While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell I’ve never been known as a trendsetter. So imagine my surprise—and delight—when I found out my Sleeping Beauty–inspired novel, While Beauty Slept, would be published the same year a high-profile Sleeping Beauty reboot hit movie theaters. Invariably, I knew, my book would be compared with Angelina Jolie’s big-budget Disney film Maleficent, even though I suspected the two stories would take very different approaches. I had always intended my book to read as historical fiction rather than fantasy, imagining the dramatic events of the fairy tale as if they had happened to real people.

I was pretty sure Disney would be going in the opposite direction—and judging by the recently released Maleficent trailer, I was right.

There’s lots to love about it, from the appropriately eerie Lana Del Ray cover of “Once Upon a Dream” to the overall creepy tone. We like our fairy tales dark these days, focusing less on the “happily ever after” and more on the dangers that come beforehand. The Maleficent of the 1959 animated movie is one of the great Disney villains, right up there with Cruella de Vil and Snow White’s Evil Queen, and when I wrote my book, I renamed her Millicent so that she wouldn’t come across as a cartoon bad guy. If I wanted my story grounded in reality, it didn’t really work to have a character whose name literally means “I do terrible things!”

I’ve still got a soft spot for the original Maleficent, though, and Jolie perfectly captures the character’s magnetic evil. With her glowing eyes, spine-chilling cackle, and one-of-a-kind black antler hat, she’s mesmerizing. The only thing that took me aback was when one of her freaky-sharp cheekbones nearly popped out of the screen; I hope that effect was achieved through makeup or special effects, rather than a starvation diet.

There’s plenty more movie magic in the trailer: flying fairies, a levitating Elle Fanning, and trees that morph into soldiers. There are battle scenes and rugged castles that look like outtakes from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, both series I love. But I worry about all these epic fantasies blending into one indistinguishable mass of CGI overkill. A friend of mine once expressed her distaste for traditional westerns by saying she didn’t like movies “filmed in brown”; it seems we’re now living in an era of fantasies filmed in gray.

Maleficent is an iconic character, and Angelina Jolie has the star power and talent to pull off that tricky role. Self-interestedly, I’d love the movie to be a huge success. But I also hope the film is able to create a sense of real magic: the kind that comes not from clever programmers sitting at computers, but from a story that whisks you away from the everyday. With While Beauty Slept, I wanted to create a world where the drama arises from human actions and emotions. I believe the story of Sleeping Beauty has resonated all these years because of its characters and its imagery: the dramatic curse, the finger pricked on a spinning wheel, a princess sleeping alone in a tower. None of these moments needs over-the-top special effects to cast its spell on an audience.


Author Dina Nayeri remembers the first American books that opened her world after immigrating from Iran in the 1980s.

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, By Dina NayeriIn 1989, my mother, younger brother and I arrived in Edmond, Oklahoma, after two years spent as asylum seekers in Dubai and Rome. I was ten years old. During our years en route, my mother had attempted to teach us English with used homeschooling workbooks that she erased by hand, audio tapes of children’s stories to which we added our own voices (for pronounciation lessons), and whatever technical words she had learned as a medical student in Tehran. But on arriving in Oklahoma, I quickly discovered that what I knew wasn’t nearly enough—especially by the cruel standards of American public school children. My brother and I spoke rudimentary, accented English and we knew no slang, no idioms, nothing that couldn’t be found in a very thin, very old children’s dictionary.

 

 

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, by Dina Nayeri

Luckily, we arrived in mid-summer and were greeted by our legal sponsors, a jovial, nurturing couple who lived away from their own grandchildren and enjoyed our noise and excitement and delight at simple things like bologna and Frosted Flakes. We lived with them for the first few weeks of our American life. The day after our arrival, a chatty, tube-topped Mary-Jean took my brother and me on two important errands: Toys R Us (a marvel to an Iranian girl who had only experienced life under an Islamic Republic and in refugee communities. Were all those toys for regular, middle class children? It made no sense. Surely we had stumbled onto the private storeroom of a Saudi prince), and the Edmond Public Library.

 

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, by Dina Nayeri On that first day, I checked out thirty books, the library’s limit. Most of them were far below my grade level (I believe Goodnight Moon, Eloise, and a few mouse related stories were in the pile), but I didn’t know enough to be embarrassed. What I remember was the elation of brazenly taking so many stories, on so many topics, freely and without fear. No moral police asking about hidden political messages (the reason my favorite storybook The Little Black Fish was banned). No censored books or topics. Just piles and piles of colorful dust jackets, English letters, that inviting used book smell. Suddenly, I could read anything I wanted. I tore through all thirty books in three or four days and mustered the courage to ask Mary-Jean to take me back. She did, this time leaving my brother and me for an hour by ourselves to explore the stacks. She talked to her friend, the librarian whose encouraging face became familiar over the next few years.

Then I discovered the Judy Blume section.

To this day, I have rarely felt a thrill so raw and unexpected as that of opening a Fudge book, understanding enough to be delighted, then looking up and thinking, this new life could work out so well. For a few moments, I wasn’t missing home, a place where I fit in, where my family was the standard for normal. Right then, I was fine. I was happy. I was traveling to other American towns and neighborhoods, and no one was making me get up from beside that rickety plastic spin-stack.

Blubber, by Judy Blume

That young adult spin stack became my life for the rest of the summer of 1989.

I read everything by Judy Blume. Blubber was my favorite—how could such a book even exist? In 1980’s Iran, if a volume wasn’t written by one of the greats (Hafez or Ferdowsi or Sa’adi or Rumi), and if it wasn’t educational or religious or political, it had no place on a respectable bookshelf. Children’s stories were almost aways classics, adapted folktales, fantasies, or religious stories. Reading about the trials of an overweight girl in school felt like eating a pound of sprinkles, or coloring my walls with bright pink magic marker while my parents were at the office. By the time I started fifth grade at a local public school, I had moved on to The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, making sure to hide them from my strict Iranian mother who would almost certainly die of shock if she were to stumble onto the super racy scene where Bruce touches Jessica’s belt buckle (I’m not 100% sure this scene exists. I remember someone touching a belt buckle and my mom going bananas).

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, by Dina Nayeri

In less than a hundred afternoons at the Edmond Public Library, I had finished the young adult stacks and my fingers itched for more. When I was alone, I explored other parts of the library. I took a peak at The Joy of Sex before a librarian shooed me away. I found the college entrance guides that planted the seed for my budding ivy league obsession—an insane streak that started in the sixth grade and lasted until… well, I’ll let you know. I discovered an entire section on Native American ghost stories full of magic and ritual sacrifice and blood and messily requited love. Again, my mother went full-on bananas.

 

 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. TaylorMonths later, I noticed a shiny round sticker on some of my favorite books—the Newberry winners. I started hunting stories bearing the sticker. These books, of course, were more difficult to read, and required a deeper grasp of American culture and history than the high school fluff on which I had been gorging. But, once again, I was enraptured. To understand stories like Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, or A Wrinkle in Time, I had to ask questions. I had to read more. I had to figure out where I had landed in the world. I absorbed new vocabulary at a rapid clip. Best of all, those books gave me a place to go in the coming years. When the gulf war happened and I became an outcast. When puberty hit and I began to look more and more Iranian. When money became a worry. When my family changed and changed again. I was never unhappy—I had the ability to transport myself. And, as a bonus, I believe it was in that particular section, the Newberry winners, that I finally caught up to my grade level in English.


Budget Bytes, Beth MoncelWhen people think about saving money in the kitchen, images of slaving over the stove for hours to make their own food often come to mind. After almost five years of refining my kitchen into a money saving machine, I’ve found that the exact opposite is true. Time is money, so recipes and habits that save me both are key.

In my new book, Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, I’ve included several recipes and tips for saving both time and money in the kitchen. Whether you prepare meals ahead of time or opt for simple, fast dishes, you can eat well on a budget without spending all of your free time in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorite recipes that help save both time and money.

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal (p. 18) – It only takes about ten minutes to mix the ingredients together for this ultra-rich baked version of oatmeal and then into the oven it goes. After baking, just divide the oats into single serving dishes to have quick, microwavable, and filling breakfasts for the rest of the week.

Breakfast Parfaits (p. 22) – When it’s too hot outside for a warm breakfast, I’ll mix up a few of these parfaits on Sunday night to prepare for the rest of the week. It only takes a few minutes to layer the yogurt, oats, nuts, and fruit into jars and then I’ve got a delicious, nutritious, and portable breakfast that I can take with me to work.

Easy Pad Thai (p. 112) – Ordering take out may seem like it saves time, but you can have a homemade meal that’s delicious, fresh, and probably more nutritious in less time than it takes the delivery guy to get to your door. This Easy Pad Thai is ready in about the amount of time that it takes the noodles to boil, and there’s no tipping required. View the recipe here.

Microwavable Apple Crumble for One (p. 218) – Single serving microwavable desserts have been a huge hit for food manufacturers over the past few years, but you can make them at home for pennies on the dollar using basic pantry staples. Just take whatever apple you have on hand, chop it up, and top it with a quick cinnamon oat crumble topping. Minutes later you have just enough dessert to satisfy without any leftovers to taunt you into ruining your diet.

Better Than Mom’s Chili (p. 134) – Cooking in large batches and freezing the leftovers is a habit that has saved my budget. Soups, casseroles, and stews, like this hearty chili, are great for preparing on your day off and then freezing in single serving portions. On busy weeknights, just microwave one or two portions until heated through and you have an almost instant homemade meal.

Hungry? Check out the book trailer.


The Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price

August 26, 2004. My alarm goes off at 3:55 in the morning. I lumber through darkness, nearly skidding across the kitchen on my cat’s empty food bowl. I sit down at my desk and croak out several test words until I stop sounding like Sylvester Stallone on diazepam.

Right on schedule, the telephone rings. A chirpy young woman greets me and asks me to hold for the host. I grunt in agreement. My latest interview is about to begin.

Long ago, in the dark and rustic age and before social media, authors once promoted their books through wireless aural transmissions called “radio.” My mission, which I chose to accept, was to explain my debut novel to a bunch of East Coast morning listeners, dazzling them so much that they pull their cars over and add my book to their “Holy Crap/Gotta Buy” list.

I wasn’t optimistic but hey, any exposure is good exposure. And this host is clearly skilled at dealing with semi-conscious phone guests. He steers me through the interview like a pro. By his fifth question, the fog is lifted from my head. The two of us chat like old college buddies.

Suddenly I hear a familiar creak behind me. A feline comes traipsing in through the flap in the porch door. He’s an orange and white tabby with a long, narrow body. Ridiculously long. If he could stand upright, and if he wasn’t neutered, he would be the Wilt Chamberlain of cats.

His name is Jake. And he is home.

A little backstory: Jake had lived his first two years under the care and collar of my next-door neighbor, until my neighbor abruptly moved away. Jake informed me in no uncertain terms that he was taking over my place, but I could stay with him if I wanted. I was okay with that. Though he was Keyser Soze to the other cats in the neighborhood, he was well-behaved and eminently pettable around humans, especially me.

But he had one big problem. I can only assume a mad scientist had implanted a megaphone into his larynx because when Jake meowed, the walls shook. Birds fluttered out of trees. Dogs in the next town raised their heads in tense query. Jake’s favorite pastime was to sneak up behind me, ninja-style, and then blast me with his sonic mewl. To this day, I remain the only novelist on Earth with a detachable skeleton.

Now Jake is back from his late night thuggery and utterly confused to see me awake. I cover the phone just in time to block his inquisitive yowl, then brusquely motion him away. Go! Go!

While I answer the host’s question about the origins of my story idea, I nervously watch Jake. He has difficulty processing behavior that doesn’t revolve around him, and assumes I’m only up at this hour because I’m so damn excited to feed him. He hurries over to his empty food bowl, then shoots me a hot-eyed glare that only a cat can conjure. You…bastard.

“Raer!”

I cover the receiver again, a split-second too late. I can hear the brief, addled skip in the host’s next question.

Jake isn’t done registering his outrage. My heart hammers as he draws closer. I don’t have the time or mind to explain the concept of live radio to him, so I try every gesticulation imaginable. I shush. I wave. I plead for him to be quiet. I draw a frantic finger across my neck, proving beyond all scientific doubt that cats ascribe no meaning to the slit-throat gesture.

“Raer! Raer!”

Soon the interviewer has no choice but to address the elephant in the room. I can hear the rolling chuckles in his voice, the laughter he’d been suppressing for thirty seconds now.

“Is that your cat?” he asks me.

By now, my mind’s working at full emergency power. The red hot embarrassment has made me hyper-alert to the point of giddiness. I am backed into a corner, a mile out of reach of any sane retort.

“No, it’s my dog,” I reply. “He has issues.”

This all happened nine and a half years ago. The world’s moved on to bigger and better things—Facebook and Twitter and blog tours and Goodreads, all venues that are much more flexible to a poor writer’s schedule, and utterly impervious to cat noise. I don’t remember the name of the man who interviewed me that morning. But I’m pretty sure he remembers me.


Romance is My Day Job, Patience BloomI often encounter people who say, “I’m going to write a romance novel. It’s so easy. Just write to a formula and send it in.” Romance writers and editors laugh a little at this because it’s not so easy. Believe me, I’ve tried it—at least ten times and can’t get past chapter three. But say you do have that true drive to publish in romance, here are a few steps you need to take.

  1. Love writing. Love love. To write a romance, you have to immerse yourself in the goo of love—how exciting, difficult, invigorating, frustrating, and life-affirming it is.
  2. Write a good book. Throw your heart and soul into your romance. This could be the beginning of a new life and you want to give it your best shot. You will find many references and I’d recommend first off Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger. Also read GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon, along with every romance-how-to you can find.
  3. Don’t do it for the money–even though money is nice. If I had a nickel for how often I’ve heard, “To make some extra dough, I’ll just write romance novels.” Many paid writers learn that you can’t count on a paycheck when you write. And this paycheck depends on your next book, which may not sell. There has to be another reason for writing a romance.
  4. Try not to get too attached on the outcome: I must get published. I’m desperate to get published. If I don’t get published, I’ll be miserable forever. Please publish me now. When you write because you love to write, it shows in your work.
  5. Make one new contact a day with fellow romance-aholics/industry professionals. It’s easy to develop a one-sided relationship with your computer. Get some fresh air, interact with others and move ahead.
  6. Have other people read your good book and take their suggestions seriously. The romance world is a nurturing business, for the most part. Sure, it’s not perfect but adopting a positive relationship with your fellow writers is key. When you show your work, expect suggestions and support. We all want your book to be amazing! Just think, you could be the writer who makes me forget all my problems and get lost in your story. This is a gift to a reader.
  7. Map out your publishing ambitions: traditional publisher vs. self-publish. If the former, which houses/editors would like your book? Do research on publishing houses’ lists. I suggest doing this when you’ve completed a rough draft of your book. If you go the self-publishing route, be sure to strategize how you will tackle the many hats you’ll wear as your own publisher. It’s all exciting, but planning is crucial.
  8. Have your next story in mind. If you meet with an editor and she isn’t so hot on your project, tell her what else you have. In romance, we want to build you as an author. The more you write, the more possible this is. No achy breaky one-hit wonders here.
  9. Go to conferences and chapter meetings. Follow up on the inspiration you get from these outings, i.e. read the books you find, chat with new friends, go through your notes from the workshops and revise your book accordingly.
  10. Rewrite your page-turning romance until your brain nearly explodes. When you read your book without an iota of boredom/frustration/misgiving, unleash it on the editors and see what happens.
  11. Patience is a virtue. You know I had to throw that in. There is a lot of waiting when you submit to traditional houses. It’s part of the deal. What do you do while you wait? Repeat tip #2.
  12. If at first you don’t succeed, never ever give up writing or trying to get published. One of the heartbreaks we editors experience is when a writer abandons her craft. Life can intervene or maybe that drive has fizzled. One must obey that call to other bliss, of course. But if there’s a morsel of yearning that keeps you obsessing about writing, just do it, keep doing it and submit until you can’t submit no more (also read Chicago Manual of Style, which would tell me not to use a double negative).

Because of our readers’ voracious appetites, we constantly need books. You’ll see us on Twitter, Facebook, at conferences begging for a great new story. Face it, romance writers keep us in business (you don’t want us to starve, do you?). So, keep these tips close and if you ever feel discouraged or inspired, read them again them, stay positive, and submit your story.

 


A Religion of One's Own, Thomas MooreI never chose to be a theologian, psychotherapist and humanities enthusiast.  I was born into it. My father was a plumber, but he was also a born teacher and counselor.  For years one of the most distinguished psychiatrists in our city visited my father every two weeks, huddling with him over a long evening.  This was my father the plumber, who never finished high school but somehow found wisdom and a calling.

My mother was a mystic housewife, praying devoutly and seeing her entire life through the prism of her Catholicism. When she died, the priest kept repeating, “She was such a simple woman, such a simple woman.” I think he meant uncomplicated and not at all given to possessions or ambitions.

It was just part of the flow of our spiritual family for me to leave home and enter monastic life at thirteen to study for the priesthood. When I left the religious order thirteen years later, I found my way to doctoral studies in religion, where I put together my interest in spirituality, depth psychology and the arts.

From the beginning of this fated journey, I never liked religious behavior that was too pious or moralistic. I seem to have been born with an appreciation of secular life interweaving with a spiritual vision so that neither dominate. In this regard, I think of the interlinking chains and spirals I see all over Ireland, my adopted second home,or the familiar Taoist symbol of yin and yang melting into each other.

Just as Care of the Soul sprang out of me at the particular point where my ideas and my experience as a therapist matured, now I feel that my worldly way of being religious is emerging at just the right time in our cultural evolution to go public with it. Thus, my new book A Religion of One’s Own. We are now at a point where it’s time to let go of a narrow view of religion. I suggest that we don’t abandon it, even if many sophisticated modern people think it’s superfluous or prefer “spirituality”. Worldly life without a deep form of religion would be secularism, and that is a dangerous, soulless option.  Just listen to the way many scientists are talking these days, reducing the richness of human experience to brain studies, for example, and you get a taste of what secularism would be like. As human beings we’d shrivel up.

The new book puts together an array of ideas I’ve been working on for years that together form a personal spiritual practice that I call a religion of one’s own. At the top of my list are the beauty and wisdom of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. I don’t want to get rid of the established religions but use them now as resources for a personal religious vision. They are priceless for what they have to offer, but the emphasis on belief, authority, empty ritual and moralism has weakened them to the point that they must re-imagine themselves radically.  You can be a member of a religion and still have a religion of your own, or you can go off on your own, becoming a seeker or even an atheist, and use the traditions as resources.

Other elements of your own religion might include natural mystical experiences in nature and art, a broader and less literal notion of community, more reliance on deep intuition understood as a kind of natural revelation, a serious dream practice and the use of images and art for contemplation and insight. Having loved the life of a monk, I can recommend borrowing elements from monastic life and adapting them to your own everyday way of life. You might understand that your work is a form of prayer and that study and deep meditative reading are central to your spirituality.

One of the richest elements in formal religion, and could be in yours, is a deep experience of the arts.  In a secularistic society the arts are entertainment, but in a religious ssetting they mediate between ordinary life and the eternal, profound and sublime realities. What could be more important? In a fully secular situation we may think that the goal in life is success and happiness. In a religious setting, fired by the arts, the aim is the much more profound pleasure in acquiring insight into the nature of things and sensing how beautiful life and the world can be. This blend of beauty and meaning, available in all the different art forms, serves as a tool for the spiritual quest.

In this book I advocate a maturing of the religious impulse by being more personally engaged. I’m certainly not suggesting an emphasis on oneself to the exclusion of others. Each of us has a unique situation that calls for special directions. We can each decide against both secularism and hollow religion, creating a deep spiritual way of life that is unique to us. Some will want to remain devoutly connected to a tradition, like my friends who are actual monks living out the ideals I present in my book within the strict and concrete setting of a monastery. Others may call themselves atheists and fight against formal religion with fervor, and yet they, too, may be shaping a religion of their own, intuitively understanding that the way formal religion speaks of God is too literal and the resulting lifestyle moralistic and dogmatic.

Emerson once wrote: “Every church has a membership of one.” That is, every experience of religion is singular, uniquely fashioned to the needs and imagination of the individual.  These individuals can come together to form community that is more meaningful and intense than any gathering of people who think and act alike. The world needs religion, but not the kind that has generated wars and has polarized populations.  It needs a deep spiritual imagination of life and a corresponding lifestyle and practice. To literal-minded people the deeper, person-centered religion I propose may seem less than what they are used to, but others will join me in welcoming a significant evolution in the human spirit.


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. LustigI made the baked oatmeal recipe on a Sunday morning, looking forward to eating it over the week. It seemed like a healthy and easy option and a little bit of a switch from my usual breakfast. I opted to make them into muffins, as the recipe notes give as an alternative, and I used frozen chopped peaches. It all came together in less than fifteen minutes, with ingredients I had ready in the pantry, and couldn’t have been easier to do. I also liked that this recipe uses no white flour, since I’m trying to cut back like everyone else and their gluten-free mother. The mixture pretty much filled a dozen muffin cups, but they do bake down some. They smelled wonderful, with the peaches, cinnamon, and vanilla. The measurements for the cinnamon and vanilla might seem like a lot, especially to experienced bakers, but you really do need them since there is (naturally) not much sugar in the recipe. To eat, I mixed Greek yogurt with a little honey and then crumbled a muffin into it. This is definitely not sweet (sorry to all the flavored oatmeal lovers out there), but the oats and fruit have a nice flavor, which I found improved the day after baking, and I enjoyed it with the yogurt.
BAKED FRUIT OATMEAL
Ingredients:
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats2 teaspoons ground cinnamon2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1. cups unsweetened soy milk (2 percent milk is also OK)

1 pound sweet apples, diced

2 tablespoons rice bran, coconut, or safflower oil

2 large eggs, or 4 large egg whites (save the yolks for another use)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F.

STEP 2: Spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking oil.

STEP 3: Combine the rolled oats, cinnamon, baking powder, brown sugar, if using, and salt in a medium-size bowl.

STEP 4: Combine the soy milk, apples, oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey, if using, in a large bowl. Add the oat mixture and mix well. Pour the oatmeal batter into the prepared baking pan.

STEP 5: Bake the oatmeal on the middle rack until the center is set and firm to the touch, 45 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes, cut and serve. Can be served at room temperature. Covered, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

VARIATIONS:

• Make muffins using a nonstick muffin pan that makes 12. The baking time will be 25 minutes.

• Use fresh or frozen chopped peaches, about 2 fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen, in place of the apples.


Organize & Create Discipline

Pick one space in your home that you know would make a difference in your life if it were properly organized. Most people’s top choice would be their closets. The O.C.D. Experience works with tons on clients between January and March on closet organization because most people’s priorities in the New Year are getting organized and losing weight. If you want to tackle getting your closet organized while keeping a weight goal in mind, listen to this.

  1. Take everything out of your closet and put it onto your bed. This is the appropriate time to treat yourself to brand new hangers, as staring at new hangers will automatically inspire you to create a new system for yourself.
  2. Now that your closet is lined with brand new hangers and all of your clothes are on your bed, start making piles on the floor of your room by items you want to donate or sell (let’s be real you know what these items are, so don’t waste time debating), items that you wear and look great in, and items that you’re dying to look good in again; yes people these are your skinny clothes!
  3. Take all of the donated or to be sold items and put them into bags, as well as any trash. Take them out of your room and into your car or bring them immediately to a donation center so they’re out of sight and out of mind. Make sure to do this before any organization is even done, that way its less distracting for you. Yes, you may come across some more items that you realize you want to donate, but don’t worry too much about that, as donation trips can always be made again.
  4. Now it’s time to organize for the New Year and the new you. Start putting items back into your closet, by frequency of use. You’re going to want to keep like items together: tanks, shirts, long shirts, blouses, dresses, workout pants and gear, suits, etc. Organize by color and make sure that you can see everything in your closet. If there is too much stuff still and your closet rods are sagging, make some tough decisions and get rid of more stuff.
  5. Now the best part…start adding some of those skinny clothes in with your regular clothes. This will be motivation for you to continue with whatever exercise regimen you are on so when you’re going to pick out another outfit in a couple of weeks to a month… BAM! You’re sporting that sexy ass piece of clothing looking all fly! Like anything with the O.C.D. Experience, discipline is key. So throwing things on floor or in your closet and not placing them on designated hangers won’t cut it. Take the extra couple of seconds and hang things up where they go and you’ll only have to spend a couple minutes a week tidying up your closet.


The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

This weekend I made two recipes from Rob Lustig’s new book THE FAT CHANCE COOKBOOK. It’s not as cold as the polar vortex right now but it’s still chilly and I was happy to test out Old-Fashioned Beef Stew and Quick Chicken Tikka Masala. Both recipes were very easy to follow with simple ingredients and I was lucky enough to check out the new Brooklyn Whole Foods in Gowanus to stock up. The stew took longer to make than I expected – all the chopping of the vegetables added up to about an hour but the rest of the evening I spent letting it simmer (for three house) while catching up on Game of Thrones, so I can’t complain!

The Tikka Massala came together very quickly and the spices were delicious – I was a little disappointed that it didn’t turn out as vibrant and red as the chicken tikka masala I usually order in from a nearby Indian place but I felt good about the ingredients and as Rob points out I’m sure it was much healthier! Hardly any fat and I used chicken thighs to add flavor – they are so much more delicious than the chewy bits of chicken that come in fast food Indian orders. And the best part is I’ve been enjoying the many leftovers from both dishes for lunch all week.


OLD-FASHIONED BEEF STEW AND VEGETABLES

Ingredients

½ cup oil: olive, safflower, or rice bran

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped and peeled onions

1 cup chopped carrots

1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat

8 cups liquid (water, wine, stock, or a mixture)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

2 cups 1-inch pieces scrubbed carrots or parsnips

2 cups scrubbed diced potatoes

STEP 1: Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a cast-iron or stainless steel pot. (Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid.) Saute the celery, onions, carrots, thyme, and garlic in the pot until brown and tender. When aromatic vegetables are brown, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and reserve in a small bowl.

The Fat Chance Cookbook, Robert H. Lustig

STEP 2: Place the flour in a bowl. Dredge the meat, shaking off the excess flour. Add the remainder of oil to the pot and cook the meat over medium-high heat, quickly browning but not cooking. Do this in small batches. Take the meat out and reserve on plate.

STEP 3: Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil while scrapping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. While it dissolves it will add flavor to the gravy.

STEP 4: Reduce the heat to low and return the meat and the aromatics to the liquid. It’s very important that the stew must simmer and not boil. Slowly cook the stew over low heat so the liquid barely simmers.

Cover and cook for 2 hours.

STEP 5: After the meat has had a chance to cook for a while, add the 1-inch pieces of carrot and the potatoes. Cook until the meat is fork tender, about an hour. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve.

QUICK CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

Ingredients

4 teaspoons garam masala*

1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ cup unbleached all-purpose fl our

1 pound chicken tenders

4 teaspoons canola oil, divided

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 large sweet onion, peeled and diced

4 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger,

or 1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes with their juices

1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

* Garam masala is a blend of spices used in Indian cooking. Usually includes cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, fennel, cumin, and coriander.

STEP 1: Stir together the garam masala, salt, and turmeric in a small dish. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle the chicken with ½ teaspoon of the spice mixture and dredge in the flour. Reserve the remaining spice mix and 1 tablespoon of the remaining flour.

STEP 2: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

STEP 3: Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and ginger and cook, stirring often until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the reserved spice mix and cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sprinkle the reserved 1 tablespoon flour and stir until coated.

STEP 4: Add the tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a simmer, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and the onion is tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

STEP 5: Stir in the cream. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro.

—Caitlin O’Shaughnessy, Viking Adult


Cursed in the Act, Raymond Buckland

Bram Stoker was a busy man. As theatre manager he oversaw several hundred employees: actors, designers, wardrobe, properties, scenery-builders, plus front of house such as caterers, ticket vendors, ushers. He also handled publicity, finances, special guests, and so on. He very much admired Henry Irving and did a lot of extra-curricula work for him.

Most productions had at least two matinées a week. If it were approaching the end of one production, then rehearsals for the following production would have to be scheduled so as not to interfere with the previous one. With this in mind, I felt that Stoker would not have enough spare time to investigate all of the mysteries that I intended to provide for him. I realized that he needed some sort of an assistant; a Dr. Watson or an Archie Goodwin character to do some of the legwork. I therefore invented Harry Rivers, the Stage Manager.

Although many of the characters I use in my stories are based on actual people from that time period, there are a few created from whole cloth. Harry Rivers is one such. He and his boss, Bram Stoker, work very well together and Harry is able to run around doing whatever is necessary to help with the crime solving. Harry is also able to mingle with the lower classes where Stoker would stick out in that group.

I was not planning any love interest in the Bram Stoker Mysteries but there seems to be an interest developing for Harry. I hadn’t originally intended it but you can never tell what your characters might decide to do themselves! As it turns out, the young lady involved becomes very much a part of the story in the second book in the series, Dead for a Spell due out in October 2014, though I won’t spoil things by saying any more than that here.

I do hope you’ll enjoy the Bram Stoker Mysteries as much as I enjoy writing them!