Thursday, January 27, 2011

Drum Roll Please

Why am I posting today? Well, I am completely thrilled to announce that I . . . HAVE AN AGENT!! Woohoo!!

And not just any agent :) Deidre Knight is the dynamo president of The Knight Agency, which she founded in 1996. We found each other when I entered the speed dating contest on her agency's blog back in December. Turns out, my writing must have resonated with her, because a little over a month later, I am proud, humbled, and downright stoked to join TKA's family.

As for the timing... well, lets just say it was a heck of a birthday gift! Okay, I better stop giggling and go to bed :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Me and My Sister

There is really something to be said about casting away your timidness and living in the moment with full joy. For some reason, the moment my sister and I get together, we tend to do just that… to the bafflement/disdain/mild amusement of those around us.

I mean really, TWO FEET of snow? How can you not play in that?? So deep it spills into your boots and dampens your sock, kissing your skin with frosty goodness. So fresh, heaping handfuls must be gathered and eaten, pausing only to huff great gusts of air in an attempt to warm frozen throats. So perfectly preserved, just waiting to be frolicked in, churned up by prancing boots and shaped into angels with the flailing of outstretched limbs. So malleable, it begs to be formed into an evil, robot mini-snowman and his league of tiny snow followers.

With frozen noses ready for indoor adventure, we turn our sights toward hunting of the most civilized variety. In the close, overstuffed confines of a busy consignment shop, dusty treasures can be discovered, nestled among the whicker dress forms and ceramic pillboxes. Vintage, sneeze-inducing fabrics of every color and pattern drape couches, chairs, and settees representing every decade of the 20th century. Buckets and buckets of costume jewelry winks from within their glass prisons, begging to be released on bail with the hopes of dressing our ears or draping our necks just as they did in decades past.

Tucked behind the imposing dining room table in a cramped room little more than a widened hallway, a dainty princess chair awaits, all high-backed, curving perfection among its dour neighbors. With carved wood flowers and pertly tufted upholstery, it practically begs us to take it home, promising to be the ideal frosting in a strawberry and orange flavored office.

Onward to the hole-in-the-wall restaurant, inauspicious in its ungilded surroundings, patronized but only for our ravenous appetites built from the furniture hunt. Sitting down at empty tables, we put ourselves in the patrons’ hands. From their unadorned walls to the long, simple counter, we had no reason to suspect that the Italian feast set before us would charm us so thoroughly. Why ever would we hold back our joy, despite the employees’ amusement at our moans of culinary appreciation and the sighs of utter bliss? Loaves of tender white bread and fresh made mozzarella call like the sirens they are, and our arms are filled with their goodness as we wave goodbye with fluttering fingers.

Back in the house—the very epitome of coziness—we eye the old bathroom floor and picture the possibilities. Pry bars to subfloor reveal the muted beauty of ancient hardwood floors, veiled like a bride on her wedding day. Like the kids we are on the inside, we dance in glee, doing an impromptu jig for our discovery. Hard work, sweat, dust, and screeching wood twist together, creating the symphony of home improvement. Sore and exhausted, we collapse in bed—but still giggle fits find us.

I am beyond grateful for a sister who is every bit as silly and adventurous as I am. Vacations together, whether in the British Isles or in a tiny, snowbound cottage in New England, are always just the thing to rejuvenate my spirit and bring my inner child to the forefront. And really, where else can I get a chocolate icing-slathered, chocolate chip muffie adorned with multi-colored flame candles?

Do you have someone in your life who tends to bring out the kid in you? Someone who is your perfect travel companion or who can make you throw your inhibitions to the wind? Tell me about it!

Never heard of a muffie? Me neither! My sister introduced me to this delightful desert - lighter than a cookie, but more yummy than a muffin. I haven't had time to develop my own version yet, but here is a great recipe that I found online at Check it out! Click Here

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Princess for a Day :)

It’s my berfday :)

Okay, maybe not today, exactly, but it is this week. And I can assure you: I am NOT one of those women who dreads the turning of one year older, and I doubt I ever will be. For me, is the perfect time to wallow in self-indulgence, to accept as many good wishes as those around me see fit to give, and to eat whatever the heck I want (read: Japanese Steak house).

When I was little, we may not have had a whole lot, but that doesn’t means we couldn’t put together a mean birthday celebration. The day would start with exuberant birthday greetings, at which time it would be announced that today was Erin’s day, and whatever I wanted goes. Being the youngest of three, I looked forward to this day allll year. The ability to trump any of my brother’s and sister’s wishes? Brilliant!

As silly as it may seem, perhaps the best and most loved tradition of all was the ability to choose my cereal of choice. I have mentioned before how my mother was careful to feed us only the most nutritious, wholesome foods when we were little, so this little luxury was of utmost importance. We each had one shot—one!—to choose our junk cereal for the year, and I agonized over choosing just the right one. Fruity Pebbles? Lucky Charms? Trix or, heaven forbid, Cookie Crisp? No, even I, at the tender age of 7, couldn’t bring myself to choose the last one. I think those magically delicious freeze-dried marshmallows that wily leprechaun peddled won out most years.

After a big bowl of sugary goodness, I’d get a special lunch with a sweet note tucked in by my parents for later discovery. I’d float through the day in a haze of happiness, proud to wear whatever construction paper crown or gaily colored sticker my teachers deemed appropriate for the beaming birthday girl.

Once home, it was party time. My favorite dinner would be prepared, the China would be laid, and I would avail myself to the place of honor at the head of the table. I’d revel in whatever decorations had been hung—the age old, plastic Happy Birthday banner, various colored crepe paper streamers, and the ubiquitous balloons. I’d ohh and ahh at the bouquet of flowers my father would offer, and squeal with delight when at last the cake my mother prepared would be laid before me.

The candles would be lit, the lights turned back, and every person present would belt out the birthday song with absolutely no regard for harmony or pitch. I would tear into the offered presents with abandon, squealing with glee with each newly revealed treasure. A Barbie here, a book there, none were expensive but all were prized, accepted with all the fervor and excitement of a Nobel Peace Prize.

The coup de grace would come last: the ability to choose the TV programs for the evening. Oh, the extravagance! After being princess for a day, I would climb sleepily into bed, grinning goofily for all the joys the day had brought.

I’m happy to say that that pleasure has never diminished. After realizing how much birthdays meant to me, my hubby has gone out of his way to help me celebrate in style over the years. Since I am heading to see my sister this year for my birthday, he surprised me last night when I got home from work at 10:30. For the few hours we shared before bed, he lavished me with all my favorite things: Grilled steak, roasted potato, and sautéed kale dinner, a homemade cake with icing he made using my own recipe, a perfect little pint of Haagen Dazs, a glorious bouquet of flowers, and—last but certainly not least—a wonderful present that I had seen weeks ago and had dearly wanted.

Here’s to spending simple birthdays, celebrating with the small but wonderfully delightful treats that are from the heart, and sharing that special day with those we love. I wish for all of you the same joy and celebration on your own birthday as I have always been blessed to have on mine.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It All Started with a Snag

It started with a single snag.

An innocent, tiny tuft of carpet, sticking up among the uniform beige Berber blanketing the living room. For years that little blemish sat ignored and unbothered, like the only fan doing the wave in a stadium full of bored spectators.

And then one day, our newest pup Darcy discovered it. That day, she learned a whole lot about Berber carpet. Like that a single tuft of fibers, a mere quarter inch in size, could grow to a pile of fuzz bigger than she was merely by yanking on it.

And that was exactly how I found her one day in early November when I came home: surrounded by an enormous pile of freshly pulled carpet, looking very pleased with herself. Unfortunately, it was far too much fun to simply quit cold turkey. Since then, she has created many more matching bare spots around the living room carpet and into the hallway.

Remarkably, she’s still living.

And that’s when an idea took root.

You see, when we moved into this house four and a half years ago, we already knew that we hated the carpet and wanted hardwood floors. Unfortunately, we had what could possibly be the world’s worst kitchen – both in layout and design – and didn’t want to redo the floors when we knew we were going to be changing the kitchen layout someday.

Well, once our carpet began to resemble swiss cheese, that small idea that had taken root began to grow. With interest rates what they are, perhaps we should refinance and fix both the floors and the kitchen.

Just think! No more dingy, holey carpet. No more worn indentions from the *previous* owner’s furniture, or permanently stained pathways from the dogs continual journey from the lake to the living room. No more struggling with RugDoctors, only to have the stains reappear a month later, bigger and badder than before.

And the kitchen – oh to have a new kitchen. Kitchen cabinets that actually close (or open, depending on the cabinet) and shelves that wouldn’t collapse under the weight of cereal boxes. Drawers that are wider than 10” and don’t require opening the dishwasher in order to access. A sink that doesn’t face a blank wall and the stove in a place where it can have a vent. And, joy of joys, no more ugly melamine cabinets sold exclusively for garage use sitting in my kitchen, yellowed and peeling. Oh, the bliss *sigh*

Well, guess what …We are totally doing it! Tomorrow morning, we are set to close, and soon I will be hard at work ripping out the old and putting in the new. *putting on my renovation queen tiara* The crazy thing is that, despite nearly murdering my husband the last time we installed hardwood floors, I am totally stoked to roll up my sleeves and get started.

And no, that doesn’t give you permission to remind me of this statement when I start grumbling about how much it sucks to be in the middle of a renovation. ;)

So there you have it, the story of how one little loose piece of carpet and one bored puppy combined to create a full house renovation. And here I thought a shelter dog would be cheaper…

Any advice from you renovation veterans out there? And have any of your pets/kids ever done something that snowballed into something MUCH bigger?? Are we crazy for undertaking this project??

So what’s my recipe for the week?

Takeout. Lots and lots of takeout ;)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Art of Setting Attainable Resolutions

Ahh, New Years. A time for reflection. A time for looking forward. A time for unearthing the elliptical from beneath a pile of laundry and dusting off the old sneakers.

No, really. If I skip a word or two, it’s only because I am cranking away at level five, multi-tasking like a pro. Okay, not really. But that’s what I should be doing after the last two weeks. Cookies and cakes and Japanese steak house, oh my! Ham, and turkey, and white bread, and casseroles, and the most sinful candy pecan topped sweet potato mini pies. And chocolate – lots and lots­ of chocolate.

Well, the indulgence is over, and just like every other person in the world, I am setting my New Year’s resolutions. And you know what? I am fully prepared for this to be one of the best, most exciting years of my life. As a matter of fact, I have it all worked out. *cracking knuckles*

Starting tonight, I will get back into my regular workout routine. While sweating away at yoga, I’ll finally work out a brilliant twist of plot for my latest book. Inspired, I will dedicate myself to retooling my manuscript into a work of genius, thus catching the eye of my top pick agent. Said agent will declare me to be the next Nora Roberts, and publishers will line up to buy the book, resulting in a heated and quickly escalating bidding war. The winning publisher will have invested so much in the purchase or said book, they will give it top promotional priority.

Thanks to all the yoga and cardio, I’ll look fabulously fit and healthy as I hit the booksigning circuit where, having heard the buzz on the amazing debut author Erin Kelly, people will line up for the privilege to meet me. With the runaway success of the book, it will be translated into twenty different languages and distributed around the world. Now, in preparation for my European tour, I’ll hire a private tutor and finally learn a second language. Italian, of course, so I can be familiar with the language when I buy my second home on the Amalfie Coast.

On the English leg of the tour, Colin Firth will track me down, desperate to play my hero in the screen adaptation of my novel (written by my fabulously talented screen-writer sister). I’ll graciously accept, of course. We’ll soon discover that he and his Italian wife have a villa a mere hop, skip, and a jump away from my husband’s and my new second home, and we’ll make plans to rendezvous when next we are in town together. Preferably when it’s harvest time for the olive grove on our property, so we can all enjoy fresh-pressed olive oil and warm Focaccia bread on the terrace.

The villa will prove the perfect retreat for writing, and I’ll bang out a few more novels before heading back to the States. In awe of my accomplishments, the RWA will bump the lovely Nora Roberts in favor of me for the next conference Key Note speech. Nora, of course, will understand; she’s already read all my books, and is a huge fan. After my magnificent and inspiring speech (and the subsequent five minute standing ovation), I’ll gracefully make my exit. On the way out, Julia Quinn will stop me to ask what is the delightful smelling shampoo I use.

Whew! Now, that all sounds pretty reasonable, don’t you think? ;) Guess I better go pull my yoga clothes out of the bottom of my drawer so I can set it all in motion. All over-the-top daydreams aside, I do have a few resolutions this year. Solid, steady work on my writing, refocusing on health (both healthy eating and exercise), spending more time with my wonderful family, and remodeling the house without killing my husband. We’ll see about that last one… ;)

So tell me, what are your resolutions this year?

In honor of dreaming big, today’s recipe is Focaccia Bread! This lovely recipe is slightly modified from the one found here.

1/2 cup water

1 tsp white sugar

1 Tbsp active dry yeast

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried or 1 Tbsp fresh oregano

1 tsp dried or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme

1/2 tsp dried or 1 Tbsp fresh basil

1 pinch ground black pepper

1/2 cup water

1 Tbsp Canola oil

2 Tbsp olive oil

kosher salt to taste (about 1/2 to 1 tsp) to sprinkle on top

chopped fresh rosemary to taste

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup mozzarella

Heat water to 110 degrees (warm, not hot). Stir in sugar and yeast, set aside for five to ten minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, stir together the salt, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and black pepper. Mix in the oil and yeast mixture. Stir in flour until combined.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (5 to 8 minutes). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Punch dough down; place on greased baking sheet. Pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and fresh chopped rosemary. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Halfway through baking (at about 7 or 8 minutes), sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses over top. When golden brown, remove from oven. Serve warm.