• decor,  design,  old houses,  remodeling

    Writing and Remodeling Don’t Mix

    My husband and I are remodeling a house, a 1920s bungalow just a few blocks from where we currently live. So lately my life–when I’m not working, writing, or toddler wrangling–consists of making decisions on plumbing fixtures and watching a lot of Rehab Addict.  I’m finishing edits on my novel, Vintage, and working on my next book, which takes place in the vineyards of Spain.  Sometimes, late at night, all of these various thought trains  crash into one another, and I end up with a little something like this.     Photos from Etsy shops ChicFrangine and Juliette’sJewelShop.

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  • coffee,  family,  kids,  neuroses,  seasonal,  wisconsin

    The Real March Madness

    My husband says that waking up on the first day of the NCAA tournament is like Christmas morning for him. But I’m familiar with the real March madness, and basketball has nothing to do with it. The real March madness is the feeling you get when you watch the thermometer on your car dashboard drop from fourteen to eleven to five degrees Fahrenheit. It’s the first day of spring getting bitch-slapped by winter, year after year. It’s devouring gallons of coffee and carb-loading with baked goods because winter will never end and you’ll never need to wear a bathing suit again. It’s straitjacketing your toddler into his parka and boots…

  • books,  dogs,  literature,  madison,  pets,  publishing,  storytelling,  wisconsin,  writing

    Q&A with Author Erin Celello

    Today I’m thrilled to be featuring an interview with Madison author Erin Celello about her latest novel, Learning to Stay (NAL/Penguin 2013), which, as Erin describes it, explores “the question of what happens when one person in a marriage becomes someone fundamentally different.” In Learning to Stay, what triggers the change is a traumatic brain injury that the husband, Brad, suffers while serving in the Iraq war. The injury dramatically alters his personality, transforming him from a thoughtful and patient man into someone who requires much more care than his wife, Elise, can provide while also keeping up with the demands of her career as a lawyer.  I’m not yet finished with the book–so…

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  • books,  fiction,  holiday

    Love Stories We Love

    Valentine’s Day has got me thinking of my favorite love stories in fiction. There are so many of them, and I’m sure even more favorites will spring to mind as soon as I publish this post. Here are just a few that stand out for me. You’ll see they are just as varied in genre as they are in publication date. What can I say? Love takes many forms. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  This book weaves a love story through time, as Henry journeys in and out of Clare’s life. It sounds fantastical—and it is—but Niffenegger makes the time travel element both plausible and enchanting. Her descriptions…

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  • beer,  cooking,  kitchen,  moms,  parenting,  peanut butter,  recipes

    Crock Pot Recipe: West African Spicy Peanut Stew

    I love to cook, but lately finding the time between work, writing and parenting has been a challenge. Enter, crock pot.  I’ve been trying out a lot of crock pot recipes lately for weeknight dinners. I prep the ingredients the night before, after my son is in bed, and stick them in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight. Then, the next morning, I dump the bag into the crock pot, turn it on the “low” setting, and leave for work. When I get home, it’s ready to eat and there’s no need to hem and haw over what to make for dinner. This spicy vegetarian West African-style recipe is…

  • cooking,  food,  humor,  imperfection,  kitchen,  parenting,  perfectionism

    Last night I set my dinner on fire

    Yes, it’s true. I debated whether or not to tell you. After all, I publish recipes on this site. But, as someone who battles perfectionism, I think it’s important to share imperfections. So there it is. Some days I interview pastry chefs. Some days I visit award-winning artisanal farms. Some days I spend 8 hours making pesto or canning pickles. And some days, I put a carton of Trader Joe’s Mojito Salmon in the oven and forget about it until there is smoke wafting from the oven. I’m not kidding about the flames. I had to toss the whole damn thing outside in a snow bank to keep the smoke…

  • coffee,  creativity,  desserts,  food,  local,  seasonal,  sweets

    Of Creativity and Cupcakes

    This fall, Edible Madison editor Jamie Lamonde contacted me to ask if I was interested in writing a feature on Bloom Bake Shop and its owner, Annemarie Spitznagle, for the winter issue. Bloom is a small-batch dessert bakery in Middleton, Wis. that uses local, seasonal, and organic ingredients.  Of course I wasted no time in saying, “OH MY GOD, YES!” I mean, who wouldn’t love to sample and write about cupcakes, whoopie pies, and to-die-for French press coffee?   The afternoon I spent at Bloom was about so much more than cupcakes, though. Annemarie and I talked about goals, determination, and finding the place where work and passion intersect. You can read the…

  • Uncategorized

    Pin Me Down

    I should probably stay off Pinterest. I admit it has its place. It’s great for organizing my inspiration for a new writing project, or for home decor ideas, or for the perfect sugar cookie recipe. But here’s the problem: I am a serial overcommitter. A manic multitasker. And, as someone who works outside the home, parents a toddler, and writes fiction, I have a full-to-spilling schedule. (This doesn’t make me unique, by the way. I bet you’re multi-tasking while you read this.) Anyway, my point is that I don’t need more stuff to do, I need less. Or at least to focus on the things I’ve already got going. Rather than pinning all-day cassoulet recipes,…

  • decor,  design,  holiday,  modern,  retro,  vintage

    The Modern Vintage Table

    The holidays are here. It’s time to take down that platter or roasting pan you keep on high shelves or in the back of the cupboard. One of things I love about Thanksgiving, besides the license to stuff myself silly, is that it provides an excuse to use seemingly impractical, single-purpose items like gravy boats, table runners, and brandy snifters. Unique vintage items, like those pictured below, suggest a time when people didn’t eat dinner in front of the TV or lunch hunched over a desk. It’s as if they say, Sit down. Linger. This is special. Stay awhile. That’s the kind of holiday spirit I can get behind. [topcollage]…

  • writing

    In Recognition of the Saints Who Live With Writers

    When I was a kid in Catholic school, November 1 meant dressing up as a saint and parading down the aisle of our parish church. A lot of the costumes involved plastic, medieval weaponry. At least one girl always dressed up as Joan of Arc, complete with sword and shield. There were a lot of angel wings and halos, too. I no longer go to church on All Saints Day, or much at all. As an author, November 1 now has a very different meaning. November 1 kicks off  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), when writers all over the world commit to a writing marathon of sorts, where they vow to write…