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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Iowa Adventure

Last weekend marked my first ever visit to Iowa. A friend of ours from college and New York was marrying the woman of his dreams who happened to have been raised on an Iowa pig farm. (Josh gleefully told us he hadn't paid for bacon in two years. And he eats a lot of bacon. Her family is losing money on this deal, I guarantee it.) The wedding festivities involved an entire weekend of fun and friends; for us it was like a mini college reunion. Well, more for Nick than for me, since they were all his friends in college. But since then, I've become close to lots of them, and to their girlfriends, so we had a lovely time. There was an open mic night in a huge barn the first night we got there, and I admit I was a little skeptical. The bride is getting a PhD in poetry and participates in poetry slams in her spare time. I am not a huge fan of poetry. Slam poetry, especially, always smacks awkwardly of white girls rapping. But the open mic night was lots of fun, full of folk music and singing (does everyone in the world other than me play the acoustic guitar?) and even some poetry that didn't make me cringe. In fact, don't tell anyone, but I kind of liked it. I'm sure it was an anomaly.

The wedding itself was in a state park beside Lake Okoboji, a glorious setting for a unique ceremony. First of all, I should say, the bride looked gorgeous, glowing and happy in traditional white with a train and everything. The ceremony incorporated the Quaker meeting format of silent meditation interrupted by any guest who felt so moved by the spirit to get up and say something to the bride and groom. People really got into and it ended up being quite beautiful. The reception followed what I call the Haverfest template, resembling nothing so much as that day at the end of the school year when Haverford College students drag boxes of wine, six-packs, blankets, frisbies, etc. onto the campus green and just hang out all day drinking and enjoying the sun. We took a dip in the lake, played some cards on a picnic table, mercilessly mocked the friends among us who aren't yet hitched, and just generally had a smashing time.

Most importantly, the entire event perfectly suited the bride and groom, and they were able to enjoy their own wedding. Which doesn't always happen. I'm glad we went, even if the air travel gave me a slight cold. How do I always manage to sit in front of the kicking child and his sniffling, sneezing, hacking grandmother?

Just lucky, I guess.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cherry Update

So we had Sour Cherry Cobbler for dinner last night (and um, maybe again for breakfast this morning) and damn was it good! If I do say so who shouldn't. Veeery tart, since I skimped on the sugar, with nice buttermilk biscuits on top. The biscuits were baked separately first, which I'd never done for cobbler before, but it made them very crisp and delicious on the outside with enough structural integrity to keep the cherry juices from dissolving them. The cherry filling was augmented with a cup of dry red wine, and it deepened the flavor of the cherries without taking over the whole cobbler.

Anyway, it was a perfectly lovely dinner, and covered all the major food groups. Fruit, obviously. The biscuits contained accounted for both the grains and the dairy, and we're going to give them protein, too, because buttermilk is just multitalented like that. So there! Dessert for dinner is a totally viable option. Shut up.

Today is also a happy happy day because I got my Nordstrom "free" gift with my purchase of beauty supplies. Yay! I love free gifts I actually secretly paid for with the mark up on my make up! You have to hit a certain total to qualify and I, of course, ordered things I didn't need at all in my effort to hit that total. Because I wanted the gift! It's a pretty good one this time, a great big tote bag and lots of little goodies like Egyptian Face Cleanser and Bulgari Eau de Parfum.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sour Cherries

It's that time of the year again--sour cherry season in Ohio! Now what to do with a giant bucket of fresh sour cherries...

I'm starting with the basics, cherry cobbler. As it's served in most restaurants and diners, cherry cobbler is like cherry pie substituting a crumbly sugary topping for the crust. Traditionally, however, the topping is more like tender, craggy drop biscuits that soak up the cherry juices beautifully.

Cook's Illustrated, my new favorite cooking magazine, is providing the recipe for my first Sour Cherry Week recipe. It involves a cup of dry red wine in the cherry filling. I'll let you know how it goes! Anyone cooking anything interesting with all this gorgeous summer produce?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

RWA Nationals 2008: Before I Forget it All

As the parties quickly fade into hazy memories of wine, women, and song, I'm back in my own bed and my own house with Stinger and Hunter (it's a toss up who was happier to see me) and I'm thinking I'd better get some of this out of my head before it disappears completely.

Let's see, quick rundown. The Knight Agency party was fab--those ladies really know how to live it up! We went to First Crush Wine Bar, just a short hop from the Marriott, and had the wine cellar party room all to ourselves. There must have been 100 people there, rotating in and out, and with the low ceilings and uncarpeted floor, it got fairly loud. Are we noticing a theme? The Diva Dinner was cacophonous, and now we have to shout to make ourselves heard at First Crush. But it was all good; we got to meet lots of new people, since Lucienne Diver's clients were there and it was our first event all together since Lucienne joined TKA.

Daytime events: I moderated agent Elaine Spencer and YA author Marley Gibson's workshop on agent/author relations. It was a smashing success, very well attended by lots of good, engaged listeners with questions at the end. I did take pictures, but they were all actions shots of the girls talking, so I'm pretty sure Elaine and Marley would hurt me if I posted them here. The next day, Kristen, Laura, Jo Marie and I went down to Fisherman's Wharf for a little more sightseeing. I had my heart set on the sea lions, who I'd been told got down and dirty with each other on a daily basis, but we mostly saw Ghirardelli Square, a fabulous little cupcake place (is Kristen Painter not the most adorable thing you've ever seen in your life?), and a bunch of handmade jewelry stalls where I think we each bought something for the coming night of publisher parties.

Pub Party Night started with a flying visit to the Berkley/NAL party being held in the hotel. I said hi to all my friends and former coworkers, which was lovely, then we headed out to the St. Martins party. SMP took over the top floor of a shmancy asian restaurant and served adorable hors d'oeuvres like mini takeaway boxes of cold noodles, skewers of portabello mushrooms and yummy egg rolls, along with knock-you-on-your-behind "St. Martini" cocktails. They were fuschia and tasted like straight punch, but were evidently more like straight vodka infused with fruit juice. I met lots of wonderful people, from editors to execs to fellow St. Martins authors, and it was just great. Then we crashed the Harlequin party, and the evening quickly spun out of control.

In a good way! Harlequin gets crashed by half the conference every year, so they expect it by now. They'd reserved the entire enormous Four Seasons ballroom, put in a dj and dance floor surrounded by huge potted palm trees harboring spot lights. There was a double-sided mirrored bar serving so many women you couldn't hear yourself think, and at one point things got so rowdy that one of those giant potted spotlight trees crashed to the floor to accompaniment of a wild cheer from the dance floor. Did the dancing stop? Nope. Everyone was having too much fun. Kristen, Marley and I were there with Roxanne St. Claire and Jane from Dear Author, and Rocki immortalized many moments which I hope will never see the light of the internet.

And then we all stumbled home! I left the next day, missing the Ritas, so I can't give you the scoop on that but I heard it was lots of fun. I'm already looking forward to next year! Poor little Washington, D.C. isn't going to know what hit it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

RWA Nationals 2008 - First 2 Parties

Wednesday night was the RWAOnline Chapter party, which was Chinatown themed. We conned Jen Rementer into buying a silk dress to wear, which turned out to have a bit of corset-type action across the chest, but she looked stunning anyway. Even if she could barely breathe. And it didn't seem to stop her from having a good time--see her pictured left after stealing Feisty's crutches. Nic Montreuil had an amazing brainwave to increase guest participation at this year's party, and in a way that couldn't fail to be fun for everyone, considering who we are. We're all writers, yeah? Is what Nic thought. So why don't we write something? Taking a page from former RWAOL President Mel Francis' book, we came up with five words and ask party-goers to write something--anything--incorporating those words. The plan was to read them aloud anonymously and choose winners based on the applause-o-meter (for my money, Pamela Hathaway's hilarious short take on the See Dick Run books was a clear standout, or possibly Mike Myers' incredibly dirty short story, which was the only thing to come close to making Nic blush as she read it out to us), but in the end they were all so wonderful that we gave out book prizes to everyone who participated. Except me, because I had a mini attack of writer's block and only managed to doodle a drawing of the party table's centerpiece, a little red teddy bear with a Chinese hat on. I did give him a t-shirt sporting all five key words, but I just couldn't bring myself to receive a prize for it. Due to the generosity of our published author members, we had enough books to give away that everyone got something to read on the plane home! People seemed to enjoy themselves, the naughty fortune cookies were a big hit, and Theresa Bodwell announced a fun competition for a great cause, the Unleash Your Story contest to fight Cystic Fibrosis--what more could you wish for? Well, other than the longed-for presence of absent friends like Mel and Maria Geraci. *s-s-s-sniff*

On Thursday, we had the Diva Dinner, followed by the TKA Party, which is not going to make it into this already monstrous post. The Diva Dinner was much like the Romance Divas themselves: loud, raucous, fun and friendly. We went to Buca di Beppo, which is evidently a chain of Italian joints in some states, although I'd never heard of it. Even though the restaurant managed to screw up quite a few things (for instance, promising a private room and delivering a cavernous space filled to the brim with other parties, none of whom could compete with the Divas for sheer decibel level) the party was a huge success. Everyone had a blast, especially Kristen Painter. See photographic evidence below. I like to call this series of pictures Abondanza.
Barbara Vey, who blogs romance for Publishers Weekly, was there and telling fabulous stories about her recent trip to Comic-Con in San Diego--apparently Riker (from Star Trek) no longer fits into his onesie. Very sad. Proving that a good journalist is always prepared for anything, Barbara came to Buca with a Tide pen--and so did Mike Myers. Coincidence?
Naughty Kate and I had similar ideas about documenting the evening. A picture is worth a thousand words! I think these really say it all.

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