Rantings From A Food Critic

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’m not your typical food critic. I don’t go to restaurants, scare the employees, order several dishes from the menu, and then write my opinions in the most sought after review columns.

Nope. Not me.

I’m the worst kind of critic. I HATE FOOD.

Hate is a pretty strong word, don’t you think? I dislike food – intensely.

I get very little joy out of food. I eat because I have to eat. People have told me they wish they could be like me. No – you don’t. Really. Trust me.

It’s super hard to come up with meal ideas when you don’t want to eat anything. I’m never in the mood for anything. I mean – NEVER.  I never crave anything either. (Except chocolate and caramel.) Not even when I was pregnant. The task of preparing meals for the Noodges and the Coffee King is daunting. I never know where to begin since I don’t care about the result. Food is for survival purposes only.

Obviously, I know which food groups are good for you. I use chicken, fish, and poultry as my base and build from there. But to say I’m in the mood for herb crusted chicken blah, blah, blah with a side of green yada, yada, yada won’t happen.

When I was a kid, my Italian mother would stand above me and shout, “but what’s there not to like? It’s only sausage and potatoes!” My Pop-Pop, (Italian grandfather straight off the boat) often asked when I refused to eat anything with tomato sauce, “What kind of an Italian are you?” The kind that likes cannolis, Italian cookies, Italian bread, and pretty much anything my professional baker Pop-Pop could make.

It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I discovered the source of my problem. I’m a supertaster. I have too many taste buds. (This is a real thing. I’m not making it up.) Lots of foods like broccoli, coffee, anything sour, taste really bitter to me. You should’ve been there when I accidentally ate broccoli rabe at a conference luncheon and needed to spit it out – immediately. It wasn’t pretty. What tastes like normal food to others taste terrible to me. In fact, I’m not sure I know what “normal” tastes like. I prefer to stick to anything bland. Macaroni with butter is an all time favorite of mine. On those Sunday dinners growing up, my grandmother would pull out some of the spaghetti for me and put butter on it before she dumped her homemade sauce on the rest.

So, tell me. What’s your favorite dish? What’s on the menu tonight?

In Honor of Best Friends Day: Friendships Are Like Paper Plates

  I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But […]

In honor of National Best Friends Day, one of my favorite blog posts is making a return visit. To all my stoneware: Thank you for your beauty, integrity, and taking up space in my cabinets. I love you all! S. 

 

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My senior prom. Thirty years ago. (Time flies.) These girls were my besties back then. Betsy, on the left, is stoneware. Loren, on the right, also stoneware. I love them both dearly. Meredith, the one next to me, paper plate. Her plate got tossed thirty years ago. Just the way it goes. 

 

I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But your stoneware comes out every day, sometimes three times a day and is probably in your favorite color. Stoneware helps you, supports you, is reliable, loyal, accepts you for the cook you are, and heats up like a hot flash for you. You might buy thousands of paper plates over your lifetime, but you’ll only have a setting for twelve of that stoneware.

You don’t know when in your life you’re going to find that perfect set of stoneware. You might have to buy it in pieces. Some during high school, some during college, maybe even a piece you picked up along the way. But don’t look for a bargain. Stoneware is worth the price you pay. And if you do get it on sale, well, then, lucky you.

Paper plates are easy to find. They’re every where you look and they’re cheap. But they will always and forever be only paper plates. Don’t hold any grudges over them, though. I’ve had some paper plates I’ve loved over the years, but they still had to go when their purpose was served. I trashed paper plates in middle school, high school, college, from the countless jobs I’ve held, neighbors, committee groups, the list goes on and on. The best thing about paper plates is when you’re done with the package another package miraculously shows up in your cabinets. Right when you needed them the most. Paper plates are great-fill ins when you don’t have time to wash your stoneware. But when you’re making lasagna for dinner and the cheese won’t stick together and is running off the spatula nothing will do, but your favorite stoneware dish.

My stoneware set is much smaller than twelve, but I’m okay with that. We’ve been together a long time. My stoneware never disappoints me and is as vibrant as ever. It’s always there when I need it, shares secrets with me, makes me laugh, and reminds me why I bought it in the first place.

I’m thankful for the paper plates too. They’re quick and easy. They’re fun.

I often wonder if my Noodges have started buying pieces of their stoneware. Many times I look at the selection in their hands and think, “Dear Lord, that is a paper plate if I ever saw one. Put it down.” And sometimes I think, “that could be a keeper.” But that will be for them to decide. And I know for myself, there have been times when paper plates were disguised as my favorite stoneware. It wasn’t until the bottom leaked that I realized I’d been holding an imposter. I guess that will happen to my kids too.

How about you, faithful reader? What’s in your cabinet?

 

 

 

Sweating With the Oldies

 

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’m one of those weird people who like to exercise. For someone who is Type A, exercise has been a constant companion to me. She cures many of my ailments; such as big mouth syndrome, come down off the ledge illness, and a current favorite; mid-life hormonal combustion.

When my friend, Ella, asked me to join her at a Zumba class, I jumped at the chance. I used to take Zumba all the time, and loved it. I mean, who doesn’t love to dance, destress, and burn a gazillion calories?

The class was filled with everyone from seven to ninety-seven. Okay, maybe not that old, but close. Trust me. I think it’s fantastic to find older people getting up and shaking their groove thing. I plan on being in my nineties, wearing my yoga pants, and doing the hustle across the dance floor. (I also plan on completely turning off my filter, and saying every single non-politically correct thing that comes to my mind! People will think what I say is cute because I’ll be old. That’s what everyone says about my grandmother and her miniskirts.)

There’s a down side to Zumba, though. I can’t work out with my nose pinched closed. I do need to breathe, but with breathing comes inhaling the smell of a skunk in the summer sun. I discreetly checked to see if the skunk was coming off of me, but thank everything that is holy, I remembered to wear deodorant and I had showered earlier that day. I was sweating pretty good, and by the end I was a tad ripe, but the skunk stink was on someone else. And not Ella! Maybe I could do what the ladies did back before showers existed. I can spray a handkerchief with perfume and keep it over my face.

If you’re a single male, and into women, a Zumba class might be a great hook-up place. There had to be forty people in that class and only one of them was a man. Those are some pretty good odds. I thought our guy had to be smart swinging his hips around for the ladies until I found out he stalks women from one gym to another. Then he was just plain creepy. Maybe the skunk was him?

I can’t begin to describe how ridiculous I must look in a Zumba class trying to follow the fancy footwork, but I can tell you this: My lack of skill doesn’t stop me. And when I go to Zumba class I’m Jennifer Lopez. At least in my delusional mind.

About an hour in I felt ten years younger. I thought, look at me, keeping up, recapturing the exercise high I miss because I don’t run anymore, and not an ache or a pain anywhere. Ninety minutes in, I thought, when the hell is this class going to end? The muscles in my back twisted into a tightly woven braid, and my knees ached like a bad tooth. I went from feeling ten years younger to feeling ancient. The ninety year-olds were holding up better than I was.

The class had several instructors. They were all lovely, warm, and friendly. These kooky women wanted to take a picture of everyone together after class. Stinky, sweaty people standing in a huddle was a bad idea. Let’s not forget the skunk! Not to mention, my hair wasn’t exactly picture ready after ninety minutes of sweating with the oldies. I found a clever way to hide, and not touch or get too close to anyone. You know how I sceeve people. Again, not Ella!

All in all, it was a great time. Maybe I’ll get asked to go again. Hopefully, there won’t be anymore pictures. And my handkerchief is ready.

 

 

What Do You Dream For?

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We dream. The Universe provides us with those dreams, but they don’t always look the way we imagined them. That’s okay. Often times, the dream turns out better.

Somewhere along the way of leaving the Charlie’s Angel’s Hideaway House behind for makeup, I decided I wanted to be an author. Not any author. A famous one. With tons of readers. I wanted a huge publishing deal (not that I totally knew what that was back then) with a publishing house in New York City, the publishing capital of the world. I did know who McMillan was if only because they had a hand in publishing text books.

My dream to be a famous author isn’t looking exactly like I thought when I was 12 then 15 then… never mind the numbers. Publishing is a very different animal than when Stephen King signed his first contract for Carrie. That’s okay.

I indie published my middle-grade fantasy adventure series and coming to that decision wasn’t an easy or quick one. That looks nothing like my first dream.

Recently, I announced on my Facebook page, another new adventure in my publishing dream. (If you’re kind enough to follow me in both places, pardon my redundancy. If you don’t follow me on Facebook and want to, I love seeing friendly faces over there.) I signed a three-book deal with a traditional publisher for my women’s fiction series. Now I’m a hybrid author. No one even knew what that was ten years ago. Times change.

I’m very excited about this opportunity. Every author desires for their work to be wanted and liked. (We know we’re not supposed to read the reviews, but still get bummed when there’s a less than favorable one. It’s like picking on our kids.) I’m glad my new publisher believed in my work the way I do.

Even though I have and will have books in two different genres all my books have a united theme: Family are those who love you when you need them whether you’re born to that family or find them along the way. All my main characters seek to belong, to be loved, want a chance to fit in somewhere.

The first book in the new series, A Second Chance House, about a woman who is given the anonymous gift of dilapidated house in a new town, is in edits. I’ll announce a release date when I have one.

I don’t have the fame of my beloved Stephen King. (yet) The dream to be an author has most certainly come true and for that I’m grateful, humbled, and thrilled. I didn’t have any idea how hard it would be to find my readers, but I am, one at a time. The process might take longer than I thought, but it’s very rewarding when I get an email from a reader who saw me speak four years before, finally read my book and loved it enough to drop a line. Or when an eighth grader draws me a picture of one of my characters and has his teacher mail it to me. Or when a book club turns the woods behind one of their houses into Kata-Tartaroo and goes on a scavenger hunt. (That’s one of my favorite stories.)

I couldn’t make my dream come true without my readers. Thank you for being a part of my journey. I appreciate you reading my books, your continued visits to the blog and the comments you leave behind.

What was your dream back when playgrounds and sidewalk chalk were a daily existence? What does that dream look like now?

Sometimes We Find Family Along The Way

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Delta Phi Epsilon sorority Delta Omega chapter at Monmouth University. The entire group in attendance at the recent reunion.

Family are the people who love you when you need them whether you’re born to them or pick them up along the way. That is the heart of all my books whether it’s my middle-grade series or my women’s fiction series.

Last week I spent some time with my sorority sisters. My sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, celebrated its 100th year anniversary and my college’s chapter, Delta Omega at Monmouth University, held an event for all sisters current and alumni. Because when you become a D Phi E sister, it’s for life.

I was a commuter student when I went to Monmouth. There are some great things about being a commuter, but it’s hard to make friends if you don’t get involved with something. As a Freshman, I kept to myself mostly. I’m an outgoing introvert (a personality trait that quarrels with itself often) so I needed some friends and fast. I’d already known a couple of the girls in the sorority and a friend at the time encouraged me to pledge. I’m so glad I did.

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These are some of the special ladies I went to school with. I love them all. 

I met the Coffee King because of that sorority. And I made some fantastic friends. Here’s what’s so great about the girls I went to school with, years can go by and we won’t see each other or talk outside of Facebook, but all it takes is to be in the same room with them and it’s like no time has gone by at all. I walked into that event and saw women I haven’t seen in 25 years. The hugs were fierce and the tears were real. That’s friendship. That’s sisterhood.

I’ve been asked often how could I have joined a sorority. (I don’t adhere to conformity well) but my sorority wasn’t like that. Our motto translated is “To be rather than to seem to be.” We believed in everyone being an individual. There was plenty of room for all personality types. Those girls accepted me for who I was and still am. They let me be me and I let them be them.

Those girls were strangers to me all those years ago. It was scary at that first pledge class meeting with nine other girls I didn’t know, but was about to be thrown together with twenty-four hours a day for six weeks. We had to learn to get along, learn to work together, learn to respect each other and we did it. That doesn’t mean we didn’t fight, because you always fight with family. We had a lot of fun together too. Mostly, it was fun. (I’d tell you some stories, but then you’d need to go into the Witness Protection Program.)

My sisters are there for me whenever I need them. I don’t even have to ask. They only have to hear that one of us is in trouble, sick, or celebrating and they are right there beside you holding your hand or cheering you on too. (Who else would help you bury the bodies??) When my first book came out my sisters applauded the loudest. I am eternally grateful for that. (Ladies, I’ll need you again soon. Stay tuned. wink wink)

 

D Phi E reunion My Family
My family tree. My Grand-Big Sister, Big Sister, and Little Sister. 

These amazing women are my family. The family I picked up along the way. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What if?

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

What if your life was on autopilot? You were raising your children, going to work, watching the days fly past you? Life hadn’t turned out exactly as you hoped, but it could be worse.

A note arrives. An anonymous gift of a house needing fixing is waiting for you. Would you take it? Why or why not?

Sharpen Your Knives

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We had some snow here in NJ. My area got hit with about a foot. Maybe eight inches. I didn’t check and I didn’t bring out my ruler. I will tell you however much it was the shoveling wore me out. I tried to focus on the blessings like I’m healthy enough to shovel and I live in a house as opposed to a cardboard box. It’s the first snow storm in March since 1993. 

All that snow means the school closes. Two teens home. And the Coffee King certainly can’t drive to work and we share an office at home. Let’s not forget the noodgy dog. So, trying to get writing done with many distractions isn’t easy.

I’ve blogged about this before, but after about fifteen interruptions and it wasn’t even lunch time I had to take matters into my hands. I had to carve out some time to write.

First, I texted my good friend and writer buddy K.M Fawcett. (Her books are awesome. Check her out.) K.M. and I go to a local Starbucks at least twice a week for uninterrupted writing time. My text said something like, “I CAN’T GET ANY WRITING DONE.” It’s hard to get your mojo going every time someone sidetracks you. She gave me some good advice. Set a timer. Tell the characters in your house no interruptions while the timer is on.

Then I remembered! My red hat!!!  It had been years since I needed that hat. When the Noodges were little and I would try to write they’d interrupt me constantly. My desk was out in the open so I couldn’t shut a door. I instituted the red hat. When I wore the hat they weren’t allowed to talk to me. Unless blood or vomit was involved. I promised to always give them warning before I wore the hat and they could ask me as many questions as they wanted before the hat went on which was very important to Noodge 1. He can’t wait to have his questions answered. He’s still like that at almost seventeen. (I can’t believe that same little boy is almost 17!)

Yesterday, the hat made a revival. I took a picture of myself wearing the hat, and sent it to my family scattered around the house with instructions. I’d wear the hat with a timer going for 20 minutes. Please don’t interrupt me unless blood is involved. (They’re big enough to throw up in a toilet now.) It works.

Finding time to write isn’t easy. We all have lives that work around our writing. Unless you’re Stephen King whose writing can work around his life. Our families don’t always understand that we’re actually working even if all we’re doing is staring at the computer, but our hands aren’t moving. Every time our train of thought gets broken we have to start over and hope to capture the fizzle we’re trying so hard to get on the page. Writing isn’t like doing accounting or sewing.

I don’t blame them for not understanding. In fact, I’m a culprit in the interruptions. I often stop what I’m doing, no matter what it is, to help my kids or walk the dog or talk to CK. The hat creates a nice visual. (I just got interrupted while writing this. I’m not wearing the hat and Noodge 1 can’t find his sweatpants. See?)

The timer is good because they know how long you won’t be available. And anything can wait twenty minutes, can’t it?

Knives are sharpened. The hat is on now. The timer is next. It’s another snow day and plenty of writing to do.

Any questions?