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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Birthday Post

So, Stinger's bday was Saturday, and even though we didn't get to do all the stuff I had planned (we got rained out) it was still a pretty cool day. I wanted to take him to the Corvette car show in cute little downtown Vermilion, OH--which also happens to be where one of our favorite restaurants is. The rain scotched the car show, which was meant to be held outdoors, in the square, but we didn't let that keep us from enjoying a lovely dinner on the covered terrace at Chez Francois. Our table looked out over the Vermilion River, which leads up to Lake Erie just a few yards away. Even with the rain, it was a pretty view. We had seared foie gras with rhubarb compote (as Thomas Keller says, the great thing about foie gras is that it's foie gras--you really can't mess it up. However, the compote was swimming in some sort of completely unnecessary oil that did not enhance the dish). And then I had the lobster ravioli in truffle butter sauce (yum!) and Stinger had the Beef Wellington, because he's a classic like that.

For gifts, Stinger got a mousepad that says "I am a romance writer's inspiration" on it, the French Laundry cookbook, tickets to the Cleveland Symphony, and a painting. This painting is one I've been sitting on since April, dying to give to him since I bought it while visiting my pregnant friend from nursery school in Raleigh. The artist is a friend of hers, a young rising star who's making a name for himself locally. I got to meet him and see his studio, which was fascinating, and I paid a fraction of what the paining would've cost in a New York gallery. Plus, I love it. It's of a bridge in Savannah, GA, and if you want to check it out, here's Luke's website. Hold your mouse over the image and they'll start to scroll--the one I bought is the fourth painting down.

A good time was had by both of us. Now I've got to figure out what we're going to do next year for the big 3 - 0.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stinger's Birthday

Tomorrow, Stinger turns 29 and reminds me that my own final year in my twenties is fast approaching. (Tune in November 4th for my major meltdown.)

He's not super excited to commemorate this occasion, but that's only because he doesn't know what I have planned. I'm dying to tell someone how clever I've been, but I can't take the (snowball's) chance (in hell) that he'll actually read my blog before tomorrow and find out, so you guys are stuck in the dark for a few more days. It's going to be cool, though.

In other news, Siam Orchid, a new Thai restaurant, just opened in town, so we're going there for lunch. The article about it said they hoped by bringing something new to the area, a type of cuisine previously unavailable, they'd carve out a nice little local niche for themselves. I'm afraid they're going to be really unhappy to discover that there's already a fantastic Thai place in town that has a large and very loyal clientele. I'm going to check out the new place today, and if they're any good, I'll review them--but they'd have to be pretty freaking amazing to lure me away from the already established joint. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why Do Journalists Hate Romance Novels?

Seriously, what is that? Do they think we're cutting in on their sales? Like women who love romances at the beach would otherwise be reading a newspaper, if they couldn't happen to get their hands on the latest Nora Roberts.

Personally, polls like this one (scroll down and look for the oh-so-clever "Your turn") make me never want to look at MSNBC again. Are they really so deficient in their research department that they think anyone still calls it a "bodice ripper"?

I'm considering putting a disclaimer on the cover of my book:

No bodices were harmed in the making of this romance novel.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Hero Can Kick Your Hero's Butt

A friend of mine steered me toward Jeannie Ruesch's adorable site featuring lots of cute t-shirts and accessories designed especially for romance writers. The above button is one of my favorite slogans, and it, combined with brainstorming/fantasizing about the hero in my next book, got me thinking.

How tough is too tough when it comes to a romantic hero? We love our alpha males, for sure. More now than ever before, it seems, with the proliferation of paranormals featuring uncontrollably voracious and violent creatures of the night. But if you write modern contemporaries, as I do, where does the line fall? Harlequin still makes a mint on it's Harlequin Presents line, which is full of charmingly Old World tycoons and aristocrats, filthy rich and as high handed as any hero Kathleen Woodiwiss ever dreamed up. Single title romances, though, on the whole have tamed the Alpha Hero. Even Suzanne Brockmann's Navy SEALs are full of sensitivity and political correctness, even while kicking ass all over the globe. (Actually, I'd argue that the juxtaposition of tough-as-nails soldier with vulnerable, emotional core is what makes Brockmann's series so freaking compelling and addicting, but that's another story. Yes, I'm a total fangirl. Get over it.)

I'm not saying my vision for my new hero is trash-talking arrogant bastard, but I was considering giving him a very shady past. As in an actual conviction and prison sentence. Of course he had reasons, and of course he cleaned up his act, but (also of course) that kind of thing leaves its mark. Now that I think about it, maybe it's not a question of alpha/beta at all. Maybe it's about the level of gritty reality readers are willing to accept in their escapism. What do y'all think? Would it turn you off completely to discover that the hero you were reading about had done time?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Husband Formerly Known As Honey

My husband has given his stamp of approval to the blog nickname "Stinger". He likes the waspish connotations, as well as the cocktail reference. In fact, we've had lots of fun with stingers in the past, which, in case you don't know, can be made with many different kinds of base alcohol as long as you add creme de menthe. We made vodka stingers in college (they looked like listerine shots) and got a friend of ours so tee-rashed that he puked violent green all night long. I'm sure this happy memory is what my husband's new alias calls to his mind, so he loves it.

In other news, I tried out a variation on the classic banana tea bread recipe, with mixed results. It's a sort of tropical version, the requisite mushy bananas mixed with toasted coconut and chopped macadamia nuts. It's excellent when toasted, so-so at room temperature, and just generally not what I envision when I think of banana bread. But is that a bad thing? Sometimes I wonder if all my tastes were formulated in childhood, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to convince myself that new doesn't necessarily equal bad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blog Alias

My husband needs a blog alias. Partly because I'm sick of calling him "my husband" all the time, like some creepy Stepford person, and partly because it's what all the cool kids do. Yes, I'm susceptible to that. Sue me. Kristen Painter calls her hubby "Hotrod", which I totally love. Mel Francis's man is known as "Fishdog" to the blogosphere.

So I'm auditioning husband aliases. Anyone have any suggestions? I have occasionally referred to him here as "the Honey", and he doesn't like that. Apparently it's emasculating. Who knew? Anyway, he's into classic cars, sailing, journalism (Hunter S. Thompson is his fave), reading, Ancient Rome, tennis, running, our dog (also named Hunter--coincidence? Nope.), and me. Other things too, but that's all I'm coming up with this early in the morning. Looking at the list, he seems pretty much like the WASPiest guy ever. Which is basically true.

King Wasp?

Friday, June 6, 2008

The First Day of Summer

I know summer doesn't officially start until June 21st, but for me, summer has begun! It's been in the 80's and 90's here all week, humid (for Ohio) and sunny--but the most important thing is that the first fresh local strawberries appeared today at my favorite farm stand.

That can only mean one thing: Strawberry Shortcake for dinner!

Strawberry shortcake means many things to many people. Over the years, I've tried a variety
of cakes with my strawberries, from angel food (blech) to pound cake (good, but not quite right), from my mother-in-law's famous Bisquick cakes (double the butter and sugar) to my mother's leftover buttermilk biscuits (yum!). For a long time, the biscuits were my favorite. I should clarify, my mother's biscuits are the flat, crispy kind baked in a hot buttered cast iron skillet, not the fluffy yeast rolls a lot of people like to pass off as biscuits around here. Not that there's anything wrong with yeast biscuits; they can be wonderful. But they don't pair perfectly with country ham and red eye gravy, in my opinion, nor are they the right base for a good strawberry shortcake. In fact, after a lot of very pleasurable experimentation, I've declared a new favorite: cream biscuits.

Cream biscuits are simple as can be, just flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lots of heavy cream. I use the recipe from the Gourmet cookbook, but the link above is pretty similar, although I usually cut them with a small drinking glass for a more uniform shape, and I like to brush the tops with cream before baking. All that cream gives them a rich tenderness that melts in your mouth. The biscuits soak up strawberry juice like they were created by God with no other purpose in mind, but they never seem to get soggy. Of course, that could be because they don't stick around long enough for that to become a problem.

For the strawberries (Heaven preserve us from that nasty, gooey stuff they sell by the bag in grocery stores), just cut off the green tops and any hard, ugly bits (I had one today shaped like Dick Cheney, all cranky and bloated--ugh) and cut each berry in half. Sprinkle the bowlful of berries with sugar, mash them around a little and put them in the fridge for an hour or so. Let the sugar do all the work of drawing the moisture out of the berries, and when your biscuits are ready, just cut one in half and spoon some bright red, juicy strawberries over them. Top with a little fresh whipped cream, a little milk, or nothing at all. It's summer in a bowl.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Let There Be Light!

My house is a dim. Not stupid, just dark. During the day, there's plenty of light from windows, but at night? I have bruises all up and down my legs from bumping into things. The honey would say it's just because I bruise like a peach and also happen to be a little klutzy, and he wouldn't be wrong. But I still think a few new lamps would help. So decide for me which ones are awesome and which ones suck. I've looked at so many, I honestly have no opinions left.

My shins thank you.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hot Fingers

I made migas last night. I love breakfast for dinner and I especially love Mexican breakfast, pretty much anytime I can get it. So migas is a big favorite at our house--crispy fried tortilla pieces cooked with eggs, cheese, tomatoes, peppers, onions, bacon, and a little bit of cumin. Yum! I made fresh pico de gallo salsa and guacamole to go with it, and Nick made ginger margaritas from a recipe we got off, which claims to be the cocktail served at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurants. Nick used to order that cocktail all the time, and he says this homemade version tastes pretty close. I couldn't tell you if it's just the same, but whatever it is, it's damn good. It involves a ginger-lime syrup you have to make ahead, but it's super simple and makes a ton.

Anyway, I didn't notice so much last night (see above re: ginger margaritas) but this morning I notice I must not have washed my hands carefully enough after seeding and chopping those jalapenos! My right forefinger and thumb are burning and no matter how many times I wash them now, it's too late. Putting in my contacts this morning was a rocking good time. Maybe paying bills will distract me! Joy.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Lights Are Off, and No One's Acknowledging It

Okay, looking at that header, it seems like this blog is going to be about Alzheimer's or something, which it's not. No, I'm Literal Girl today--the light bulb has gone out in the bathroom, and neither my husband nor I have mentioned it yet.

This is the bathroom attached to our bedroom, so it's the one we use most frequently, and pretty much exclusively at night. When it's dark. I think it's safe to assume that we've both noticed that we're peeing in the pitch black. I'm a little concerned about my husband's willingness to carry on with this, considering that he refuses to have one of those little rugs that fit around the toilet because, according to him, men don't have 100% accuracy in terms of aim, and he hates the idea of that rug sitting there soaking up spills. So how's his aim in the dark? Is he sitting down to pee?

I wouldn't know, because I haven't brought it up. Whoever brings it up will be the person who has to fix it, so we're both playing a waiting game for now. And before I get mocked for not wanting to deal with this, let me just say I have no problem with changing a light bulb. But this one is on a high ceiling, and it's under one of those weird vent/light things, and I have no idea how to get it open. And then I have no idea what kind of bulb is underneath it. So I'm ignoring the problem, and hoping it will go away.

I know, not exactly inspiring. Kids, I don't advocate living your life this way! It can only lead to bumped elbows and suspiciously damp floors! But seriously, does anyone else do this with household chores? Pretend you don't see it, and hope your spouse will notice and do something about it?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hiatus Over

Okay, I admit, I've been lurking on my own blog. But it's all I had time for! I swear. Lots of stuff going on, some fun, some not so fun. For instance, the in-laws were in town! For a whole week! I'll let you guess which side of the fun-o-meter that falls on.

But things are getting into a swing again, so I'm back to blogging. We're in the throes of planning the RWAOL chapter party for San Francisco, which is usually a great big bash because as an online chapter, we don't really have any other expenses. However, SF is so mondo expensivo that I'm afraid we've all gone into sticker shock a little bit. It'll still be a wonderful party, I'm sure, as long as we have the lovely Miss Jen emceeing, and sharing all her dirty secrets with us. The theme is now: Chinatown! I heart Chinatown, no matter what city it's in, and SF has a fab one, so this theme is perfect. Now, if only the hotel would serve us a great big Chinese buffet, with spareribs and wontons and Mu Shu Pork! But they won't. Sigh. Party planning is hard when you don't have unlimited funds to do whatever the heck you want.

If I were really industrious, I'd figure out how to cook some of those things myself once I get there. I have friends in the city, I could use their kitchens! And soon, I'm going to be a very skilled little chef, because I have enrolled in the CIA's boot camp! That's Culinary Institute of America, guys, don't get all excited. But wait, DO get excited, because this is so super cool! The CIA is in Hyde Park, NY (short, pretty drive upstate from Manhattan) and Nick and I are going for our anniversary. A whole week of getting screamed at by instructors for not browning the butter properly! I can't wait. In September, when I go, I'll be sure to post pictures of me in my chef's uniform. : )

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