EAT & LOVE: Getting Merry (the fa-la-la edition)

I can’t help how much I love the Christmas season.

I love all the colorful lights, the traditions, watching holiday movies,  eggnog latte’s, gingerbread men and how it’s the one time of the year where you can put on a sweater with a reindeer wearing glasses and it’s totally OK — I didn’t say it was cool, it’s just … OK.

Today, we had a little fun with baking Christmas inspired muffins and then headed out to do some shopping at the Americana on Brand.  I tend to avoid shopping centers because I have no patience for crowds or looking for parking, but last year I ended up spending a lot of time here because my dad lived close by and now I’m totally smitten with coming here! Especially during the holidays, it’s a perfect way to spend a little time outside, get some shopping done and indulge in shopping mall fun. I”m a product of the 80s, I can’t help myself.

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The Americana has a list of activities for the week that can range from, “Learning how to Host a Holiday Party” to my personal favorite: Magic Snowfall every day at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. We typically come for the holiday trolley and take pictures in front of the 100 foot tall Christmas tree, before we eat something covered in frosting and sprinkles.

Today, we got to discover Sugarfina, a Los Angeles-based gourmet candy shop that truly had me feeling like I was living my own version of Cindy and the Gourmet Candy Factory with the rows and rows of sweet little boxes of caramel and toffees, Danish Mocha Beans, gummies and even a decadent marshmallow infused with champagne and topped with 24k Gold #firstworldproblems

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We had  a great time exploring here, got to sample peppermint malt balls (awesome) and some lucky person in my life was bought the best tasting Christmas gift, ever.

Enjoy the season!

 

 

 

 

A Thanksgiving Romance & Pecan Pie: An interview with Gina Henning

Just in time for Thanksgiving I have invited Gina Henning, author of How to Bake the Perfect Pecan Pie, to share some of her favorite Thanksgiving inspirations for food and writing romance!

Let’s welcome Gina to Eat~Write~Love and go ahead, grab a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie while reading, we can wait …
How to Bake The Perfect Pecan Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cindy Arora

Can you tell us more about your idea to create holiday themed chick lit books? 

Thank you. I’m a huge fan of all things holiday: books, movies, and simply enjoying them. There is a certain magic that surrounds that time of year. The idea of no matter what you are going through in life when you sit down at your holiday dinner there is a sense of accomplishment and joy.

The story of How to Bake the Perfect Pecan Pie came about first with the relationship of Lauren and her grandmother. Lauren is presented with a culinary challenge by her grandmother which may lead to a hot romance.

I think baking is a metaphor for life, we have a list of ingredients and instructions and what we choose to do with those, results in what we take out of the oven.

Was it different writing a Thanksgiving novel versus Christmas (seeing as you have done both?) A different message? A different mood in your novel?

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I have always held dear to my heart. It doesn’t have the rush for presents and the same pressures as Christmas, but there are still similar situations that are presented when getting together with extended family especially as an adult.

Often someone is coming home for the holidays and this can bring up a bunch of old memories while making many new ones, there is a juxtaposition of being back with your family once you have found your own place in adulthood yet you are still perceived by your birth order: the older brother, sister, baby etc. of the family, which is seen in How to Bake the Perfect Pecan Pie.

The message and mood are similar in these stories. Lauren’s family likes to celebrate and has a long history of traditions. To me Thanksgiving and Christmas have similar messages as they are both festive and family oriented. Lauren goes home for the holidays in each book, the first being that she is home for Thanksgiving, in this story we get to see the family dynamics and adventures that Lauren takes on.

In How to Bake the Perfect Christmas Cake, Lauren is returning home for Christmas and though it has been only a month a lot has changed for her and to the other characters. She is given some big decisions to make involving both her career and love life, and we get to see how she handles it while dealing with her family and all of their silly antics.

What makes a perfect Thanksgiving table for you?

A perfect Thanksgiving table includes some of my tried and true recipes like my cranberry relish with Grand Marnier, sweet potato casserole, cornbread stuffing, and a cheesy potato dish that can be served with or without gravy. I make a pecan, pumpkin, and apple pie for dessert. For it to be a truly perfect Thanksgiving table, there is also an endless supply of delicious wine.

My day after Thanksgiving tradition is to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast, which now means I have to make two pumpkin pies each year to make sure we have enough.

Do you have a family recipe or tradition that you now use with your own family?

The pecan pie recipe in the story is one I created and make for my family each year. We have traditions for various months, like for the first day of October I always make pumpkin muffins for breakfast. As a child I used to bake with my grandmother and I cherish those memories.

Now, that I have children of my own I like to bake and cook with them. Not every Saturday morning but quite often my boys and I will watch the Food Network and pick out new recipes to try. They all like to cook and bake and it makes for a nice family experience. I also don’t seem to have such a struggle with them over eating new things if they prepared the dish themselves!

I noticed in your bio you like to run, do you run with music or not?

I have to run with music or I wouldn’t make it a tenth of a mile! Music motivates me to keep going and finish. I have a variety of tunes on my playlist. When I’m running a race I have to listen to a slower song like “Hearing Damages” by Thom Yorke to keep me from taking off too fast and then about a fourth of the way through the race, I change up the songs with a faster the tempo. One of my current faster beats is “DJ Turn It Up” by Yellow Claw.

Cindy, thank you for having me on your delectable blog and for providing such interesting questions!

Many thanks,
GINA

 

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Gina Henning currently resides where bluebonnets line the highways in the spring, but she prefers the rock flower anemone from under the sea. Above the ocean’s surface Gina likes to dance with her three boys and travel to exotic places like the grocery store with her husband. Her pooch Schatzi is a mix between German Shepherd and possibly pig. One of Gina’s favorite pastimes is running. She recently completed her one-and-done marathon. At the end of the day her glass of wine is always half-full.

Order your copy here: Amazon

Meet: Petit Four Author Joel Zlotnik — Writer, Reader & Cheesecake man.

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Today I am thrilled to announce the release of PETIT FOUR: Four Stories Frosted with Love! I had the privilege of working with three amazing writers, Sue Watson, Lucie Simone and Joel Zlotnik! We  had a great time writing about cake + love and the end result is this wonderful anthology that should feed your appetite for great reading and delicious cake.

Today I decided to interview the lone guy in our anthology, who according to our editor is also the most romantic of the bunch!

Let’s welcome Joel Zlotnik!

Where did you get the inspiration for your story premise?

The story is largely about how the endless stream of competing influences in our lives – our friends and neighbors, our surroundings, our past, and the little voices in our head – can often work for or against us as we do our best to make decisions that will lead to acceptance, happiness and peace in the worlds we carve for ourselves.

As far as the premise and really the story-telling device, I had recently lost a dear friend and mentor and was helping his family take care of his affairs. I’d been thinking a lot about the not-so-obvious things we save and what we leave behind. Sure, we’ll all have our family photos and watches and jewelry and saved letters or cards, but what about that one champagne cork sitting on the bookshelf? Or that sailboat charm? Or that Hot Wheels car? Why did he choose to keep those? I like to believe there’s a special story behind each one of those objects, I’ll just never know what they are. As for the cupcakes … well I love cupcakes and was lucky enough to have someone special bring me one once for St. Patrick’s Day and how can you not take inspiration from that?

Is this your first foray into chick lit and if so, what did you learn about writing Her Charms?

I have to admit, before this I wasn’t all that familiar reading very much chick lit, let alone writing it. And most of my writing – whether during my previous life as a journalist or creatively since then – has been geared toward essays, memoir and some short fiction. So part of what I learned was how much harder it is and how much longer it took to create characters who hopefully are real and whose actions and reactions make sense, and trying to put them in a place that readers can clearly see. That was a much more challenging and time-consuming effort than I thought, but it also was very rewarding.

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 What was the biggest challenge to making this story come to life?

Knowing that chick lit readers are primarily women, I found myself doing a regular check of how something could be perceived by a man vs. a woman and whether or not the story and the characters were on track. I had to stop at times and question: would a female reader react differently than a male reader to this or that and how might it impact the story? I typically try and write without a specific audience in mind (it helps keep the number of voices in my head to a manageable chorus) so that was definitely different for me. Thankfully, I have a few very talented writer friends who are women and they were kind enough to help me as the story shaped up.

Where are you from? And what’s your writing background?

I come from a very creative family and I can’t ever remember a time when writing hasn’t played a significant part of my life. I guess that includes when I’m writing and also trying to figure out sometimes why the hell I’m not writing. I’m originally from Chicago and grew up in San Diego before heading to the University of Arizona in Tucson. I started college as a business major and they explained to me that I would have to pass calculus and statistics for a business degree (this was after it took me two semesters to squeak by Algebra with a D). I decided I might want to find a way to actually make a living and decided to switch to journalism. I spent the first dozen years of my career as a newspaper reporter and editor in San Diego and Orange County. Creatively, what I love most is being able to make someone laugh out loud (without any emoticon assistance) through my writing, it’s one of the best feelings I know.

 We have to know, what’s your favorite kind of cake?

I love a simple New York cheesecake.

Can you bake? do you bake? have you ever baked for a woman? and if you have, what did you make her?

I’m honestly not much of a sweets person and now that you ask I don’t think I have ever baked for a woman. Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong … to the kitchen!

 

 

showgirls jzJoel Zlotnik is a former Southern California journalist who was lucky enough to find a second career on the other side of the notepad, answering questions instead of asking them. He recently cancelled his cable so he would write more and quickly discovered online binge watching. You can find him living at the beach in South Orange County, where he listens to records, reads and watches the waves.

 Find Joel: on Twitter: @mindofzlotnik

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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