurs have thought of everything. For people who like really good food and have no clue how to make it, somebody invented subscription food boxes. For a reasonable fee, once weekly a box of ingredients is delivered with recipes for meals to make with them.

We subscribed, because I have become completely unable to come up with any dinner ideas beyond macaroni and cheese, and I make horrible macaroni and cheese. Also, if a recipe calls for some exotic ingredient like a “pink lemon,” I have absolutely no will to search for one. Additionally, my spice cabinet does not contain Saigon Cinnamon.

Another feature of the food boxes is that they give you just the exact amount of those herbs and spices that you will need for the week’s meals, so that you won’t have a big jar of Saigon Cinnamon sitting around in your cupboard afterwards, reminding you that you used a teaspoon of it once.

So. My husband and I now cook together. We have learned a whole lot of stuff. We are not Pepin and Child, but we both now know what “chiffonade” means, and I got a microplane, for Pete’s sake.

There are pros and cons. The pros:

  • We made won tons. All by ourselves!
  • Did you know that apples and cabbage are delicious together if you throw in a little sugar, vinegar, and roasted caraway seeds?
  • Who knew you could roast caraway seeds?
  • Mirin is good.
  • You can roast vegetables at very high heat in the oven, and it only takes 15-18 minutes!
  • Same with chicken! Only 20 minutes! Unbelievable!

But, inevitably, there are cons:

  • Sweet potato tacos are pretty disgusting.
  • For some reason, every time a recipe calls for garlic, they send us an entire bulb. I now give garlic bulbs as little gifts.
  • We prefer our pizzas without potatoes on them.
  • Thai Basil is horrible.
  • We had to switch from “three meals a week for two people” to “two meals a week for four people” because we are gluttons, apparently. Those meals for two seemed more like hors d’oeuvres  to us.
  • Preparation takes an hour for two of us. We can’t seem to get the hang of kitchen efficiency down, no matter how many Julia Child reruns we watch.

But this activity has drawn the two of us together. We chat as we chop. We toast ourselves whenever we sit down to a lovely quiche (well, that’s a bit of a stretch) or a well sauteed chicken cutlet. And while we eat, we speculate about how much this dish would cost at a fine restaurant. We let ourselves gloat.

But then, every few weeks, we get the ingredients for Sweet Potato and Hatch Chili Quesadillas with Pomegranate Sauce, and we wonder if we have lost our minds…

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MUST LOVE CATS

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There are dog people. There are cat people. There is a difference.

Dog people seem to feel that they don’t have enough children. Having an overabundance of the nurturing instinct, dog people view their pups as their kids. Dogs know this, and they oblige with their complete unconditional love, their willingness to go along anywhere with their “parents,” their need to follow commands and be “the best boy (even if female),” and their immense talent for being adorable.

Cat people love beautiful things. They are sensualists. Those feline orbs glowing yellowly or greenly are the eyes of Gods. The velvety texture of the fur and the gentle roar of a purr are soothing and bring a sense of well-being to those who are lucky enough to have a cat draped across their lap.

It is complete nonsense that cats are aloof. Come on! I have met at least a dozen aloof pooches in my life. Some of them even growl when you approach. Yes, there are independent cats, but to call the domestic house cat aloof is ridiculous. I have a cat sitting on my shoulder this very minute. He thinks he has the makings of an editor.

I have to be honest, however. I have much more cat experience than I do with dogs. There have been at least twenty cats who have padded quietly through my life, and only two dogs. Both of these dogs I would classify as introverts, who preferred our company to that of the general public, so perhaps the dogs I loved have been more like cats.

If I had a dog, here is what I would do:

  • Get a girl pup.
  • Because you can then buy your girl dog a complete wardrobe of pink, polka dotted, purple and green striped, or paisley dog collars.
  • When it is cold or rainy, they have the cutest dog jackets! I would get at least four.
  • Dogs will let you hug them for hours. So this is what I would do.
  • I would have TV nights, in which my dog and I would binge watch things.
  • I would train my dog to howl on command.

I have four cats, currently. This is what I do:

  • Try to do yoga, but have a lot of trouble due to the cat walking back and forth underneath me during the “downward facing dog.”
  • Read my Kindle with a cat parked directly in front of it.
  • Place my nose in the side of a sleeping cat and breathe deeply.
  • Wonder where that cat pee smell is coming from.
  • Have a conversation with a Siamese.
  • Sleep every night with a cat on my head.
  • Try to avoid scooping the litter boxes.

Here is my true confession: Although I identify as a cat person, I have definite dog leanings. But I can tell you this: I would never want a parrot. He would tell the world how often I use the F word. Good grief. Those bird people have a lot of self esteem.

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Oh, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of the above book. Summer reading. Planes, trains, and automobiles! And the beach! Available at all book outlets online.

 

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BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

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My husband (yes, the one who took a phone call from the front row at my book launch, loudly) watched me sigh loudly and open my laptop.

HIM:  Blogging?

ME:  Sort of.

HIM: What do you mean, sort of?

ME:  I have nothing to say. I have said it all. My mind is blank.

HIM:  You could write about being a grandmother.

ME:  Done it.

HIM:  Marriage?

ME:  A million times. Accordions, accordions, accordions.

HIM:  Recipes?

ME:  Are you kidding?

HIM:  Donald Trump?

ME:  Nobody wants to read about that. We are wallowing in politics, and my back is all seized up thinking about that stuff.

HIM:  Have you tried the heating pad?

ME:  Leaning on it right now.

HIM:  Cats?

ME:  Yup.

HIM:  Time to shut down the blog?

ME:  I might have to. Good grief.

HIM:  Have you tried being poetic?

The roses are still red, and the violets are still blue

I am taking a week 

To think of something new.

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TURNING PAGES

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Ever since my book Crossing the Street released May 9, books are all I can think about. The truth of the matter is, very few authors can make a living writing books. Millions of them are published daily on Amazon and other book sites. Due to self-publishing, it seems as if every John Q. Public who thinks “I have a book in me” is doing something about it.

I have no illusions about the New York Times bestseller list. It is a fact, however, that once in a while, an author who doesn’t have a bankroll of a huge publisher behind them breaks out and sells millions of books. The Fifty Shades of Gray author did it. Amanda Hocking did it. How did they succeed? Word of mouth.

If you like a book a lot, what do you do? You tell somebody about it. You tweet it. You Facebook it. You hand it to your friend, or loan it to a neighbor. Your book club talks about it. Thank goodness this happens to some of us.

Here is some “word of mouth” for you! I want to spread the word about some books I have read lately that I think you will really like, and if this results in one of these authors breaking loose and selling millions, then I will be happy!

  • North Haven by Sarah Moriarty. This book centers around siblings who return to their deceased parents’ summer house to decide whether or not to keep it. Revealing–about sibling friction, the strength of memories, and the power of place.
  • Please Excuse My Daughter by Julie Klam. Julie is hilariously self-deprecating, and this book lightened my mood by leaps and bounds. A wonderful memoir.
  • Julep Street by Craig Lancaster. Lancaster is one of my very favorite authors, and though I haven’t read this one yet, I have complete faith that it will be just as good as his other books.
  • Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star. This one is another about family and secrets. I loved it.
  • As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner. Another family saga. I guess that is what I am drawn to. This one concerns a Jewish summer enclave and a family and one terrible event that changes their lives forever.
  • The Children by Ann Leary. Another family, another crumbling lakeside home. There seems to be a theme here. But I loved this story of a family enclave threatened by the inclusion of an outsider. Wry and just a good read.
  • Family? Speaking of family, there is that delightful new novel about one burned-out writer, her mean girl sister, her eighty-three year-old best friend, and the seven-year-old girl who turns their lives upside down. Crossing the Street by me. Of course, that is a must read!

The beach, the cabin in the woods, your deck, or in a train or plane–any one of these books will make your summer reading list come alive. Incidentally, if you live in Dayton, come over to Books and Co. this coming Thursday evening, May 25. You can buy Crossing the Street right there, and I will sign it for you!

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WHAT SHE WAS BEFORE YOU

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She packed your lunches, changed your sheets, pretended to be the tooth fairy, and made sure you had clean underwear. She stood on the sidelines at all those games. Trucked you around to gymnastics meets, swim team, and tennis lessons. She found all that drek under your bed. Once in a while, you saw her kiss Dad, but my God, they never did it. Just those two times for you and your brother. Jeez.

She is the one you call for advice. She never wavers in her support. You think she envies you in your life and your future. Sometimes, you feel sorry for her, stuck in that house with all those antiques, house plants, and “good dishes.”

But guess what? Once she was 16. She was in love with a boy that isn’t your father. She still dreams about him sometimes. At 16, she had very long legs, wore cut-off Levi shorts that revealed very supple thighs, and her hair was long and glinted in the sun. She liked to run. In her diary there were entries about all the adventures she planned to have, and they involved having sex, going to Portugal, sneaking out of the house after midnight, and writing poetry. She knew that she would go to New York and live in the Village.

At least four men loved her. And none of them were your father. One was a soccer star, and another one had a Harley. These men thought she was wild, exciting, and just out of reach. She laughed when they pleaded. Then she skipped away.

Your mother polished her nails bright red. She experimented with drugs, but they made her feel unmoored, and she hated that. She despised the taste of beer, but she drank it anyway. She danced all by herself at parties, never afraid of who was watching. She was free.

She has memories of bonfires, lying in the woods and looking up at the sky, skimpy bikinis, and laughing boys. She remembers the time she went to New York City all by herself to meet that young musician, and the weekend they spent roaming the city.

Don’t look at her that way. She is more than that.

 

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