Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Moment

If you live in the Northeast, you celebrated the arrival of Spring only to watch in disbelief as the thermometer plunged and, in some places, snow fell. Hard not to feel disheartened. 

But on an early morning walk recently with Zoe, I noticed these two, quietly enjoying each others company and what warmth the sun offered. Enjoying the moment. A simple and beautiful example of one of those "Pay Attention!" moments the Universe tends to toss our way constantly - most of which we ignore as we storm through our busy lives.

Happy Spring.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So, what's going on with the book?

That's a question I keep hearing and I guess it's high time I brought you up to date. 

Last fall I decided to take back control of my book and self-publish. I researched a few self-publishing companies and settled on one called "Create Space", primarily because it's owned by Amazon. Working with them meant that my finished book would be available on Amazon both in printed and e-book format. The printed book would even qualify for their free shipping deal. And because of the Amazon connection, it was clear this was no fly-by-night company that was going to take my money and suddenly disappear. So I signed up, paid my registration fee and hit the first question: What is the title of your book? Uh... Ummm... The entire time I was writing the book, the title was leap. It never occurred to me the word "leap" might be popular with other authors. It is. Very. The word leap is the title, or an integral part of the title, of about a gazillion books. Ugh. Back to the drawing board.

I found choosing a title for my book tougher than choosing a name for each of our sons. A title must be catchy. And relevant. Enticing and interesting. As one person told me: "Your title should tell a prospective reader at a glance what your book is about. You have no more than three seconds to capture someone's interest." Great... For a couple of weeks I drove myself - and most of those around me - crazy. I'd come up with something that I thought worked and no one else would like it. Someone would make a suggestion and I'd hate it. At least three times I thought I'd settled - for good - on something, only to toss it in the trash after a couple of days. In the end it was really simple. What is the book about? My ten year journey with a skinny, pink pig. The title? The Pig and Me. With the tagline: Tired of hearing "you can't", one woman sets out with a pan of brownies and a skinny, pink pig to prove that she can.  Done. Huge relief.

Create Space makes a point of saying that what you send to them is exactly what will be printed. Not just words, but format as well. Terrifying! So I read through the entire manuscript one more time, tweaking here and there. Then I sent it to a copy editor. He went through it and made some changes, so I had to go through it again - deciding whether to accept his changes.  Then I signed on for the formatting service Create Space offers, so they could turn my words into a book. And now, staring up from the table next to my computer is the first printed copy of the formatted manuscript. Waiting not-so-patiently for me to pick it up - with pencil in hand - and read through it one more time

It's been three years - three years - this month since I set my first words down.  If I'm getting tired of this seemingly never-ending project, I can imagine what my family and close friends are feeling. But take heart one and all! The end is, indeed, in sight.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shrimp Scampi

This is a wonderful - and easy recipe. And it was the first one I attempted to make - and photograph - in our apartment's small, galley kitchen. 

Since I had the time to clean up after the initial prep, I got off to a great start. That's the secret to cooking in this kitchen. Clean-as-you-go leaves plenty of counter space. No problemo. But I'd decided to serve from the kitchen (Adam & Sarah were with us for dinner) and this is one of those recipes that requires all your attention once you start to cook. As I quickly discovered, there wasn't time for c-a-y-g. In my NH kitchen, I just dump empty prep dishes in the double sink or on the acres of counter space around the stove. Doesn't work here. As I started to cook, the priority became stirring the shrimp so they didn't (God forbid!) overcook, while stirring the pasta so it didn't (God forbid!) stick together, while running hot water into the serving bowl and desperately trying to find a couple of square inches of empty counter space for used cutting boards, bowls, large knives and spoons.  Suddenly, there I was: standing in the midst of total chaos with a bowl of perfectly pink shrimp and nowhere to put it, while the wine and lemon juice boiled away, threatening to reduce to nothing. 

The camera never entered my mind.

So... a couple of nice shots, then just the rest of the recipe. 

Shrimp Scampi

1 pound linguine or pasta of your choice
4 tablespoons butter (divided in half)
4 tablespoons olive oil (divided in half)
1 large shallot, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely diced or put through a garlic press
Pinch of red pepper flakes
About 1 pound large, raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (these are a staple in my refrigerator)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley

Two smaller shallots and some hefty garlic cloves. 

The grocery store only had jumbo shrimp, which when left whole, are too large for one, polite bite.
I hate fussing with cutting them while trying to eat pasta, so I cut them in half before cooking.
You can tell the parsley's really fresh by the bright green color.

A marriage made in heaven. A dry white wine and lemon.
No comments from the peanut gallery about the bottle being empty...

And that's all the pictures there are. You'd think I would have remembered to take a great shot of the finished product, but alas...  all I could think of was sitting down and filling my empty belly with pasta and shrimp! You'll just have to make it for yourself!

1.   Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and linguine and cook until the pasta is NOT quite done.
2.   RESERVE 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta (I drain the pasta right into the serving dish – the hot water warms the bowl and keeps it hot until you are ready for it).
3.   While pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
4.   Saute the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes until the shallots are translucent – about 3 to 4 minutes.
5.   Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the pan.
6.   Cook until they turn pink – about 2 to 3 minutes – then remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
7.   Add the wine and lemon juice to the pan and bring to a boil.
8.   Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and oil.
9.   When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley, pasta and reserved water.  Stir over high heat until pasta is done (shouldn’t take any more than a minute).
10.  Transfer to warm pasta bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

Serves: 4 (or 2 and great leftovers!!) 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So near and yet so very, very far...

We just returned from six days back in our New Hampshire house-for-sale. While hubby spent most of his time dozing on the couch trying to sleep off a mean case of bronchitis, I had coffee with the girls, got my hair cut, attended an all-day writers conference with the women in my writer's group and had dinner with friends. All fun events that made me happy to be in our NH home. 

I also drove through blinding snow squalls and freezing rain, didn't see the sun until the day we left and slid off my icy driveway into a large snowbank - in the pouring rain. Neither the car nor I were injured, but we did have to call the sand guy to come sand and help push me out. So although there were some great moments, I did a lot of whining. Ask my poor, already suffering husband. 

It's hard to grasp that the weather can be so incredibly different when two places are a mere five hour drive apart. Below are pictures I took when Zoe and I went for a walk, the day before we left. The temperature was in the low 50's...

Although things are definitely starting to green-up here, the grass hasn't gotten this lush quite yet.
This field in Cadman Plaza is astro turf.

A mom putting out a picnic for her little ones along-side a high school sports team running drills.
In the background, three groups of teen-aged boys are playing tag football.

This is a shot of our house on the one day the sun shone. Gorgeous, huh? 

It was 3 degrees...

I'm happy to back in Brooklyn. Hubby's just happy I've stopped whining.