How an LA Girl Celebrates Fall + BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Being from Los Angeles, October usually means I’m suffering from a gigantic case of Fall Envy.

While most people are dusting off their sweaters from storage and going on long walks for leaf peeping or apple picking,  we here in sunny  Los Angeles are often hunkering down for the last of the summer heatwaves. Sadly, our only hint that Fall has actually arrived is the pumpkin decal at Starbucks.

I know, I know … I shouldn’t complain, people love summer and if I’m honest, I’m a complete weather wimp. I lived in the Mid West and ran back to Southern California before I had a chance truly experience what my co-workers called “the despair of a long dark winter.” Thanks but no thanks. I can handle some weather, but when I have to warm my car up for a half-hour before leaving for work?  I’m tapping out.

While winter and I have some challenges, my love of Fall runs deep. So deep that I realized this year that I have my own traditions that let me know summer has ended and LA’s version of autumn has in fact: Arrived.

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Some of My Favorite Ways to Celebrate Fall in LA.

1.  Pumpkin Everything: This is the time of the year where one of my basic food groups includes pumpkin. I drink Pumpkin coffee, live for pumpkin scones and stock up on everything pumpkin from my neighborhood Trader Joes. Just this week I ventured out and got my stash of: Pumpkin Waffles, Pumpkin pita chips, Pumpkin Greek Yogurt (non-fat, it’s LA people)  and Pumpkin-Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches. My kitchen pantry is a sea of orange and brown and you know what? I love it. My son loves it. And the pumpkin ice cream is absolutely perfect during another 90 degree evening.

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2. Candles: Nothing says fall to me like scented candles. Over the summer it was all about Pina Colada this and Tahitian Breeze that, but guess what? It’s all Pumpkin Spice, Orchard Apple and Harvest scents now. Even when it’s 104 degrees outside, I’m practically living inside of an apple orchard in my apartment. Yay fall.

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3. Home Decor: As soon as my calendar said October, I immediately took out all of my “fall-y” home accents, it helps me get into the mindset that yes it is unbelievably effing hot outside, but guess what? It’s Fall! Hurray! pumpkin and gourds sit in my front door (although I bring them in during the day so they don’t DIE from the heat), I have a few leaf garlands I bought at a craft store and this year I really went big and bought a rustic wood pumpkin that lights up at night. If that’s not fall, then I don’t know what is.

4.  Baking & Eating: Fall means we move past those ice box cakes and head back into the oven, right? Wrong. Not in LA. But when you grow up here, you learn to open those windows, put on your favorite Halloween t-shirt and get to baking those apple crisps, pumpkin bread and pie. I’ve got a baker’s dozen of chocolate pumpkin muffins going right now and the air conditioner. It’s all good.

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5. Reading: Reading is an all-year hobby, but what’s better than snuggling up with some pumpkin cookies and reading a good book, right? Which is why I have decided to have a Fall Giveaway with a copy of my debut novel HEARTBREAK CAKE along with one of my favorite fall items from my list (probably not the ice cream guys, just saying.)

THE RULES:  Please share YOUR favorite way to celebrate the fall season, whether it’s baking, a snuggly sweater, a book, a special song … I want to hear all of your favorite fall ideas and I will select four winners on November 1st. 

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Weekend Reading & Eating: Pie Girls by Lauren Clark

Pie Girls Cover copy2I recently finished reading PIE GIRLS  by Lauren Clark and I devoured it in two days much like I do when I have actual pie in the house. It was wonderful.  Sweet, but not overly sweet, rich characters and just the right amount of tartness to make it fun.  

I had the chance to chat with Lauren and I invited her to share what she’s Eating, Writing & Loving these days. She  is also sweet enough to share her wonderful blueberry pie recipe, which is a perfect accompaniment  to PIE GIRLS. 

Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream and whip cream!

Thanks to Lauren for joining us today: 

1. What are you EATING right now that you love, can’t live without or think everyone should know about?

During the writing of Pie Girls, as I was getting close to finishing the book, I planned a PIE WEEKEND, prepared my two boys, my friends, and their kids. Using all of my grandmother’s recipes, I made 9 pies in all, and taste-tested everyone! I selected 3 (Chess Pie, Chocolate Pecan, and Lemon Sponge), along with her amazing-no fail pie crust recipe to go in the Pie Girls book. I have great memories of visiting her house every holiday and on school breaks. She would always have baked some fabulous dessert for us, usually a pie or cake. I’ve always thought about incorporating her recipes in one of my novels. Pie Girls was the perfect opportunity. For Christmas a few years ago, I asked my mother to write down all of my grandmother’s recipes so that I could have them and preserve the family tradition. It was the best gift ever!

Her blueberry pie is one recipe that I didn’t include in the book, but is one that I make often, and would like to share with you today (see below). It’s easy, only takes a few ingredients, and is perfect for a warm summer day picnic or barbeque. I hope that you enjoy it! (See Below)

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2.     What are you WRITING now that you want people to know about?

I visited a place in Greensboro, Alabama called the Pie Lab, a restaurant that has been written up in Southern Living, Bon Appetit, and many newspapers around the Southeast. The pie shop is a special place—small town atmosphere—great food, and personal attention, but the thing that makes it really unique is that it is a place where high school dropouts or people in need of skills and training can go and learn valuable skills—how to bake, run a register, make change, and give good customer service.

I kind fell in love with the idea of such a place existing in Fairhope, Alabama, a lovely waterfront community near where I live. I decided to create a shop named Pie Girls there, and thus, Searcy’s story was born.Generally, while writing a novel, I do best when writing every morning (that’s usually 5:30 am – 7:30 am, before the kids need to be off at school and I have to get to work. I try to end my writing sessions having finished a chapter, which means that the next day, I have a fresh slate, of sorts. I’m also the type to just plow through from start to finish with my novel, going back to editing after (even if I think chapter 13 is the most awful garbage I’ve ever written).

 

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3.      What are you LOVING right now?

Right now, I am loving a family weekend in Atlanta, Ga., which is about 6 hours from my house in Mobile, Ala. The boys have been talking about attending Dragon Con for months, and I decided that since next year, it’s in San Diego, there’s no time like the present. We spent Friday at the Georgia Aquarium, which was an amazing experience. It really makes you feel connected to the ocean and all of the creatures that live in our world. I’m definitely a water and beach person, so watching otters play, seahorses dance, and dolphins swim was pretty close to heaven!

Dragon Con should be pretty crazy. Thousands of people, dressed up in costumes, all gathered in 4 hotels to see stars from television shows, mini-series, movies, and cartoons.  I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of Patrick Stuart (X-Men), Mary McDonald (Battlestar Galactica), and Ralph Macchio (the Karate Kid).  If we all had time to find costumes and dress up, Patrick would definitely go as “Arrow” from the show on TV, John David would pick “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and I’d probably go with something girly and pink, like Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time!

Delicious & Easy Blueberry Pie

1 qt fresh blueberries

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp tapioca

1 tbsp butter

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 (baked) Best Ever pie crust from Pie Girls or one Deep Dish 9” pie shell

Mix half of the blueberries, flour, tapioca, butter, salt, lemon juice, and both sugars in a saucepan. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add  remaining half of blueberries. Stir well. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill until set. Top with whipped cream if desired.

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BIO: Lauren Clark writes contemporary Southern novels sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets. A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends.She is the author of three award-winning novels, Dancing Naked in Dixie, Stay Tuned, and Stardust Summer, as well as a short story, A Very Dixie Christmas, published in the Merry & Bright holiday collection. Lauren is a member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association and the Mobile Writers Guild. Check out her website at www.laurenclarkbooks.com.

Novel Spotlight: Redesigning Rose

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Novel Spotlight: Redesigning Rose finally made it off my To-Be-Read list and I loved it! I had a chance to chat with Lydia and get some insight on her characters.  Grab a cup a tea and learn a bit more about Redesigning Rose and Lydia’s goal to get her characters to their happy place.

Thanks for joining us here at Eat ~ Write ~ Love!

Gardening and tea were such a huge part of the way the characters in Redesigning Rose soothed themselves. Can you share your favorite kind of tea and also your experience with gardening as a form of relaxing?

 Orange Pekoe is my go-to tea for relaxing but I’ve also developed a fondness for David’s Tea Organic Chai which is pretty much black tea and cinnamon. It’s heaven in a tea cup. Gardening is something I find therapeutic, relaxing, invigorating and energizing! The creative aspect of it makes my mind whirl, and I love sitting out amidst my gardens with a book or a glass of wine. One of my most Zen things to do in the garden – and this is probably going to sound very bizarre – is to stand around watering the flower beds or even the grass. I could spend hours roaming from garden to garden with the hose. It’s almost meditative for me. See, told you I’m a little weird.

 I liked Becky as a side-kick to Rose’s  “demure” view on things, were you looking to create a Yin & Yang for their dynamic? How did she inspire you while writing her character?

I knew Rose needed someone in her life to kick her in the butt, to make her think, and to get her outside herself and not take herself so seriously. I hadn’t intended them to be quite so polar-opposite, but I think it worked well in that they both ended up learning from one another. Becky inspired me to have more fun and to get a little silly sometimes, and how to be a better friend. And they both taught me to take a bad situation and turn it into a positive.

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 I was surprised by the ending –did you feel you needed an explosive event to happen in order to push the characters through their journey? Or just curious what you wanted the character Becky to learn from the experience?

I wanted Becky to have her own opportunity for growth, and I wanted Rose to be able to help just like Becky helped her. I also wanted to juxtapose what Rose went through with Frank to what Becky goes through and show that the two situations have startling similarities. Sorry, I know that’s vague, but I personally loathe spoilers so I won’t say anything more!

 Do you think it’s common for people to find themselves leaving relationships only to discover they never really knew their partner? I really felt for Rose as she would look back on her marriage feeling betrayed.

Sometimes I wonder whether we ever really know anyone, but then I come around and force myself to stop reading so many novels with crazy spouses. Gone Girl, anyone?

Rose obviously never really knew Frank, but I think after enough time passes, she realizes her own mistakes and grows from the experience. Have you ever gone through something horrendous only to be grateful afterwards that it happened? I think Rose feels that way. She’s stronger from the experience and much smarter. I don’t think she’ll make the same mistakes again. She won’t stay quiet, or ignore her intuition and she’ll be much happier for it. And because of this she’ll look back and be grateful for the experience, regardless of how agonizing it was at that time.

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 What are you hoping readers take away from Rose and her motley crew of friends?

Fantastic question! Friendship is important. Family is important. Doing what you love is important. Love is important – but not if you lose yourself. Trust yourself. Never regret your mistakes – learn from them instead and be happy and grateful for what they taught you. Find “the happy.”

The Book: Redesigning Rose

Rose Parker’s husband has been lying. About everything. When a conversation with her husband triggers questions, Rose Parker uncovers alarming answers that shatter her perfect life. But it is only when she shoves her belongings in her SUV and drives off that Rose realizes just how far from perfect her life actually was. She has nowhere to turn. While debating between distressing sleeping arrangements–her mother’s house full of questions or a hotel room with too much solitude–Rose bumps into an acquaintance from her gardening class and allows bubbly, exuberant Becky to indulge her in a wild night full of whiskey, weeping, and whispered confidences. Suddenly, Rose has a new friend, a roof over her head, and two gorgeous men moving her out of her marital home.As Rose struggles to settle into her new life, she remains determined to comprehend her past. And with time and distance and especially wine, comes knowledge. Frank wasn’t the only one lying to her. Rose was lying to herself.

 The Author: Lydia Laceby

lydia lacebyLYDIA LACEBY is a co-founder of the fiction book blog, Novel Escapes. Since 2009, she has read and reviewed as much women’s fiction as humanly possible while designing, organizing and expanding the blog from two reviewers to seven. In her spare time, she knits cute baby hats, would pick cheese over chocolate, and longs for the days she was able to cheat on her allergy free diet.Lydia began her career writing a soap opera at the tender age of thirteen. It never aired. Redesigning Rose is her first novel.

Love and the Apple Blackberry Sonker with NANCY SCROFANO

EDITORS NOTE:, I have been having fun reading Nancy Scrofano’s new book AMERICAN HONEY!  Nancy joins us today with a sweet recipe for the sonker,  a dessert that is just as  fun to say as it is delicious to eat.  Check out this Southern cobbler-like dessert that  is inspired from her new novel!

Thank you  to Nancy for joining us and for more information on her new novel, go to: www.nancyscrofano.com

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  The Book:

In my new novel, American Honey, recent high school graduate Olivia “Ollie” McKenna leaves her small town roots in Summerville, Georgia, to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer. With her best friend and older sister in tow, wholesome Ollie travels to the big city to compete in singing contest Atlanta Idol where she meets nineteen-year-old Jack Bradley, a fellow country singer who quickly becomes a close friend. The connection between them is magnetic and an opportunity to sing together could change their lives forever.

The Inspiration: 

I’m a fan of American Idol. I’ve been watching it since the first season, and I wanted to write a story involving a singing competition. I started working on American Honey after watching the season ten finale of American Idol in May 2011. I was inspired by winner Scotty McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina. I also found inspiration for this book from Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally and ABC’s Nashville. I love country music, and the title American Honey comes from a song of the same name by country music trio Lady Antebellum. The message of the song really coincides with main character Ollie’s journey.

 The Recipe:

The sonker is native to North Carolina, Jack’s home state, and his mother’s version of this deep-dish cobbler is legendary. Sonkers are often made with blackberries, a favorite local fruit. Jack tells Ollie that his mom’s famous baked fruit dessert is an Apple Blackberry Sonker. Maybe he would make it himself for Ollie as a friendly gesture or possibly as something more… Wouldn’t that be sweet? Or maybe Ollie would try to impress him with her own version.

 

The following recipe is courtesy of the Hallmark Channel.If you decide to make a sonker, please send me a picture of your finished product. I would love to see it!

appleblackberryINGREDIENTS

Pie pastry for 2-1/2 nine-inch crusts (Store-bought or your favorite recipe. NOTE: If you use pre-rolled store-bought pie pastry, piece it together to make a rectangle. Use the scraps to make the lattice.)

1-1/2 pounds Golden Delicious apples (3 or 4)

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

5 cups of blackberries

3/4 cup of sugar

1/ cup of flour

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

3 tablespoons of butter (cut into small pieces)

DIRECTIONS

Divide the pie pastry into two pieces–one about four-fifths of the dough and the other about one-fifth (for the lattice top). Flatten into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.  Cut up the apples and place them in a large bowl. Toss them gently with the lemon juice to keep them from browning.

Add the blackberries and gently toss. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of dough into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle. Line a 9 x 13-inch glass baking pan with the dough. Roll the remaining piece of dough into a rectangle about 10 inches long. Cut it into 1/2-inch-wide strips to use as a lattice top.

In a small bowl, blend the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Sprinkle a light layer of the sugar-flour mixture over the bottom of the crust. Layer the fruit into the baking pan, sprinkling with the sugar-flour mixture as you go. Dot with the butter. Arrange the lattice strips in an open basket-weave pattern diagonally across the sonker, trimming the dough strips to fit where necessary. Fold in the side pieces of dough to cover the ends of the lattice strips. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the fruit is hot and bubbling and the crust is browned. Let it cool for 10 to 20 minutes, then serve.

Makes 12 servings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdd American Honey to your Goodreads shelf! Follow along with the American Honey Tour via Fictionella! Connect with Nancy at nancyscrofano.com

LOVE: Indie Movies for the RomCom Fix

I love a good romantic comedy. Just hits me right in the warm & fuzzy part of my heart, especially when I add  popcorn, glass of wine and a box of Goobers.   I’m pretty much at maximum joy capacity.

These days, motherhood has made going to the movies low on my priority list.  Free time  means  laundry, writing, dinner with friends or a shower that doesn’t include a toddler coming in and asking me what I’m doing and when I’ll be done.  Sigh.

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Movie time has become something I do at home thanks to  Netflix, Amazon  and iTunes, but I have to admit that the romantic comedy selection has been feeling a little sparse.There doesn’t seem to be a lot out there for that can rival  my list of personal favorites:  40-Year-Old Virgin, Love Actually, The Cutting Edge, Gross Pointe Blank, The Holiday, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Thing Called Love, Sleepless in Seattle.

You know, the gold standards.

 

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I’ve been ignoring the chatter that much like Chick Lit the  interest in romantic comedies is dead. That’s just silly talk. Check out this article from NPR written in March, 2013: Are Romantic Comedies Dead.

I’ll never give up on a great romantic comedy, I will stop watching a bad one, but give me a well-made, smart and genuine romantic comedy and I’ll give you my $20 for a price of admission and $40 for snacks and what not!

The lack of quality supply and my own personal demand has forced me to explore  other avenues for getting my romantic comedy  fix.  I’ve stumbled into some really great independents that have the spirit of a fuzzy romance with a streak of irreverence that I adore.

Check out these three smart independents that have made movie-watching fun again. Or maybe it’s the wine & Goobers … (oh never mind :) )

 

1. If you like When Harry Met Sally you will like Friends with Kids, this is a  smart, fun and thoughtful comedy that has an interesting angle on friends who get involved. Kinda. They have a baby and promise to keep things platonic and  then chaos ensues. You know how that goes! Really loved this movie and it doesn’t hurt that my boy crush Adam Scott is the hero in this movie.

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2. Take This Waltz appeared on my Netflix because they seem to know I am a sucker for romances. Well, after weeks of skipping it, I finally pressed play and was completely engrossed for two hours. If you like Bridges of Madison of County, this could be an interesting alternative for you! Michelle Williams is awesome and Seth Rogen is still goofy, but endearing. Canadian actor, Luke Kirby is a stone cold fox.  Add it to your Netflix! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592281/

takethiswaltz3. Safety Not Guaranteed was an unsuspecting sweetheart of movie that really brings it home that there is “a pot for every lid.” Thought this was a great movie, with a great cast, love Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson. And guess what? Despite the smart deliveries, the sarcastic zingers and Aubrey Plaza’s well-known deadpan delivery, this movie is all about the Happily Ever After.

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VALENTINE’S DAY EDITION: HOT CHOCOLATE SOUP

EDITORS NOTE: Happy Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air and chocolate is on the mind today, so what better way to celebrate than with a Hot Chocolate soup from mystery culinary writer, Sharon Moore.  Her new release MISSION IMPASTABLE  is a tasty whodunnit with plenty of inspired recipes to go along with the fun. Thanks for joining us Sharon! Check out her great blog Parsley, Sage and Rosemary for more information on Sharon.

 

HOT CHOCOLATE SOUP

This recipe is not in Mission Impastable, my just-released culinary mystery, but it will appear in Prime Rib and Punishment, the sequel out later this year. Alli, challenges her students at the cooking school to create a dessert soup that could also be a totally new ice cream flavor. They come up with some very interesting ideas! The winner in her class was Hot Chocolate Soup and Hot Chocolate Ice Cream.

 

hot chocolateWhat says love more than chocolate? To make your love scenario even steamier, serve your lover Hot Chocolate Soup on that special day. This soup is hot in more than one way.

Not only do you serve it warm, but the red pepper flakes in the soup add that surprise element you always want to keep in your relationship.

Leftover soup? No problem. Make Hot Chocolate Ice Cream and recall the night you first met this combo.

 

 

Hot Chocolate Soup (serves 4)

2 c heavy whipping cream
2 c milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
4 T sugar
4 oz grated 60-70% cacao chocolate
1 t vanilla
¼ t red pepper flakes
¼ c. toasted coconut
20-2”cubes pound cake or angel food cake

Put cake cubes under broiler. Watch closely. When browned, turn over and brown the bottom. Remove to a rack to cool.

In top of double boiler, heat whipping cream and milk. Slowly whisk in egg yolks and stir until begins to thicken. Stir in sugar.

Slowly add grated chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and red pepper flakes. Serve with five cubes of cake and a sprinkle of toasted coconut.

 

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authorsamAfter 39 years as an educator, Sharon Arthur Moore “transitioned” to the life of full-time fiction writer. She’s an intrepid cook, game-player, and miniatures lover. She writes culinary mysteries, women’s fiction, historic

al fiction, short stories, plays, and erotic romance (Under the pen name Angelica French). Sharon has lived in every region of the country except the Pacific Northwest and loved every single one of them. Her current favorite region is the desert Southwest. She is married to the most extraordinary man and claims four children, one daughter-in-law, a grandson, and dog Maudie.

Heartbreak Tips & Heartbreak Heaven with Sue Watson

EDITORS NOTE: Happy to introduce Chick Lit friend from across the pond, Sue Watson, who dazzles with  her delicious reads, FAT GIRLS and FAIRY CAKES and YOUNGER, THINNER, BLONDER.   Make sure to read the directions to Heartbreak Pavlova, they are hilarious!  Thanks Sue! ~

HEARTBREAK TIPS & HEARTBREAK HEAVEN 

I haven’t had a ‘heartbreak’ Valentine’s Day since I met my husband a few years back – I hope that doesn’t sound smug, because trust me I’ve done my time with Valentine. I’ve sat on that back row watching the other girls get the flowers, cards and romantic Valentine dinners, and pretended I hadn’t even noticed the date. I’ve helped my pretty friends ‘guess who could it possibly be?’ from a long list of suitors sending chocolate hearts and touching declarations of anonymous love to them. And yes girls, I’ve cried into my pillow andshouted ‘stop Mr Postman’ in true Karen Carpenter style … which, I’ll admit, was a little weird.

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But take it from me, when you’re standing on the sidelines watching the rest of the world fall in love there is an alternative. Baked goods. They just don’t let you down the way men do, and like Indira the feisty funny heroine in HEARTBREAK CAKE I have a weakness for ‘fresh from the oven stuff.’ I lust for Indira’s cardamom muffins, her fig and cherry scones and don’t start me on the chocolate ganache wedding cakes with candied bacon bits.

So for those of us still waiting for the chocolate heart, the dinner a dieux and the Valentine cards dropping on the mat trust me, they will come, but in the meantime, embrace Valentine’s Day.

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Make it extra special whether you’re with the one you love or on your own. Like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s day is the best time of the year if you’re holding the right hand – and the worst if you’re not.

So if you’re holding the wrong hand let go now, and if you’re single, call off the search and celebrate your status. And nothing says ‘single and happy,’ like sugar and whipped cream. Who needs a man when those bad boys are working it?

My advice this Valentine’s Day then, is to forget your ‘ho on the go’ bags, stay home and let crispy meringue and softly whipped cream give you all the TLC you need.

With this in mind, here’s my prescription recipe for ‘Heartbreak Pavlova.’ This little slice of ‘Heartbreak Heaven,’ is to be taken liberally on Valentine’s Day with a large sprinkling of Cindy Arora’s delicious ‘Heartbreak Cake,’ – the perfect Valentine’s celebration. ‘

Enjoy!

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Recipe for Heartbreak Heaven Pavlova

1 copy of Heartbreak Cake

4 large egg whites

Pinch of salt
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar

Filling
1 ½ cups of heavy cream whipped
350 g (1 and ½ cups) raspberries, strawberries and redcurrants

a little powdered sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C) .

DIRECTIONS

Measure the sugar and put aside, now put the egg whites in a large clean bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks. Stop! Before you set off, don’t get too whisk-happy because over-whisking will cause a major collapse! Girl, just keep whisking and checking until you can turn that bowl upside down without the snowy white fluff sliding out and ruining your hair.

When the egg whites are at ‘upside down stage’ – whisk in the sugar slowly a large tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until all the sugar is incorporated. Now take a metal tablespoon and spoon the meringue mixture on to the prepared baking sheet, forming a heart-shape (you can draw this on your grease proof paper or simply just think of the one you love as you dollop).

Now using the tip of a skewer, make little swirls in the meringue all round the edge, lifting the skewer up sharply each time to leave tiny peaks. This will look like you know what you’re doing – even if you don’t! Then place the baking sheet in the oven, immediately turn down the heat to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) and leave it to cook for 1 hour.

While the heavenly meringue is cooking, take out your copy of ‘Heartbreak Cake’ (on kindle or paperback) and read about Indira and her scandalously sweet, cake-filled love life.

After an hour of reading turn the oven off, but leave the Pavlova inside the oven until it’s completely cold. You could even bake this the night before, take the book to bed and allow the meringue to completely cool overnight in the oven (you won’t be able to put the book down so will be up all night too).

To serve the Pavlova, put the book down and lift it from the baking sheet, peel off the paper and place it on a serving dish. Then just before serving, spread the whipped cream on top, arrange the fruit on top of the cream and dust with a little sifted sugar.

Put the kettle on, serve cut into wedges (remember it’s not for sharing!) and carry on reading ‘Heartbreak Cake…’ .

My heart-shaped Pavlova serves 5… but hey, that’s just a number, if you need to eat it all!

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About Sue: I was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before leaving it all behind for a career in TV. As a producer with the BBC I worked on garden makeovers, kitchen takeovers and daytime sofas – all the time making copious notes so that one day I might escape to the country and turn it all into a book. For more information: http://fatgirlsandfairycakes.blogspot.co.uk

Art + Science of Cupcakes with Lucie Simone

For Christmas, I got myself a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. After battling a batch of sugar cookie dough with my little hand blender until my fingers cramped, I knew it was time to step up my game. And let me tell you, baking has never been so much fun.

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I haven’t always been a baker. In fact, I didn’t start baking until a little over two years ago. It started out with cookies. Chocolate chip walnut cookies, to be exact. I was on a mission to perfect the cookie after having spent decades burning them to little black discs my cat wouldn’t even eat (and he eats anything!). It took some trying, but I finally figured out how to keep them crisp, yet moist without a hint of charred chocolate.

After mastering the cookie, I moved on to muffins and delighted my co-workers nearly every Monday with blueberry muffins, strawberry muffins, corn muffins, or chocolate chip muffins. And with every mmmm and ahhhh, my confidence grew until I was ready to take on the queen of desserts. The cupcake!

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It wasn’t the cake part of the cupcake that intimidated me. It was the frosting. I’d never made frosting in my life, and I had no idea how incredibly easy it was. A couple sticks of butter, a couple cups of powdered sugar, a little vanilla, a splash of milk, and voila! Frosting! I still need a bit of practice with the pastry bag (I tend to get more frosting on my sleeves than on my cupcakes), but it’s super fun swirling the icing into tall peaks of buttercream bliss. It’s incredibly therapeutic.

And since I started baking cupcakes, I’ve tested a few different recipes, looking for the perfect crumb. And in my opinion, this is it. Light, fluffy, moist, and delicious. Yum!

I got this recipe from cookiesandcups.com – Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients
1 3/4 Cups cake flour
1 1/4 Cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 Cups sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Cup butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 eggs
1 Cup milk
2 tsp vanilla

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°
Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
In bowl of stand mixer add the first 5 ingredients and stir together using paddle attachment for about a minute. Enough to get them nice and combined.
With mixer on low, drop in butter, a few cubes at a time continuing until all butter is in and mixer resembles coarse sand.
Add eggs one at a time on low speed.
With mixer still on low slowly pour in milk and vanilla. Turn mixer to medium and beat for 2 minutes until batter is smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
Fill liners 2/3 full (about 1/4 cup batter) and bake for 15-20 minutes until centers are set and toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Note: to substitute cake flour, use all purpose cup for cup, minus 2 tablespoons, plus 2 tablespoons corn starch.

And for the frosting, my own concoction:

2 sticks room temp butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons milk

Cream the sugar and butter together until smooth, add the vanilla, and milk (one tablespoon at a time) until the frosting is the consistency you like it.

This recipe will frost 12 cupcakes if you like to pile it on high, or 24 if you prefer a light shmear.

Enjoy!

                                                                                   

luciesimone.jpegLucie Simone has a passion for travel, yoga, and writing.She has a degree in Journalism, a  Master of Fine Arts in Television Production, and is a certified yoga teacher. Her love of comedy (and living under the delusion that she might one day be an actress) resulted in a stint studying improvisation, which, ironically enough, taught her to be a better writer.

 www.luciesimone.com

 

FEED YOUR HEART: RECIPE WEEK

This week I’ve decided to give the kitchen table here at EAT~WRITE~LOVE over to a few authors & bakers who know a thing or two about romance  and, er… dessert. Grab a coffee and  join us everyday this week and get inspired as I combine my two loves: baking and Chick Lit.

Enjoy!

MEET HERS BAKERY

I was lucky enough last week to spend an afternoon with a handful of bloggers from MomsLA.com for my very first book club for HEARTBREAK CAKE. I was nervous (terrified) as you can imagine, but also really excited to hear from readers who wanted to chat about my book (awesome!)

I had been coordinating for a few weeks with editor Sarah Auerswald and she had briefly mentioned getting a heart-shaped cake for the event.

Cake? No problem, I thought. When it comes to cake, I know exactly who to call.

Tasha Sanchez and her business partner Melanie Johnstone are the women behind Los Angeles based Hers Bakery, an indie catering company with a focus on sweet desserts.  I gave  Tasha some details on the cake  that was inspired from one in my book and she said “I got this.”

Boy, she wasn’t kidding.

On the day of the book event, no one could stop taking pictures of the cake or saying how amazing it tasted.  Moist, sweet but not overly sweet, just the right amount of crunchy hazelnuts and an undertone of Nutella that made  you heady with happiness. Seconds were a must.

 

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  I had a quick chat with Tasha, who is a busy mom of two, and while she wouldn’t give me the secret to how she makes such a moist cake, seeing as it’s an industry hazard. She did give me a  peek into some of the steps she took to make this baking beauty.

How did you make this glorious cake? Tasha: LOL! I started with our  lovely chocolate cake recipe, baked three layers in a heart-shaped pan.  I made a chocolate and Nutella buttecream and garnished it with crushed hazelnut candies on the edge.

It was epic, thank you! Is this a popular cake for Hers Bakery?  I made it for the first time a few months ago for a wedding and it was delicious! I was hoping I could make it again soon.

So do you think chocolate and hazelnuts are good for heartbreak? Anything with chocolate is good! Add nuts and it is even better, you can’t mess with a good chocolate and hazelnut cake, it can handle anything!

Thanks to Tasha and to everyone at Hers Bakery for making this beautiful cake!  And thanks to MomsLA.com and all the amazing bloggers who came out for lunch for some book talk + cake!

RECREATE THIS CAKE: Recipe from Kitchen Daily.

What’s Cooking in my Kitchen!

I moved the last month. New place, New year, New stuff. You know how it goes.

Which also  means I am distracted with home decor, organizing and weekly trips to Home Goods, Cost Plus and the local Vintage Mart, so much so  I am delayed in “real work” stuff! (apologies to my editor in advance!)

I don’t know about you, but moving can be hard.

Especially when it changes everything about your world. I moved 9 miles away from my old place, but it feels like a 100 miles away. I have to shop at a new supermarket, find a dry cleaners, discover new running routes, new doughnut shop, coffee spots and parks for me and my son to head out to over the weekend.

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Yeah, moving can make you frazzled, because it’s not just new digs. It feels like a whole new chapter in your life, which can be scary and exciting.

This is why I know I am nesting with all the decorating, baking and cooking I’ve been doing. Moving has thrown me off my routine, which can often be a good thing, but also can make you feel lost. For a while, anyway.  Last night, after tucking in my little guy, I popped some popcorn, watched a few episodes of  Breaking Bad, Season 3 (love you Jesse!) and looked around at my new place that will hopefully soon feel like home.

I’m always on the hunt for great new recipes, so go ahead and  take a look at my Pinterest page and see What’s Cooking in my Kitchen!

Up next in my kitchen:  Cheesecake in A Jar recipe from Thistlewood Farm. Gorgeous!

 

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Reading Really IS Sexy

Last month, in the middle of the holidays, my lovely friend Jennifer Standley asked  for a copy of HEARTBREAK CAKE for a photo shoot she was doing for her awesome lingerie line Georgia J Intimates. If you are looking for sexy, comfortable, girly,  romantic and stylish lingerie, this is it!

It’s made in LA and by a woman who understand that girls like to be comfortable and sexy.   Her new Valentine’s 2014 line is adorable  https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/Georgia-J-Intimates/356075281163554.

I gotta say, I’m  thrilled that her model is taking a reading break with a copy of my book.  :)

 

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Cupcakes, Ex-Boyfriends & Zoey Everwood

 EDITORWe are chatting with Zoey Everwood, the heroine from Cat Lavoie’s second novel ZOEY & THE MOMENT OF ZEN who shared  what she’s eating, writing and loving these days.  

Thanks for stopping by Zoey! (Please send a hello to Cat for us!) 

 

EATING  Cupcakes! Is there anything better? I’m not much of a cook, but there’s nothing I love more than trying a new cupcake recipe. My absolute favorite part is the frosting—I could eat an entire tub of vanilla-almond buttercream. When I’m not overdosing on sugar, I love the fresh spring rolls from this little Vietnamese restaurant close to my coffee shop. My boyfriend and I (ummm… ex-boyfriend, I’m still not used to calling him that) used to go there all the time. They have the most amazing noodle soups. And now I’m hungry again!

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READING My friend Owen is an English Literature student so he’s always telling me about the books he has to read for his classes. When he found out I hadn’t read Pride & Prejudice, he ran out and bought me a copy… and a pile of other novels he thought I should read. I don’t think I have enough of a lifetime to get through them all. Right now I’m taking a break from fiction and reading business books because I want to expand the coffee shop soon. Maybe. If I can get my aunt Nessa to agree with my plans.

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LOVING Is it bad if I say I love my coffee shop? Despite all the stress that comes with owning and managing a business, Everwood’s Coffee Shop feels more like home than my own apartment. One of my first memories is sitting behind the counter and watching my parents work. They died when I was five years old but I always feel like a little part of them is still alive when I’m in the shop. And, of course, we have the best coffee in Messina, Connecticut. You should drop by the next time you’re in town!

 

catlavoiecat_lavoid.jpegCat Lavoie was born in the small town of Jonquière in Québec, Canada. At the age of nineteen, she packed up her things (mostly books) and moved to the big city of Montreal where she currently lives with her tempestuous cat Abbie–who is both adorable and quite possibly evil.

An incurable Anglophile since her university days where she studied English Literature, she can often be found daydreaming about her next trip to London. Since she’s an expert at the art of procrastination, Cat is easily distracted by cooking and home improvement shows–even though she’s not particularly good at either.

Cat grew up watching soap operas and legal dramas and–had she not decided to be a claims analyst by day and write chick lit by night–she would have probably become a designer suit-wearing lawyer. Or a character on All My Children (which is what she really wanted to be when she was twelve).

Cat is not sure whether she’s a geek or a nerd–and is afraid she might be both.

Cat blogs about the writing life and posts adorable pictures of Abbie over at the Catenabi Chronicles. Come say hello at: www.CatLavoie.com and follow @Catenabi on Twitter.

Connect with Cat!

Website: http://www.CatLavoie.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Catenabi

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CatLavoieAuthor

A Cookbook for Chick Lit Lovers! Cookies not included ….

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EDITOR:  I have an expansive cookbook collection, everything from Cooking with Bacon to Desserts in a Jar can be found in my kitchen. Recently, I added The Chick Lit Cookbook by new author Alicia de los Reyes, who has taken her experience as a writing teacher, journalist and Chick Lit addict to create this easy-to-follow guide with tables, graphs, writing prompts and some recipes for the perfect Chick Lit.

Seemed like an interesting addition to my cookbook collection!

Alicia joined me recently to share what she’s Eating, Writing & Loving!

 

EATING I am (wishing I were) eating molasses ginger gems from Not Martha! The recipe is super easy–no rolling or cookie-pressing or decorating–and the cookies are so festive. I make them even when it’s not Christmastime. I am also eating too many cupcakes from Cupcake Royale, my all-time favorite cupcake shop in Seattle (so far…). I’ve always preferred homemade cupcakes but Cupcake Royale’s are amazing–dense, sweet, and never dry!!

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WRITING I am so excited to see my first ebook, The Chick Lit Cookbook: A Guide to Writing Your Novel in 30 Minutes a Day, in “print” online. I love reading chick lit and I love writing, and this guide was so much fun to put on paper. I wrote it while I was between jobs and getting ready to move across the country. Every morning, I got up and indulged myself in writing a few pages of this guide. It was such a nice break from the other newspaper writing and projects I was working on.

And of course, it’s totally gratifying reading your words once they’ve been all polished up and edited. My editor (and best friend), Kelly Rizzetta of KMR Publishing, did an awesome job. I’m looking forward to reading what my readers come up with–new chick lit heroines, fun plot lines, new settings!

seattle

LOVING I’m loving my new city, Seattle! My husband Andrew and I moved out here in July and we are having fun exploring the city’s many neighborhoods, delicious restaurants, and amazing parks (the other day I saw a seal while I was out running!). I’m also loving my black cat, Mitzi, who we adopted over the summer. She’s really into hunting pretend birds. I haven’t had a pet since I brought “Wormy” the worm to preschool (where he won an award for shyest pet), and now all I do is babble in my “cat voice” to her.

The Chick Lit Cookbook at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/374647

The Chick Lit Cookbook at Amazon: http://amzn.to/19mtd0h

Book website: chicklitcookbook.tumblr.com

On Twitter: @likesoatmeal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlicia de los Reyes drew on ten years of chick lit addiction to compose The Chick Lit Cookbook: A Guide to Writing Your Novel in 30 Minutes a Day. Originally from Fair Haven, N.J., Alicia is now freelance writer and teacher in Seattle where she lives with her husband, Andrew Quinton, and their cat, Mitzi. Follow her on Twitter @likesoatmeal

EAT~WRITE~LOVE with KATE HILTON

I stumbled upon a blurb about Kate Hilton’s new book The Hole in the Middle and instantly realized that this was going on to my reading list for 2014! Sounds like such a great read about balancing work, love & life.

I chatted with Kate about what she’s Eating,Writing and Loving these days!

the hole in the middleEATING: I live in Toronto, and at this time of the year, winter has settled in for a nice, long stay. Consequently, after a couple of seasons of neglect, I’m rekindling my relationship with my braising pot. A few years ago, a friend gave me Molly Stevens’ incredible cookbook, All About Braising. Among other exceptional recipes, there is a recipe in here for red-wine braised short ribs with rosemary and porcini mushrooms. This recipe may just be the reason that I’m still married after 13 years. It’s that good.

WRITING/READING: My first book, The Hole in the Middle, came out so quickly that I really haven’t started my second book yet. When I wroteThe Hole in the Middle, I could only work on it for three hours every Sunday, squeezing it into a busy life that included full-time work and parenting two boys. I’m hoping to write the next book under more relaxed circumstances. At the moment, my writing time is taken up with promotional pieces (like this blog), but there’s an upside: I don’t read nearly as much when I’m writing intensely. Right now, I’m going through several books a week, which is an absolute joy. I just finished Mad About The Boy, which despite the bad press I absolutely loved. There are few comic writers as gifted as Helen Fielding. I revere her.

LOVING: I’m loving my home office. This month I’m transitioning to a consulting business after many years of working for a large university. I have a beautiful, tranquil office in my house, which is where I wrote The Hole in the Middle. Since I live in a house full of boys, I treasure having a little space that belongs only to me (no ninjas or light sabers allowed). Perhaps that’s why I chose hot pink for the back wall.

 

hiltonbio

 

 Author Bio:

Kate Hilton has worked in law, higher education, public relations, fundraising and publishing.  She has an English degree from McGill University and a law degree from the University of Toronto.  She holds down a day job, volunteers for community organizations, raises two boys, cooks, collects art, reads voraciously and likes her husband.  In her free time, she writes. On good days, she thinks she might have it all.  On bad days, she wants a nap.

 

The Hole in the Middle is Kate’s first book.  Kate is represented by Beverley Slopen of the Beverley Slopen Literary Agency in Toronto.

Connect with Kate!

Website: www.katehilton.com

Blog: www.katehilton.com

Goodreads author page:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4342012.Kate_Hilton

Whelan is the epitome of the modern superwoman. When she operates at peak performance, she can cajole balky employees, soothehercranky children, troubleshoot career disasters, throw a dinner party for ten and draft an upbeat Christmas letter — all in the same day.

But as Sophie’s fortieth birthday looms, her seamless life reveals disturbing web-like fractures. Conflict with her boss, blossoming jealousy of her husband’s femme fatale business partner and her feelings of hopeless inadequacy as a mother and daughter are cracking the edifice of her life.

Rescue may be at hand when Lillian Parker, a wealthy widow who befriended Sophie during her university days, makes Sophie an irresistible offer. Why, then, does Sophie hesitate? The answer is the reappearance of Lillian’s nephew, Will Shannon, the great unresolved love of Sophie’s life. As she remembers the vivid drama of their college romance, Sophie confronts the choices she has made in life and in love and looks for the one answer that has always eluded her: what does she really want?

 The Hole in the Middle is a heartbreaking love story, a laugh-out loud portrayal of the twin demands of work and family and a fresh take on the hot debate about having it all

 

They’ve Arrived!

I love my Kindle.

I was resistant at first, swearing that I could never give up the feel of a paperback in my hands. You see I was a newspaper woman, someone who still loved to read the news and hear the crinkle of paper as I turned the page. I would never switch! Ever.

Welllll, I got a Kindle for Christmas from my dad a few years ago and I was smitten. I mean, here was a portable, electric book that carried all my books and made it impossibly easy to buy any book I wanted, when I wanted it.  Instant gratification was one-click-away and it’s a beautiful  (and dangerous) thing for the shopaholic book nerd.

But boy is there something about a paperback that just makes you feel that special, warm and fuzzy feeling inside! I just picked up a box of books from my publisher Simon & Fig and I am thrilled to finally hold HEARTBREAK CAKE in my hands.

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If you live in the Los Angeles and Orange County area, paperbacks will be available at a location near you. I will be adding a Where to Buy tab in the next week, so please stay tuned.

Don’t forget, I have bookmarks that I’d be happy to send if you email me me at paprgrrl@gmail.com. Thanks! Happy Saturday!

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HAVE YOURSELF A CHICKLIT CHRISTMAS … GIVEAWAY!

Christmasgiveaway

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Someone already gave me the finger at the supermarket, my inbox is crammed with Black Friday specials and I just ate lunch while listening to Michael Buble sing “Silent Night.” Alas! The holidays are here!

So, before I sit down to  a slice of leftover pumpkin pie, I wanted to let everyone know that I am part of the Chick Lit Christmas Giveaway 2013 that includes 29 books from authors all over the globe! 29 new authors to discover, 29 paperbacks to add to your collection and 29 different ways to escape for a few hours into the fun and frolic of a good book!

All you have to do is sign up  and wait for our big announcement on Christmas Eve. It’s that easy! Now if only holiday shopping was …

Happy (Chick Lit) Holidays everyone!

And to all my new readers, thank you for visiting my blog! please email me with any questions paprgrrl@gmail.com

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Christmas at Mulberry Inn

With all the excitement over Heartbreak Cake, I haven’t had a chance to talk about the release of the holiday anthology Merry & Bright  that I am also lucky to be a part of this season.

I wrote a short story called “Christmas at Mulberry Inn” that touches on Christmas, friendship, new beginnings, budding romance  and plenty of holiday pie!

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The anthology was put together and edited by publisher Simon & Fig and I’m joined with talented coauthors Isabella Louise Anderson, Laura Chapman, Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, and Nancy Scrofano.  Check it out for a cozy holiday romance that’s a great way to get into the season.

The setting for my short story is Murphys, a charming Gold Country town tucked away in the leafy Sierra Nevada Foothills. I got to discover this part of California when I lived in Stockton and spent a lot of my weekends heading out on day trips all over Calaveras County. I was lucky to have these small towns just an hour drive away from me.

Murphys is a historical gem. It’s beautiful, feels like you jumped into a Mark Twain story and has a  really eclectic food scene with interesting menus and innovative chefs that create a big city dining scene in a small town. Oh and did I mention the wineries? Yes, lots of cute spots for sipping on big reds.

It’s a great place to spend the holidays and an even better place to fall in love.  I hope you get a chance to discover it through Merry & Bright this holiday season.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Novel!

The week before I gave birth to my son,  I found myself worrying relentlessly about what would happen after he arrived.

Would I be a good mom?

Will I ever figure out how to swaddle?

How will I juggle being a mom and a career woman?

The truth is the minute I saw his smushy little face, all of those worries and questions just disappeared as we all began to make our way to our new lives as becoming a little family.

As I get closer to the publication date of my forthcoming novel HEARTBREAK CAKE, I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of starting to write a book and actually finishing it, going through edits and now coming up on finally having it published. It feels a lot like I’m giving birth to another baby, just this time it’s in e-book format!

 

 

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It was not easy trying to finish the book after my son was born.

I was a nervous new mom, but I was also still a writer. A writer who had made a commitment to meet a personal deadline and  even though I knew it would be a lot easier to  stop writing. I knew I couldn’t.  Truthfully a lot of things went ignored to keep going, mainly laundry, dishes, sleep and a lot of personal time. Any moments I wasn’t spending with my son or at work, I was writing. I would write in front of the television, write while he was napping, write when I was eating , write at work, write on my breaks and when my son’s father forced me to take ME TIME, I’d head to my favorite coffeehouse and just keep writing.

There’s a lot to writing a book, it ain’t over after THE END, which is what I discovered after I submitted it to my publisher.  The end is actually just the beginning.

But now that I’m a little over a week away from publication, I am so happy  I stuck to my guns and got it done.

My son just turned 2, he loves hot chocolate and Belgian Waffles. And I can finally say that HEARTBREAK CAKE is being officially released on November 15th.  It took a while from start to finish, but here we are.

Make sure to head over to my Facebook page to stay informed on any new updates and release information. I have lots to do with an upcoming book blog tour hosted by Fictionella and I’m  putting together a  Los Angeles book signing event at my sisters home decor shop Boho Upcycle.

Looking forward to show everyone my new baby!   It’s a novel!

If you have any questions on HEARTBREAK CAKE, feel free to email me at paprgrrl@gmail.com

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Musings

I was at the mall this morning with my son. It’s what one does when it’s 102 degrees outside but you have a two-year old who wants to play. You strap’em in and head out to the land of Auntie Anne Pretzels, ice-cold lemonade and Nordstrom’s! It’s a win for everyone.

Labor Day signals the end of summer, although technically it doesn’t actually end until September 22nd. But while I was out strolling at the mall, there’s no denying that the world is ready for the arrival for fall.

 I saw a lot of pumpkin in the window displays of stores this morning.  Pumpkin candles, pumpkin lotion, pumpkin onesies for babies and of course the true signal of the arrival of fall is Starbucks launch of its Pumpkin Spice Latte.

It’s happening people, fall is just a leaf peep away.

But wait a minute, wait a minute.  Before we say goodbye to summer, I wanted to just share some of the highlights from our summer.  We didn’t get to do a family vacation this year, because of work, but  hopefully next year I will be able to make it happen. But we did have a lot of fun in town.  There was lots of swimming, an overnight writer’s retreat in Ojai for yours truly, baking, cooking,  movie nights, popcorn noshing and beach days. I’m grateful for it all and look forward to the next few months that will inlcude the lauch of my book Heartbreak Cake. Hurray!  In the meantime, enjoy the last days of summer, it’s been a great one.

xo, Cindy Arora

Writer’s Retreat in Ojai 

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Baking

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 Beach time and family time!

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Holiday Hottie in August

It’s been Christmas in my world. I’ve been working on a short story for Simon And Fig and have been dreaming about pies, mistletoe and good-looking heroes who make my leading ladies get a little moony.

I don’t always use celebrities for inspiration, but admittedly  I have a bit of a crush on actor Mark Duplass and he has definitely been on my mind while I’ve been writing. I first spotted him as a sexy new age doctor on The Mindy Project and then watched him in the movie “Your Sister’s Sister’s.  And if you will allow me to be 14 for a moment, “he is soooo hot!’

 

Mark Duplass

 

Its like my Jason Batemen in  Silver Spoons crush all over again.  Swoooon!

Enjoy the eye candy and don’t forget to look for the Winter Anthology scheduled to release this holiday season, maybe you’ll be able to see some of my inspiration.  Also, stay tuned for more information on my forthcoming novel Heartbreak Cake and it’s release date.

 

2005 Sundance Film Festival - "The Puffy Chair" Portraits

Meet Book Mama: Marlene Roberts Engel

marleneOne of the best things about being in the Twitterverse is “e-meeting” great people who also love good books. Good Chick Lit books. This is how I met Marlene Roberts Engel  or A.K.A  BookMama:  a proud  and tough mama, a book reviewer and a Chick Lit/Women’s fiction champion.

I chatted with Marlene to find out what she’s eating, reading and loving these days.

EATING  CUPCAKES!!! I love, love, love cupcakes. I’m not eating any this second, but I had my fair share of them over the weekend. There is one bakery in particular that I love getting cupcakes at and it’s an Italian bakery in my town called Dolce & Biscotti.  Their strawberry cupcake is my all time fave! They also have a wide variety of Italian cookies as well. I’m guilty of buying a bunch of cookies and a cupcake and eating them all before I get home. I really think there should be a law against eating and driving. I don’t know if it’s the act itself or the combination of operating a vehicle and eating my favorite desserts that turn into a huge hazard. There really sh lovingould be a 12 step program when it comes to my love of cupcakes.

READING I’m currently reading The Lost Husband by Katherine Center. I’m only a few chapters in, but I am really enjoying it.  I do book reviews at both Chick Lit Central and at my blog, Book Mama. We have recently affiliated our blogs and are now “sister blogs”. Melissa Amster, who started Chick Lit Central, is the person who gave me my start at reviewing books on a blog. I have always had a passion for reading and books. No matter where I am, you will always find a book (and it has to be a print copy) in my purse.  I tend to choose which books to review based on the story. Authors/publishers will send a snippet from the book and  based on that information, I determine if I will review the book or not. I know how important reviews are to authors and the sale of books, so  I would NEVER write a negative review. If I feel I can’t do a book justice with my review, then I won’t post a review.

LOVING  Right now I’m loving seeing my daughter Bella grow and learn new things. She is three now. We adopted her when she was only two months old and she is just so much fun to spend time with, we’re always smiling and laughing at something.  I also have three grown boys who are all in college and had a special needs daughter who passed away almost seven years ago from Leukemia. Several months after she passed my husband and I decided to become foster parents and  we only took in special needs foster children, because it can be nearly impossible to place them and we wanted to give them the opportunity to know how it feels to be loved, be a part of a family and have a sense of normalcy. We fostered for a few years until we decided that we wanted a child who wouldn’t end up leaving. That’s when we pursued private adoption and went through the special needs department. Our daughter was placed in the special needs department of the agency due to her prematurity (since she was approximately four months premature). Thankfully she is a healthy little girl.

Thank you for asking me to be a part of your blog!!

book_mama  Check out Book Mama at http://bookmama2.blogspot.com/

 

RECIPE: Chai with My Cousin

chai tea

I have been hiding out a bit. Not tweeting with my tweeps. No Facebook with my Frookers. Sometimes life happens and you just have to take a deep breath and go underground for while.

So, I’ve been home,  watching Finding Nemo with my son and spending time with my family.

I’ve also started drinking chai with my cousin Rita every night.

Well, sort of.

The last time I saw her I was a little girl and we were in Bombay  on a family vacation staying at my Aunt Raj’s house and we had half a dozen cousins to play with and show us India through the eyes of children our own age. Needless to say, we did a lot of jumping on beds and drinking ice cold Coca Cola during  humid rain storms.

I have’t seen Rita or any of my  cousins in 30 years.  But we’ve reconnected thanks to the Internet and I couldn’t be more excited to have found a piece of my childhood.

She and I talk about cooking a lot and recently she sent me a wonderful chai recipe that she makes for herself and so I’ve taken to making it at night to help wind me down for bed. It’s a cozy recipe, something about the aromatic scent of cardamom, sweet creamy milk and sugar that comforts.

Sometimes, that’s just what you need … a little tea with a cousin to help get you through life’s many bumpy roads.

Chai Tea

1/2cup each of water

1/2 cup of milk ( I use half and half because I like it extra creamy)

2 teaspoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of tea powder (Taj Mahal or Brook Bond Red Label) *** You can also use English Breakfast or Darjeeling

Freshly crushed cardamom

Freshly crushed ginger

Dash of cinnamon

Directions

Boil, reduce to medium heat while stirring occasionally. Strain and serve.

 

 

JUST READ: FINDING LUCAS by Samantha Stroh Bailey

Finding_LucasEditors Note: I don’t do book reviews but I do like to chat with authors whose books I’ve just read and ask them what they are eating, writing and loving. So I’m happy to introduce Samantha Stroh Bailey who wrote the fun, sassy and lively FINDING LUCAS. It was such fast ride from the very first page! 

Thanks for taking the time Samantha!

EAT

I live in Toronto, and we don’t lack for incredible restaurants. But there is one very special place that I always return to and it’s called Southern Accent, in the heart of The Annex, one of Toronto’s coolest,  and most eclectic neighborhoods. The food is Cajun Creole Soul and the best drink I’ve ever had in my life is a jalapeno-infused Caesar that will burn your mouth and tickle your tongue until your taste buds explode with pleasure. Hush puppies, crab cakes and the most mouth-watering lamb are just a few of the delicious foods on their funky menu. The moment you step inside you’re transported to New Orleans. Mardi Gras masks and beads line the walls, and the dim lighting and background Zydeco music will have you whipping off your top in no time.

WRITE (Reading ..)

I just finished Sophie’s Turn by the fabulous Nicky Wells. As an author, I am so lucky to meet and get to know incredible writers, and I fell in love with Nicky’s funny, fast paced, addictive voice. She’s a soul sister, for sure. I can’t wait to read Sophie’s Run, out now, and Sophie’s Encore, being released in September. I’m writing my second novel, Everything But, contemporary women’s fiction, about a woman who risks her marriage and closest friendship to have the baby she never thought she wanted. It is a story that I hope will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to have a child.

LOVE

I’ve been writing for thirty years and in 2011, I opened my freelance writing/editing company, Perfect Pen Communications . I finally got to live my dreams of writing/editing fulltime, becoming a journalist and in 2012, I published Finding Lucas. I couldn’t believe that what I have wanted my entire life was happening. I never expected my debut novel to be read by people all over the world, and I certainly never thought I’d be getting tweets and emails from strangers telling me they loved my book. It is mind-boggling and the best feeling ever. I also never knew how warm, kind and supportive the author and blogger community is and I’m so grateful. I have always been scared of social media, but once I published Finding Lucas, I had to put myself out there in a big way and the rewards have been tremendous. So, what I’m loving right now is my life and the rare opportunity to live my every dream.

Thanks so much, Cindy, for inviting me to your blog. I’m so excited to read HEARTBREAK CAKE!

 

samheadshotauthorcentral Connect with Samantha!
 Twitter: @perfectpen
 Buy links:

Writing While Driving

 I’ve discovered that writing doesn’t just happen when seated in front of my computer.

It happens when I’m washing dishes, folding laundry, putting almond butter on toast or best of all … when I’m driving. This weekend, I spent a lot  time heading out to parks, museums and the beach with my son in tow and music on the radio. Both of us enjoying the drive, me with my coffee and he with his sippy cup of water.

 I found myself mulling over ideas on my Work-In-Progess and had some great ideas pop up all while I was driving  to my different destinations.

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Writing is a journey and the simmering part can be just as important part as the writing itself.  Sometimes it’s during the simmering that characters freely chatter, make funny quips and lead me toward their path in the story.  I find myself laughing or even talking out loud (yes, i look nuts)  while I work through a scene and it moves my story along or even in a new direction. .

It’s always an experience. And this was a good weekend for simmering, lots of creative ideas cooking in my mind that I am excited to get to this week!

What about you? What’s your process?

Let’s Eat ~Write~Love with Taste of Home Editor Emily Betz Tyra

Backstory: I met Emily when I moved to Wisconsin to work as a food writer for a spice company. She and I became fast friends and bonded over our love of food writing, champagne for breakfast and cooking up beautiful meals, which Emily does with complete ease.  She is now Senior Editor at Taste of Home magazine and  is here to help me kick off summer with brunch talk. 

Welcome Emily!

 

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EAT It’s so close to summer I can taste it! I love making this blueberry coffee cake  for friends. Your house smells like blueberry heaven. All of Taste of Home’s recipes come from our readers, and this one from Lori Snedden in Sherman, Texas, is very similar to something my mom baked when we were growing up that we called Huckle Buckle. It’s old-fashioned, not too sweet. I add even more blueberries to the batter and always put cinnamon in the streusel topping. Make peppered bacon to go with it—I do mine on a cookie sheet in the oven. Recipe here.  If you haven’t tried it, you will not believe how easy it is. And no splatters on your cute apron!

 

WRITE (READ) South of Superior by Ellen Airgood. The protagonist, Madeline, leaves behind her job and boyfriend in Chicago and moves 500 miles north to a coastal village on Lake Superior to take care of a family friend. It’s tender and quirky. I’m rooting for Madeline to find someone to love, even in a very small, remote beach town. I met the author, Ellen, when I was doing a travel story about Grand Marais, Michigan, which is a real-life far-flung beach town way up in northern Michigan. She runs a diner with her husband during the day and writes at night. The morning I met her, a bear had broken in the back kitchen door and devoured all the homemade hamburger buns she had on the baking rack. She even showed me the greasy bear paw print on the back door. Just a part of living up north!

LOVE (ing)
Our front porch is back in business after the long Wisconsin winter, wahoo. My house is tiny, so the extra room on the porch means now I Girls_ontheporchcan have more people over for big-laugh brunches, or just a glass of something cold. We like to say hi to the dogs and their people trotting by and count the neighbors making a bratwurst run to the meat market on the corner. Backyards are awesome, and so is privacy, but I am discovering the front porch is the better place to watch the world and feel like a part of it. Makes me happy.

SUMMER EDITION

Do check out the new summer edition of Taste of Home magazine. It’s our June/July America the Tasty issue with the best homemade regional dishes from coast to coast. We talked to military spouses about the one food that they can’t wait to have—or to make for the person they love—when returning from deployment. After the kissing is out of the way, of course. Also there is a crazy-good Bloody Mary recipe in there with garnish ideas from all over the country. And my personal favorite, a milkshake from every state. It’s on newsstands June 11.

 

 emily

Emily Betz Tyra is originally a Michigan girl  from Traverse City, she grew up on a  cherry orchard and slept in a haunted lighthouse all in the name of journalism. These days she cooks, writes and edits in Milwaukee, where she’s a senior editor at Taste of Home magazine. She and her husband Andy can’t wait to camp this summer.

REVEAL:Heartbreak Cake Cover and Blurb

It’s hard to imagine that I’m even able to blog about this, because it all just seemed like a dream I had years ago that one day I would write a book. And after several years of spurts and stops, different plotlines, lots of wine, lots of chocolate and lots of long walks I am thrilled to announce that my publisher Simon & Fig has just released the cover and blurb for Heartbreak Cake.

I really love it and I hope you do too! I’ll make sure to write more as we get closer on the inspiration behind the cover but today, let’s just soak in the beauty of this cover and blurb!

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Heartbreak Cake
By
Cindy Arora

Business is sweet for pastry chef Indira Aguilar. Her indie bakery, Cake Pan, is fast becoming the talk of the wedding circuit for its unique take on cakes and homespun creations for the modern bride, garnering national recognition and drawing in celebrity clients. But while her professional life is blossoming, her personal life is crumbling.

Indira may have a talent for blending buttercream into bliss, but when it comes to relationships, she’s got a lot to learn. Considering that the love of her life, Josh Oliver is not only married, but also runs the award-winning pastry department of her fiercest competition, Crystal Cove Resort, Indira puts much more at stake than just her heart when she ends her affair with him.

Rumors begin to fly as the small seaside community of Long Beach learns of her secret relationship, and Indira must defend not only her actions, but her wedding business and her reputation while trying to maneuver the choppy heartbreak waters of starting over, finding new love, and facing her past. With the support of friends, family, a fondness for butter, and a determined spirit, Indira may just bake her way back to happiness and possibly into the heart of Crystal Cove’s dishy new chef, Noah. But one thing is certain. Where there’s heartbreak, there must be cake.

SPOTLIGHT: Chick Lit Author Libby Mercer and Her Love of Coca Cola Cake

Editor Note:  We kick off our new SPOTLIGHT feature with Chick Lit author Libby Mercer who recently released Karmic Connection. She shares her  favorite childhood memory,why she thinks opposites attract and her writing inspiration.

To learn more about Libby Mercer, check her out:  http://libby-mercer.blogspot.com/

Thanks Libby for sharing!

libby_,,mercerEAT What’s your favorite childhood food memory?

I actually have loads of memorable times as a child that revolves around food. Is that weird?  One that really stands out is when I was probably about eight or nine years old, eating Coca-Cola Cake at my grandmother’s house. I know how that sounds but it was to-die-for delicious. Really. My grandmother was such an incredible cook. Her Coca-Cola cake was favorite, the cake part is rich and dense, the icing even better – tastes like fudge. So I would always eat the cake part first and save the icing for last. On one such occasion, I’d just finished the cake and was about to dig into the icing when my grandfather directed my attention elsewhere so he could swipe my icing. He was always a prankster.  I think this food memory sticks out in my mind because it’s not only my grandmother’s amazing recipe but also my grandfather’s goofy side.

Write Where do you get your writing inspiration?

Where don’t I get my writing inspiration? Everywhere. From the people I know well to the people I just met. From random situations that just happen to situations I remember from years ago in the past. To give you one random story idea from one random source, when I was nineteen, got a cat I called Priscilla. She was with me all through my twenties and most of my thirties until she sadly passed away last year. I am determined to write a story starring Miss Priscilla – in human form. She had such a distinctive personality, and I want to immortalize her in this way, but I’m not quite sure how to go about it. It’s on the back burner for now.

LOVE What’s your thought on opposites attract?

Oh, I think it absolutely works. I believe that opposites make the best pairs, both in fiction and in real life, with these opposing personalities balancing each other out beautifully. Of all the couples and relationships I’ve known, it’s the ones with the most distinctively differing qualities that have seemed the most solid. Or at least that’s what I’ve observed.

The Book

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  How different  are your two main characters Lorraine and Adam?

Well… without getting too spoiler-y, they’re not as different as you might think! On the surface, though, and certainly at the beginning of the novel, they’re polar opposites. Adam is a hopeless workaholic with chronic tunnel vision. He doesn’t care about anything but his career, and he’s livid about being forced not to work. And he’s not the most gracious of people. Riddled with attitude, he’s negative and sarcastic. Lorraine, on the other hand, enjoys the slow-paced life she’s carved out for herself, spending time helping others along the road to wellness. She’s gentle and caring, but she’s also rather tightly wound and rather tense since Adam arrived on the scene.

Describe a yogi breakfast main character Lorraine Jameson would have?

Naturally (pun intended) Lorraine is into health food, and a lot of what she eats is grown right on the Wellness Center’s property. They have an amazing garden. I really enjoyed visualizing it when I was writing some of the scenes. So I think an average breakfast would be a generous portion of fruit grown on the land and a bowl of granola, perhaps with some organic maple syrup from a nearby farm drizzled on top. Lorraine would have a cup of tea to go along with it, and the type of tea would depend on what she felt she needed help with that day – if she’s feeling stressed, she’d go for a relaxing, calming tea. If she’s feeling tired, she’d go for a tea that would infuse her with energy.

Thank you so much for having me here today, Cindy! I’ve really enjoyed these questions!!

 

The Plucky World of Chick Lit

Hi, my name is Cindy and I’m a Chick Lit enthusiast.

Whew. I said it.

There was a time when loving this genre was my deep dark literary secret.  I hid my brightly colored  books with illustrations of high heels and martinis underneath my collection of high-brow  New York Times best sellers and hoped to God my “bookish” friends wouldn’t discover my secret stash of beach reads.  But  late at night, when no one was looking , I’d pop popcorn, curl up in bed and pull out of my  books from Harlequin’s new line of fashionable fiction they coined Red Dress Ink (yes, I’m dating myself that was in 2001.)

melissa.senateI  felt at home while reading these books, laughing and loving along with authors like Melissa SenateCathy Yardley, Wendy Markham and  who created worlds where I could escape and have fun, but also where I felt understood. I  felt a kinship with the strong heroines who were sassy and sarcastic and who often found it necessary (and helpful) to stop in the middle of their emotional crisis to eat chocolate cake or crack a joke.

It made perfect sense to me.

I’ve never understood  the controversy with Chick Lit as a genre. Not every book has to have the same tone to still carry a positive and important message. Chick Lit tackles female issues, professional careers, balancing life and love, female friendships, family issues, motherhood  and getting out of your own way to find your true self. Nothing fluffy or mindless about any of that.  Yet, somehow because of its lighthearted tone and humor, it’s the one genre that seems to have to defend its very existence.

Doesn’t make sense, but I’m happy to see Chick Lit continue to persevere and thrive much like the plucky heroines do in the very same novels.  And for those who say Chick Lit is dead, come take a look at my Kindle that is overflowing with amazing reads from writers all over the world!

If you love to read chicklit make sure to check out the International Chick Lit Month blog, where you can read posts and Q&A’s from Chick Lit writers all over the globe.

 

 

 

 

Pin IT for Inspiration

I’m packing up my iPhone, laptop, case of Pinot Noir and chocolate and heading back to my writing cave. It’s revision time!

I have to admit, I’m  excited to spend time with my characters, I really missed my writing world.

While working on the first draft of  Heartbreak Cake I didn’t have a writing program. No outline. No index card system. No excel spreadsheet breakdown, no nothing.  I came at it like a reporter, I would jot notes down , research and then sit down and write.

The process was: Write. Edit. Snack. Write. Edit. Write. Edit. Delete. Write. Edit. Snack. Delete.

I am not sure I would do it this way again. Although, I will always snack in my writing process. I think when you are working with a lot of different characters, each one with different details, habits and nuances it’s important to organize things a bit more than my normal style of “a wing and a prayer.”

Lessons learned for sure.

One surprising writing tool I discovered was Pinterest. A board I often used to find cool hairstyle tips and funky manicure ideas.  I found myself searching for photos for inspiration and was often directed back to Pinterst where I could research millions of photos all with the click of my mouse. It turned out to be a great writing gem for me.

I created a board and would log in daily to look for new photos and I would visually create the world that lived inside my head and I pieced it together onto a Pinterest Board where I could see it come alive.

Check it out here: http://pinterest.com/cindyarora/ideas-for-heartbreak-cake/

Seeing everything in colored photos was helpful in creating layered characters as well as sketching details. It’s especially helpful if you are a writer who works late at night. You can’t always do in-person research at midnight.

Writing is such a journey of what works and what doesn’t and having a “vision board” is really helpful when creating third dimensional characters. It helps to be able to see things, it pulls you back to your story and reminds you where you are going. This is definitly going to be one of my favorite writing tools when I start working on Book #2.

Would love to hear what other writing tools people use for inspiration!

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Inspire_heartbreak

The Art of the Muffin

Cute_Blueberry_Muffin_by_DragonRose123I love reading cookbooks late at night ohhing and ahhing over pictures of multi-layered cakes covered  in homespun buttercream frosting and colorful sprinkles. It’s pastry porn and I love it.

50 Shades of Cake Batter, right up in here.

I have hundreds of saved recipes for  cakepops, confetti cakes, lattice pies and berry tarts that I daydream of  making when I magically have time to spend in the kitchen.

Which is never, really.

I have a little boy. A full-time job, I write at night and I do try to have a semi-social life (read: cocktails)

My  big baking days are on hiatus at the moment.

The good news is I’ve become quite the Little Miss Muffin maker.

Much like the cupcake, the muffin is not only cute but it’s also convenient.  Grab. Go. Eat.

You get a compact bite of goodness and if you throw in the right ingredients, you can make them relatively healthy.  I’ve added everything from oatmeal, berries, carrots and zucchini.

Recently I decided to make classic banana muffins from a recipe I found in  Joy of Cooking, I added raisins instead of walnuts and while scavenging  through my cupboard I hit culinary gold and found  dark chocolate. And immediately thought “YES.”

I added just a bit of chocolate …  Come on, Don’t look  at me at that way.

I love this  breakfast muffin, it has antioxidant rich dark chocolate, potassium rich bananas and pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg. You can add walnuts if that’s your thing too and get a boost of protein and vitamin E.

It’s nearly a chocolate supermuffin.

I caught my 18 month old son trying to shove the whole muffin in his mouth, including the wrapper,  so I’m going to assume he loved it too.

Check out the recipe:

Dark Chocolate Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons of baking power

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

Stir in:

1 cup of raisins

2/3 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup of dark chocolate mini chips

Whisk together in a large bowl:

1 large egg

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/3 cups mashed banana (2 to 3)

1/3 cup of vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Add the flour mixture and fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix, the batter should not be smooth.Bake until a toothpick inserted in 1 or 2 of the muffin cups comes out clean. 14 to 16 minutes.

 

*Adapted from Joy of Cooking

 

Not Quite a Mommy Blog

Grey 4 14 12_Sierra Madre

In my previous life – 30-something-ish years B.G (Before Greyson) I had mastered the art of living well.

As a food journalist, I was often out with friends or publicists trying out the new hotspots in town.  A pizette with a glass of wine at a new Italian restaurant, testing out strawberry handpies, drinking my way through cantina’s in search of the best margarita in Los Angeles and  lingering Sunday brunches with banana walnut waffles and heaps of whip cream.

It was a tough life I tell ya. A tough, tough, life.

But becoming a mom changed everything. Or a lot of me really. And while I’m not about to become a mommyblogger, because I have no  idea what I am doing enough to write about it! My  life has undisputedly changed and I’ve had to restructure my life and writing life to follow suit.

This is my updated website, a medley of everything that makes up my current  life: my little family, food writing, learning to be a great mom, baking, books, and my foray in chicklit writing. The  debut of my first novel  HEARTBREAK CAKE is  slated to come out in Summer 2013 and I’m cherry-on-top excited!

And while I’m not planning on writing about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, I can  promise I am not above shamelessly pimping my adorable son. I just can’t help myself and that is one of the surprises of motherhood.

Suddenly those “My kid is an honor student at Eagle Rock Elementary School” bumper stickers don’t seem so dorky anymore. Although  mom jeans still do, thank heavens for that.

Stay tuned.

Cindy Arora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fa La La!

 

I made my first pumpkin pie of the season on Monday.

This to me is the proverbial  gun shot of the beginning of the holiday season.

BANG! It’s on.

And I am excited! I’m 100 percent a holiday person, which usually means I annoy some people. I “tis the season”, I like to “fa la la” quite a bit! It’s just such a fun time of the year, if you can remove yourself from all of the shopping and high expectation that also come from the season, then you can really whoop it up.

Last year I wrote a short story for The Chicklit Bee called “Love and Christmas Cookies.”  I had so much fun writing about baking, romance and Christmas. The backdrop and neighborhood in my short story is Naples, CA , a subcity of Long Beach, that has an annual Naples Christmas Boat Parade. The parade is really  beautiful and magical and combines the beauty of the season with the backdrop of California. It’s such a great place to fall in love, if that’s what’s on the agenda.

Right now, I’m busy finishing up the last chapters of Heartbreak Cake and I’m also putting together my top 5 baked goodies that I want to bake this holiday season. Nothing gets me al fired up and inspired to write then a good cup of coffee and an awesome slice of sweet heaven. Here’s to finishing up the book and baking up a storm with my favorite little guy.

Here’s my list of must-bakes. What about you?

1. Eggnog Muffins

2. Brown Sugar Shortbreads: A Holiday Favorite of Mine

3. Chocolate Cake: A Holiday Birthday Cake idea

4. Pumpkin Poke Cake:  Revising with a cream cheese frosting.

5. Sugar Cookies: Christmas Cut outs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apples, Apples and Apples!

I’ve been a terrible blogger. Mainly because I’m swapped with work. From my “jobby-job” to being a mom, a friend, a sister and a writer.

There’s not enough hours in the day to wear all of my hats, but I am trying.

These days I spend a ton of time in my kitchen, it’s still ridiculously hot in Los Angeles so I am envious of everyone who is roasting and baking up a storm already. I am still grilling and making salads for dinner, because guess what? When you live  in a 100-year-old house without air-conditioning turning on your stove is the furthest thing from your mind. I pretty much have lived in shorts and a tank top for the last three months but dream of riding boots and sweater weather.

In the meantime, I prepare for my son’s 1st birthday coming up in two weeks! I am trying not to go nuts, because he’s 1 and won’t remember. But we must celebrate, because he’s 1!!! We effing made it.

 At the moment, I’m focused on apples. It’s harvest time and apples are filling up the produce aisles and replacing peaches and summer berries. We are going with a fall harvest  theme for Grey’s birthday and so I am in the middle of coming up with a caramel apple dipping station. I basically want to create a place where people make their own caramel apple that they can take home with them. Their party treat, essentially.

My mother raised her eyebrows at this idea,  I think she wonders what’s so fun about guests making their own food. But hey, I don’t think she’s done Korean BBQ, am I right??? That’s fun stuff.

Apples I would have to say land very low on my favorite fruit list. Nothing against them, they just seemed a little … meh.

But at my day job,  I’ve been working with a farm in Oregon , who grows heirloom apples and lemme tell you that my perception on the apple has undeniably changed.

Who knew that apples had history and sex appeal! It’s true, so true!

I have a new respect for the apple and have been happily munching away on Honey Crisps, Cortland Apples and even  had the pretty Pink Pearl that is a shade of rose inside. Love it! I almost don’t miss my summer fruits. Almost.

I have a few ideas for a caramel apple station, getting some of the smaller Granny Smith apples, their tart taste will balance the sweet of caramel.  For toppings, I’m thinking nuts, chocolate (duh!), dried fruit, white chocolate, cinnamon sugar, red hots, shaved coconut, pumpkin pie and apple pie spice, trail mix and maybe I should get candied bacon? What do you think? Any ideas?

I always knew that one of the fun things about becoming a parent would be rediscovering my inner kid. And putting together a birthday party with popcorn balls,caramel apples and a pinata is making me feel about 8-years-old again!

 

 

 

Writer’s Muck

I am trying not to call what I am currently experiencing … writer’s block.  Once you say that  out loud, it becomes real ya know. I read The Secret.

But I’ve been stuck.  Stuck in the muck of a character’s transition and I am having trouble getting out of it.

I lost my muse and I can’t seem to find her, so instead I’m eating candy. Lots and lots of candy, chocolate and stone fruits. But I’m worried. Worried that I’ll be stuck without feeling inspired for a while.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve  started a new job that has changed my work hours and moved me from part-time to full-time hours.  This is taking a toll on my energy and my writing.

The reality is that I have to work a day job, because I am not independently wealthy and neither is my partner. We gotta work to pay the bills.  In my life before Baby G, I would work my day job and then come home and write late into the night. But now  I am a mom. A mom who hasn’t slept through the night in 9 months.

My person is a culmination of all my different roles in life: A woman, a lover (an occasional fighter) a mother and a writer.

I haven’t gone more than a few days without writing since I was about 10 years old. And now life and all of its responsibilities are making me prioritize, and writing is being pushed aside a bit.

I figure things will balance out once again, i just have to keep my eye on the prize. Squeeze writing in whenever I can, an hour everyday and a bigger chunk of time on the weekends.

In the meantime, as I wait for my tired muse to come back to me, I read a great article on http://www.chicklitbee.com/2012/06/5-ways-to-find-your-writing-mojo.html that just happen to come out  last week, written by author Malena Lott.

It gave me some ideas on how to get past my current lack of writing mojo. I also asked a few writer friends of mine what they do when they find themselves staring at a blank screen or not feeling as inspired.

Here were some of the tips I got:

1.  Lucie Simone  Do something physical like going for a walk to get the blood pumping to your brain. Take deep breaths. And try meditating. It may not happen immediately, but you will find the answer. You can also try working on other story-related activities like creating a scrapbook or doing character interviews. Or, just read a book, watch a movie. Let your brain relax and play for a while. The worst thing to do is to try to force your way thru it. Get some breathing room between it and you and then return to it when you’re reenergized

2. Laura Sheehan When I do get stuck, however, I like to go back and edit what I’ve written.  Not only is it a good use of time if you aren’t feeling your muse, but it sometimes helps get your head back in the story. You’ll be spell-checking a paragraph and you’ll read something your character said and – WHAM! – you now have a great idea for how to start the next chapter.

Some people suggest skipping to a different part of your story (e.g., the end) when you get stuck somewhere in the middle, but I am such a linear writer, I just can’t do that.  As a pantser, I’m not always sure where the end will be for my characters, so skipping to the end is simply out of the question… but for some of my writer friends, this works wonderfully for them.  Then they just have to connect everything in the middle (like Stephanie Meyer, who wrote the last half of Twilight first, and then went back to the beginning and connected things up).

If all else fails: I step away.  If I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen for more than half an hour, I step back. I’ll discuss it with my husband or mother (a fellow writer), read a book, go for a walk, take a dance class… anything to get me out of my head and hopefully get the juices flowing again.

3. Christina Pazsitsky: Comedienne.  I get out of the house. Go get my nails did. Go for a walk. Or eat something I shouldn’t. But don’t do that!

4. Nancy Scrofano: When I’m stuck and looking for inspiration, I listen to music. Music really helps my writing. It helps me clear my head, refocus, and generate new ideas. I’m always on the lookout for new songs and new artists, even if they aren’t necessarily “new” but just new to me. Music helps to keep the creative juices flowing.

 

 

 

 

My Sweet Valley past

The Sweet Life #1: An E-SerialBefore I found chicklit.  There was Sweet Valley High.

You have no idea how many Saturday’s I spent sitting on the couch reading and taking interval breaks to roller skate and eat peaches.  Just ask my sisters, they made sure to torture me, completely baffled by my ability to read quietly for hours.

But nothing could tear me away from The Wakefield twins.

I outgrew them eventually, heading to the big girl section of the bookstores, even took up reading some of my dad’s Jackie Collin’s books and enjoyed The Bitch.  Now that was a departure from my innocent days in good old Sweet Valley.

I just saw a link of Frugal e-reader that alerted me Francine Pascal is releasing a series of novella’s starting July 15th.    Looks like my favorite twins are coming back. Older, wiser, married and with child!!!

Well, well, well.  Looks like we’ve all been busy the last 10 years, including Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.  I am looking forward to the new novella’s, a nice way to spend some summer reading time, just like  I  used to when I was 12.

Minus the annoying sisters,  who now  just call me and take me out to lunch to distract me from reading!

 

 

Finding Balance in Change

I used to love change.

For years, I would purposely move, get a new job, apartment, haircut, boyfriend … whatever, just so I could shake up my life and see what would happen.  There have been great things and not so great things that have come about from this type of living.  I haven’t always had a ton of stability and often times I would leave just when things were getting good. In hindsight, I realize that had I stayed around, change would have occurred while standing in one place, because that’s just the way life works.

Change happens whether you want it or not.

These days, change makes me nervous because I have so many things I’m trying to juggle.

I’ve got a full-time job, writing, my family, my little peanut, friendships and a new (scary) role as a mom. 

When I was pregnant, I was pretty sure that I would be able to hold on to my life. I pictured myself taking my son everywhere with me –dinner parties, concerts,wine tastings and  champagne brunches.

I would still be me, just with a cute baby on my hip.

Clearly, the mommyclub hadn’t filled me in on how vastly different my life was going to look.

I’ve had a lot of adjustments to make. Lots of things to give up and a lot more time at home. And  I am totally fine with it. I see friends when I can, I spend a lot of time with my family and I adore every minute I spend with my son, watching him grow and that gummy smile he gives me when he figures something out for the first time.

I do miss the old me and I’m trying to see how I can still have her. At least parts of her.

Just last week I went to the mall and I was about to buy this great new dress. A perfect cocktail dress in a gorgeous pale coral, and I grabbed it off the rack and headed straight to the cash register to buy it. But as I stood there, I began to wonder “When in the hell am I actually going to wear this?” While I am at the park?  Doing laundry? Making baby food?  At work? Writing at the library? Storytime at Kidspace Museum? Nah, I put it back on the rack and left the store.

At the moment, it’s not just part of my life and at times I can feel that I am losing the woman I used to be.

Sure, I go out  with friends every now and then. Or we get a babysitter and head out for dinner and drinks. But a lot of times we do things as a family, and it’s  a jeans and ballet flats kinda night, not quite a coral cocktail dress and high heels worthy. Not yet.

Right now I am in search of balance. Trying to find time for me, while exploring my new life and role.

It’s true, that I love being a mom, it’s everything I never knew I wanted and then some!

But I need to find time to still be the fun, carefree girl I used to be.  I need to wear pretty dresses and high heels and I really  could use a jalapeno margarita.

Maybe, two.

 

 

 

A Writing Life

In the last few years, I have become more serious about working on the fiction that lives in my mind. It’s always been there, but I wasn’t ready or disciplined to do it, until now.

As a newspaper journalists, writing was done on the fly. I had a fast and furious daily deadline that I had to meet. I came in at 9 a.m., found my story for the day and off I went, hustling interviews, fact checking, finding art or getting a photo assigned. By 5 p.m. my story was written and turned into my editor. And I was planning my story for the next day.

It was a grind, but I liked the pace. And the deadline forced me to write.

Fiction is a whole other animal.

Deadlines are self-imposed now and there’s no one to hold you accountable except for yourself.  And guess what? You will forgive yourself for choosing gelator over sitting at your desk for hours. I do it all the time.

One of the best things that I ever did was to join a writer’s group. After years of thinking about it, I finally signed up, paid and started attending the Los Angeles chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Through the group, I met other writers,joined a group and suddenly had someone to be accountable too, it has been exactly what I need.

But what truly began to resonate is that the only way to write a book is to sit my ass down.

Here are some other little writing gems I’ve discovered since I’ve started working on my novel.

  • There’s always time to write. Even if it’s 20 minutes while the baby is napping and I’m trying to eat a piece of toast, take a minute and write a paragraph. A 100 words. Or jot some notes down that I can come back too.
  • The writing process begins in my head. A lot of times, I’m working on a chapter, flushing out character details or getting inspiration while I’m out living life. Washing my hair, pumping gas, changing a diaper, eating an apple. Ideas come from anywhere!  I carry a notebook with me and write ideas down. Or I just let it marinate in my mind.
  • I read Anne Lamont’s book Bird By Bird years ago where she said that every first draft is a “shitty first draft.” That helps to say out loud. The first draft doesn’t have to be great, it just has to get done. This is my mantra when I start getting sidetracked and rewrite a page over and over again. Just get the first draft done.
  • Let music inspire. I often will find that a certain song will make me think of my book, a character or a mood that I’m trying to get across in a scene. Sometimes playing that song will help me when I’m writing.
  • Eat lots of chocolate.  It inspires me!

What gets you writing? And what are some tips that have helped you?

I’d love to hear!