Hooray!

December 31, 2007 | 6 Comments

Oh, fun! The Winter Lodge is up for a Reviewers Choice Award from RT Book Reviews. It’s up against some of the best books of 2007. I am in good company–every single author in this category is one I regularly read and love, so there’s really no down side to this. Here’s the whole list:  

Best of luck to us all!

A few of my favorites in 2007

December 26, 2007 | 2 Comments

I love poring over the year-end “best of” lists, particularly the book lists. I’ve been lucky enough to see my own books on a list or two. Here’s my own list. It’s in no particular order, no particular pub date, just a list of memorable books I’ve read in the past year. Happy reading to all!What's better than reading a good book?

Quietly in their Sleep by Donna Leon. Atmospheric police drama in the most intriguing city in the world.

Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak. Her books are so ridiculously entertaining, and she keeps surpassing herself!

Making Money by Terry Pratchett. I love his books. Love this author. He’s an auto-buy for me.

Which Lie Did I Tell? More Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. I’ve owned this book forever but I kept misplacing it. Which is nuts, since this man is a god to me. This book actually surpasses his classic Adventures in the Screen Trade. In fact, I’m going to shut up right now and save a discussion of this book for its own post.

Mortified by David Nadelberg. A collection of painful high school memories, painfully illustrated. As the author points out, “We were all that same strange kid.”

Hide by Lisa Gardner. I’m picky when it comes to thrillers. This one has it all–depth of characterization, a page-turning pace and spot-on procedural detail.

The Shakespeare Riots by Nigel Cliff. I’d never heard of this historic event, which took place in 1849 at an opera house in New York. Now I’ll never forget it. I’m totally writing a novel about it.

The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkein. I became a rabid Tolkein fan when I was in 7th grade and the mania continues.

The River Knows by Amanda Quick. She’s a can’t-miss author for me. Jewels and secrets, romance and suspense.

What Matters Most by Luanne Rice. An emotional saga that tugs at the heartstrings.

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry. A memoir about restoring a truck, but it’s really about family, nostalgia, commitment and growth.

Blankets by Craig Thompson. Me? Read a graphic novel? This one sucked me right in.

…and here are a few books I can’t wait to read in the coming year:

Oxygen by Carol Cassella

The Cure for Modern Life by Lisa Tucker

Moon Shell Beach by Nancy Thayer

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors

Sing them Home by Stephanie Kallos

Bikini Season by Sheila Roberts

Listen up!

December 21, 2007 | 5 Comments

I’m picky about Christmas music, but I’m ready for something new. Post your recommendations here!

For your listening pleasure, Barkis and I recommend these: Barkis the Rein-dog

We Three Kings by The Roches has the single best rendition of “Deck the Halls” ever recorded.

Home for the Holidays by Stephanie Davis is smooth, beautiful and heartfelt.

Proceeds from A New Orleans Christmas (various artists) will benefit Habitat for Humanity in the Big Easy.

It’s not really Christmas without a Darlene Love album on the stereo.

A Christmas Celebration with Celtic Woman is haunting and relaxing, depending on the track.

Turn these up LOUD and dash around the house, getting the presents wrapped: Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas Song and The Christmas Trilogy by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

And…drumroll…the all-time best Christmas album ever: The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.

…checking it twice…

December 16, 2007 | 4 Comments

Other than waiting for a couple of key deliveries, my shopping is done. Done! Oprah has her favorite things; here are a few of mine I’ve found for my friends and family who, with the exception of my perfect daughter, don’t read my blog:

Wolfermans English Muffins. The most important meal of the day, delivered.

Party shoes! Are these cute or what?Steve Madden Vyceroy And for the sporty types, a pair of Keen waterproof sandals.

A Kashwere bathrobe. This was listed as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things last year and it’s just one more thing to love about Oprah.

Medima angora long underwear. Lucky me, someone on my list wanted long underwear for Christmas. Instead of dying of boredom, I went looking for the Best Long Underwear Known to Man and here they are.

A beautiful travel wallet. Travel is so not fun anymore, you might as well have a classy-looking document holder in a yummy color.

necklace from Gilbert ThomesA Gold Ball Necklace. It’s made from one ounce of gold and strong enough to back a truck over, although I have no idea why you’d do that. There’s only one place to get this. It’s an original creation by Drew at Gilbert Thomes Jewelers.

A Frolic in Shibuya planner – irresistibly cute in that Japanesey way, with creamy stock paper.

A Bugzooka – the perennial favorite. There is no feeling of accomplishment quite so heady as sucking a live bug, unharmed, into the Bugzooka, and then releasing it into the wild.

The Pop-up Book of Phobias. A clown in 3D comin’ atcha! Plus snakes, spiders, dentists, flying and other horrors.

mix match RavelloPottery from Ceramiche da Lena. She had me at the butter dish. I bought all new dinnerware in this amazing shop in Ravello, Italy a few years back, and I am now hopelessly addicted. According to newspaper clippings on the wall, others who shop here include Hillary Clinton and Madonna. This addiction is bad luck for me, since the value of the dollar has made it scandalously expensive.

Sfogliatelle. Another addiction I brought home from Italy. If you can find an Italian bakery near you that makes sfogliatelle, you have discovered the Eighth Wonder of the World.

A bowl or little box from Tiffany, for M&Ms or paperclips. Actually, anything from Tiffany will do.

A Jimi Hendrix lunchbox, in case you have a brother who doesn’t like Tiffany.

shirt that will probably get my nephew beat up

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris. The last word on entertainment.

The Wave Board Street Surfer. Give this to someone who is very coordinated, or someone you don’t like.

A Hammerhead Sled

A cashmere bothy throw. I’m not sure what a bothy is, but this is the perfect thing to curl up with a new book.

Snarky stuff from Despair.com and geeky stuff from Thinkgeek.com…and don’t forget the office toys.

calendar you make from your own photos at Shutterfly.

The most spoiled dog in the known world gets an orthopedic mattress.

awesome glovesPortolano gloves, the ones with the cashmere lining.

Obnoxious stocking stuffers from stupid.com and Prankplace and handmade jewelry from the incomparable Willa.

Queen of Tarts

December 10, 2007 | 7 Comments

Pear tartI have a tart pan! I love that I have a tart pan! Here’s a recipe I adapted from Real Simple Magazine.  

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup flour
2 Bosc pears, peeled and sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1-1/2 tablespoons demerara or turbinado sugar (plain white will work, too)
1/2 cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oven to 350° F. Spray a fluted tart pan with nonstick spray. Cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar Add the egg, and beat until incorporated. Gradually add the flour and baking powder until fully incorporated. Press the dough into the pan with floured fingers to form an even crust. Arrange the pear halves, top to bottom, cut-side down. Combine cinnamon and demerara (coarse-grained) sugar and sprinkle over tart. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. While the tart is cooling, warm the apricot jam and lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat until melted. Brush gently over the entire tart. Serve at room temperature.

Making my list…

December 08, 2007 | 5 Comments

2007, like every other year, is the year of the book. Fully confident that none of my friends or family read my blog (really, they don’t), I’ll post a partial list of some of the books I’ve bought as gifts this year:

Okay, holiday season. I’m ready. Bring it!

December 07, 2007 | 1 Comment

I’m all about keeping it simple this holiday season. As my girlfriend J.F. says, “If it ain’t eating or shopping, I’m not doing it.” According to something I read–I think this was on Unclutterer–you can create a lovely holiday atmosphere in your home without hauling out six generations of Christmas tchotchkes and gee-gaws. Simply put out some fresh greenery (that way you can compost it rather than store it on Boxing Day) and put some Christmas music on the stereo, and that’s all you need. My advice–put up the tree and light a scented candle, too. Once you’ve done that, your house will scream “Christmas” and people will feel good just hanging out with you.

tangled lights displayOne more tip–don’t even try to untangle the light strings. Mine came out of storage all wadded up, so I threw them on the ground and plugged them in and parked a bunch of poinsettias around them. (There’s a rebar sculpture by our front door; that’s what those vertical bars are.) My Inner Martha is extremely lazy. But having fun.

Okay, holiday season. I’m ready. Bring it!

Share with a stranger

December 05, 2007 | 4 Comments

My friend Ginny had a great suggestion:

When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:

We Support You During Your Recovery!
c/o American Red Cross
P.O. Box 419
Savage, MD 20763-0419

Be sure to affix adequate postage. Cards must be received no later than December 27. Cards received after this date will be returned to the sender. Again, senders are reminded that “care packages” are not part of the program–send only cards and notes. Also, please refrain from using glitter or any other inserts that would not be appropriate in a hospital environment.

-and (thanks to knitplaywithfire for this one)-

National Naval Medical Center

8901 Rockville Pike

Bethesda, MD 20889-5600