Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Fun—Of Cowboys and Coyotes

I visit a handful of blogs every day, and The Daily Coyote is one of them. It’s hosted by Shreve Stockton, a woman who lives in a one-room cabin in Wyoming with a cat, a dog, and a coyote.

She rescued Charlie, the coyote, when he was ten days old and has since parlayed her experience with him into a book that’ll be published this fall by Simon and Schuster.

Don’t you just love success stories like this? I sure do.

I’ve never met Shreve but I thoroughly enjoy her photographs and the tidbits of information she posts about life with Charlie and life on a ranch in Wyoming. She often mentions her neighbor, MC, but has never really said much about him.

Until yesterday.

Now, for the first time since I’ve been following Shreve’s blog, I’m cooking up the plot for a romance novel.

Sorry. Can’t help myself.

I know nothing about these people, other than what’s posted on the blog, but I could easily concoct story about a kick-butt city gal and a shy cowboy who’ve been introduced by the world’s least likely matchmaker—an orphaned coyote.

Poor MC. Still anonymous and yet the object of so many affections. Every cowboy’s worst nightmare, every romance reader’s fondest fantasy.

Thanks, Shreve, for feeding the fantasy.

Until next time,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Food For Thought—Pear and Warm Brie Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

I absolutely adore this salad! The fresh fruit and mild flavor of the Brie are perfect together.

lettuce leaves (something dark green and leafy)
1/2 pound Brie cheese
2 ripe pears
1/4 cup fresh raspberries, whole

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh raspberries, mashed
Arrange several lettuce leaves on each of four salad plates. Any dark green lettuce is preferable to iceberg lettuce.

Wash the pears, slice them in half lengthwise and remove the core. Slice each pear half into thin slices.

Warm the Brie on an open baking dish in a 400-degree oven for about 5 minutes, or wrap it loosely in plastic wrap and microwave for about 45 seconds at the medium setting.

Slice the warm Brie. Alternate the pear and cheese slices (half a pear and one-quarter of the Brie) on the lettuce leaves. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with a few whole raspberries.

This is great to serve as a first course. It looks like something you’d get in a restaurant, so your guests are sure to be impressed!

Until next time,

Note: You can use raspberry-flavored vinegar if you have it. I find the white wine vinegar works just as well, especially when blended with the fresh berries. You can also use fresh blackberries when they’re in season.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday News—Blogs, Blogs, and More Blogs!

On Wednesday—tomorrow!—I’ll be blogging with the Wet Noodle Posse about “People Who Inspire Me.” I hope you’ll stop by and share stories about the people who inspire you.

Throughout September and October, the Harlequin American Romance Authors will be celebrating the line’s 25th anniversary. HAR editor Johanna Raisanen will be guest blogging with us on September 6, talking about endearing and enduring themes in Harlequin American Romance. We have lots of other guest bloggers lined up, including several authors who wrote for the line 25 years ago!

Until next time,

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

This is our final week on inspiration at the Wet Noodle Posse. Be sure to comment to increase your odds of winning this month's prize—a $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate!

Monday: Theresa Ragan—"It's All about Motivation"
Tuesday: Guest Blogger Missy Tippens—"Inspired by the Vision of Success"
Wednesday: Lee McKenzie—"People Who Inspire Me"
Thursday:: Guest Blogger Marta Acosta—"Inspiration and Humor: You've Got to Be Kidding"
Friday: Q&A Day—Readers Ask Questions, Noodlers Answer
Until next time,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Food For Thought—Spinach and Grapefruit Salad

I really like the spinach and citrus combination in this salad. It's so refreshing, and the iron in the spinach is more readily absorbed when in the company of all that vitamin C goodness.

Salad Ingredients:
6 cups baby spinach leaves
1 pink grapefruit, peeled, sectioned and sliced
Toppings (any or all of):
sweet red onion, cut into thin slices
minced green onion or shallot
thinly sliced mushrooms
fresh blackberries or raspberries
pecans or walnuts
crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons orange juice
This salad can be made in a large serving bowl and tossed with the dressing, or you can create individual servings on salad plates.

Rinse, drain and dry baby spinach leaves.

Peel and section the grapefruit. You’ll find great instructions, complete with photos, on this site.

Arrange the grapefruit pieces on top of the spinach, either in a bowl or on salad plates. Add a few of the toppings of your choice. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle it over the salad.

This salad is great on its own for lunch, or as a first course with dinner. Enjoy!

Until next time,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday News—Unrequited Love

At some point in our lives, most of us have fallen in love with someone who didn’t love us back. In spite of us being so darned loveable. Go figure.

On Sunday, August 24 I'll share a touching little story about unrequited love (someone else's, not mine :) on the Harlequin American Romance Authors' blog.

I'd love it if you'll drop by!

Until next time,

Monday, August 18, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

The Noodlers have another inspiring week in store for you, and I'm sure you won’t want to miss a day of it.

Monday: Esri Rose tells us about "Tools as Inspiration."

Tuesday: Drop by and chat with guest blogger and St. Martin's Press author Berta Platas.

Wednesday: Debra Holland shares insights on "Self-discipline and Motivation."

Thursday: Join guest blogger and Kimani author Carla Fredd in a discussion about "Fear as Inspiration."

Friday: Q&A Day. Readers ask questions. Noodlers answer.
Have a wonderful week, and be inspired!

Until next time,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

If You’re Going to San Francisco... sure to stay at the Hotel Union Square.

By the time I registered for the Romance Writers of America National Conference held earlier this month, the room block at the conference hotel was fully booked. The Hotel Union Square, a charming old boutique hotel, is only a block and a half away. I had stayed there once before and really enjoyed it, so I went online and reserved a room.

The hotel just completed a major renovation this spring, so the guest rooms have a fresh new, modern feel, including wall-mounted flat screen TVs, a rain shower in the bathroom, and complimentary wireless Internet. The rooms are smaller than you'll find in a modern hotel, but the character of the place more than makes up for that.

The lobby’s art deco decor is comfortable and inviting. Complimentary coffee, tea and hot chocolate are served there every morning. Every afternoon, guests are invited to enjoy a glass of California wine at the complimentary happy hour. So civilized.

The hotel’s concierge, Tom Steele, is hands down the friendliest and most helpful hotel concierge I’ve ever met. He was on staff the first time I stayed there and I was so pleased to see he still works there.

One of the most charming things about the hotel is its central courtyard. I requested a room that faced the courtyard, but those rooms only have one bed. Instead, we were given a quiet room on the sixth floor, which is also the top floor. Guests do not have access to the courtyard, but here's a view from the second floor.

Every time we stepped off the elevator on the sixth floor, we were greeted by San Francisco’s Mermaid. She’s reminiscent of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, don’t you think? On the wall below her is a plaque that explains her origin. Here's what it says:

San Francisco’s Mermaid
We dedicate the opening of the Mermaid Seafood Bar and bar at the Hotel Union Square with this mermaid whose journey began across the street at Bernstein’s Fish Grotto in 1907. Though she has lain dormant for many years, she is again ready to lift the spirits of those who sight her and welcome them for a respite from the sidewalk seas. May she again shine like a beacon in this city’s future as well as illuminate the memories of her past.
February 1989

Staying at the Hotel Union Square made attending the conference feel more like a vacation. The cable car line runs right past the front door, Union Square Park is a block away, Chinatown is within easy walking distance, and as my daughter will attest, the shopping is out of this world! The next time we visit San Francisco, we’ll definitely stay at this charming little hotel again.

Until next time,

[Lee's note: The plaque really does say "Mermaid Seafood Bar and bar." I assume it was a restaurant and bar, but it's no longer open so it's hard to say for sure.]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Simple Salad, Delicious Dressing

This salad is quick and easy to make, and the flavorful dressing makes it a great choice to serve with barbecued meat.

Salad Ingredients
2 Belgian endives
1 head radicchio
1 head of leafy green lettuce
(Boston, butterhead or leaf lettuce)
Tear the lettuce and radicchio into bite-sized pieces and put them in a salad bowl. If the endives are not too big, cut off the stem end, separate the leaves, leaving them whole, and toss them with the lettuce.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon grated ginger root
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil or ½ teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together the dressing ingredients, gradually adding the oil, then stir in the basil. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, toss, and enjoy!

To grate the ginger, I use a bamboo ginger grater like this one. In this picture, you're actually seeing three ginger graters stacked on top of one another. I bought mine in my local Chinatown. Such a simple device, and it works like a charm and easily rinses clean. Gotta love that.

You may have noticed that I always use homemade salad dressing. Each salad is unique, so it deserves an appropriate dressing. So to avoid having a dozen bottled dressing in the fridge, I make my own. Besides, what's easier than whipping up a salad dressing? Two minutes and you're done!

This is one of my favorite salad dressings ever, so I sometimes double the recipe and store what's leftover in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

Until next time,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

RWA Conference Highlights

I love San Francisco—it’s such an interesting and diverse city, and the weather was perfect. I’ll take cool and collected over hot and bothered any day.

For me, the conference highlights were all about networking with friends, other authors, and my editors. Most of the workshops I really wanted to attend were either being held concurrently or they conflicted with other meetings I had to attend. I look forward to sitting down with the conference CD and catching up on all the great things I missed.

The Harlequin American Romance authors and editors met on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the line’s 25th anniversary. And the Harlequin party on Friday evening was wonderful, as always.

The Wet Noodle Posse got together, or course. Here we are at The Golden Network’s Dessert Reception. From l. to r.: Theresa Ragan, Priscilla Kissinger, Janice Lynn, Debra Holland, Anne Mallory, Trish Milburn (fellow Harlequin American Romance author), Charity Tahmaseb, Diane Gaston, Esri Rose, Merrilee Wren and yours truly. Trish and Charity sold their first books this year and were ceremoniously given "the boot." Congratulations, Trish and Charity!

While I was in San Francisco, I also did some research for my next two books, which are set in this wonderful city. Don’t you love these old Victorians? The heroine in my next book lives on the top floor of a wonderful old house like these.

Until next time,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday Day—This Month’s Harlequin American Romances

Looking for some great reading to round out your summer? This month’s Harlequin American Romances are on book shelves today. Four heart-warming stories, and I know you won’t want to miss any of them!
Cowboy Dad by Cathy McDavid

Forever His Bride by Lisa Childs

Baby in Waiting by Jacqueline Diamond

A Coal Miner’s Wife by Marin Thomas

Special congratulations to Lisa Childs for the awesome 4-1/2 star review in Romantic Times magazine!

Until next time,

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Week with the Wet No Posse

This week the Wet Noodle Posse continues to inspire and to be inspired. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Monday—Maureen Hardegree talks about using “Funnybones Moments as Inspiration.” We all have plenty of those, right?

Tuesday—You won’t want to miss Diane Gaston’s insights on "Inspiration—Grab It When You Can."

Wednesday—Delle Jacobs reflects on using "People As Inspiration.”

Thursday—Contemplate "Music As Inspiration" with Priscilla Kissinger.

Friday—Q&A Day

Where do you find inspiration? Do you have to seek it out, or does it find you? Drop by the Wet Noodle Posse’s blog and share your experience.

And the really good news is that every time you post a comment, you’re eligible to win a $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate. How great is that?

Until next time,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seattle to San Francisco by Rail

This year’s annual Romance Writers of America’s conference was held in San Francisco--one of my favorite cities. My daughter decided to go with me, and now it’s one of her favorite cities, too.

I’m not crazy about flying so we decided to travel by train. We boarded Amtrak’s Coast Starlight at 9:30 a.m. and it pulled out of the Seattle station at 9:45. We had a small roomette, which has two comfortable seats and a small pull-out table during the daytime. All the comforts of home in less than twenty-five square feet! The sleeping cars are equipped with restrooms and showers, and complimentary tea, coffee, a variety of fruit juices, and bottled water are available all day. Taking a shower in a small stall on a moving has its challenges, but it's definitely better than having no shower at all!

We had barely settled into our compartment when Jose, our car attendant, arrived at our door with two small bottles of California "champagne." He also took that opportunity to tell us where we could find the dining car and the parlor car—meals for passengers with sleeping accommodation are included in the price of the ticket—and told us there would be a wine tasting event that afternoon. Tickets for the wine tasting were $5 and could be purchased from the attendant in the parlor car. And so we purchased two!

At this point we’d been on the train for less than an hour and were thinking we’d joined a non-stop party on wheels. And in case you’re wondering, we weren’t drinking champagne at that time of the morning. Not that we weren’t tempted. We actually brought the little bottles home with us. Here’s mine.

Later that morning, someone from the dining car stopped by our room to take our reservations for lunch. There are several seatings for lunch and dinner to accommodate all the passengers, and reservations are required.

The dining car has tables for four, so my daughter and I always sat with other people for our meals. At lunchtime we met a young couple from the UK. At dinner we sat with people from Portland, OR, and we had breakfast with a couple from Switzerland.

There’s no Internet service on the train but we could usually pick up a signal when the train stopped at a station. Here’s me in Portland, OR, getting a badly needed email fix.

The wine tasting was fun. We sampled four west coast wines—two reds and whites—Hogue Cellars Chardonnay (2006), Snoqualmie Whistle Stop Red (2006), Columbia Crest Shiraz Grand Estates (2006), and Columbia Winery Reisling (2006). They were paired with a variety of cheeses, also produced on the west coast, and crackers. I’ve never been a fan of white wines—to my palate they’re often a bit sharp and vinegary tasting—but the Columbia Winery Reisling turned out to be my favorite. At $25 a bottle, it was also the most expensive. During the tasting we sat with a nice young couple from Tacoma who were celebrating their ninth anniversary by taking a train trip to San Francisco.

At bedtime, Jose came to our room and turned our small space into bunk beds. My daughter graciously agreed to take the top bunk. She didn’t sleep very well but I sure did. After I’ve popped in the earplugs and slid the sleep mask into place, I can pretty much sleep anywhere.

Trains don’t always run on time, but the next morning ours pulled into Emeryville, CA, only about a half hour behind schedule. After a fond goodbye to Jose, we boarded an Amtrak bus that took us into San Francisco. The bus has several regular stops around the city—the Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Westfield Shopping Center. Since the bus was going right past our hotel, the driver agreed to drop us off there. Talk about service!

We had arrived for our five-day sojourn in San Francisco, feeling like seasoned travelers. Instead of staying at the conference hotel, we were booked into an historic boutique hotel on Powell Street. On Thursday I’ll tell you all about it.

Until next time,

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Food For Thought—Grilled Veggie & Pasta Salad

You're probably thinking, barbecued salad? Is she serious? I sure am. If you try it, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Salad Ingredients

3 cups penne or rotini pasta
yellow and green
red pepper
yellow pepper
sweet red
sugar snap peas (leave them whole)

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk the dressing ingredients together. Cut all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. In a large sesrving bowl, toss the vegetables with the dressing.

To grill the vegetables, we use a barbecue wok, similar to this one sold at Target. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the marinated vegetables into the heated wok. Grill the veggies for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender crisp. Reserve the dressing in the bowl while grilling the vegetables.

Meanwhile, cook 3 cups rotini or penne pasta according the directions on the package.

When the veggies and the pasta are cooked, put them back in the serving bowl and toss everything so it gets coated with the remaining dressing. We sometimes have the grilled vegetables without the pasta—very tasty!

Until next time,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The San Francisco Blogs

Yes, I do plan to post some of the highlights of my trip to San Francisco, but it’ll take me a few days to organize my notes and photos. So here’s the plan:

Sunday, August 10—Traveling by Amtrak
Wednesday, August 13—Conference Highlights
Thursday, August 14—Where to Stay in San Francisco
Saturday, August 16—San Francisco Neighborhoods
Sunday, August 17—Alcatraz
Until next time,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday News—Catching Up

Earlier this afternoon I arrived home from San Francisco, which explains (I hope) why Tuesday News is late. It is still Tuesday, though. At least it is in my time zone.

The conference was everything I’d hoped it would be, and much more. There were so many highlights, I’ve decided to blog about them throughout the month of August. Once I have myself and my thoughts organized, I’ll let you know when to look for those posts.

I know you won’t want to miss this month’s author interviews on the Harlequin American Romance Authors blog. Here’s who you can look forward to meeting:

Lisa Childs—August 6 (tomorrow!)

Ann Roth
—August 19
And last but not least, I have updated yesterday’s post (scroll down) about this week’s line-up at the Wet Noodle Posse. Check it out. Be inspired.

Until next time,


Monday, August 4, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

Looking for inspiration? This month the Wet Noodle Posse is all about what inspires us, how get inspired, and how to stay inspired. Come join us. You'll be inspired!

Edited Tuesday, August 5

Monday: Tori Scott kicks off the month by sharing lots of great tips for finding stories in the news.

Tuesday: Read for inspiration with Terry McLaughlin.

Wednesday: MJ Fredrick talks about using our dreams as inspiration.

Thursday: The Noodlers share quotes that inspire them.

Friday: August Noodler releases.

Until next time,


Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Spinach & Strawberry Salad

I’m doing salads this month because, well, I like salads and it seems like a perfect way to round out the summer.

I've never been a fan of cooked spinach, but I love it fresh. When my kids were little they decided they didn’t like spinach, period, so devious Mom that I am, I invented Christmas Salad. And really, nothing could be simpler. Colorful fresh spinach and tomato wedges give the salad it’s name, and it was topped with a simple vinaigrette. Once my kids acquired a taste for spinach, we expanded their repertoire.

This spinach and strawberry salad is now an old standby—great for family dinners but also perfect for larger potlucks and buffet dinners.

1 pound fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and thinly sliced
1 8-ounce bag fresh spinach, washed and stems removed

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons grated or finely chopped onion
1 to 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Put the sliced strawberries and spinach in a salad bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad, toss and serve. Delish!

Until next time,